Feast of football promised on glorious European night
Returning to action with a bang tonight, the Champions League offers up a feast of footballing fantasy as Celtic visit Barcelona, Manchester United host Braga, and defending European champions Chelsea go to Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk.
At William Hill, you can find a wide range of markets on all UEFA Champions League games, on which you can bet now, or in-play.
Sir Alex Ferguson made the headlines the past weekend by criticising his central defender, and long time stalwart of the Red Devil's defence Rio Ferdinand, however after confirming to have made up with his former captain, reports will thankfully return to action on the pitch.
When football is the centre of attention, it is unlike Man Utd to struggle, and with the expected resting of Ferdinand and defensive partner Patrice Evra, fans may see young Scott Wootton start his first European clash, alongside Alexander Buttner at left back. The 23 year old German made his mark earlier in the season with a debut goal against Wigan (25/1 that Buttner scores first), and is a lively prospect. There are also returns to the starting XI expected for veteran Ryan Giggs and former Borussia Dortmund danger man Shinji Kagawa.
Of course, important to much of United's success is Wayne Rooney, who, off the back of a magnificent Premier League performance against Stoke, is the centre of William Hill's enhancement. At 5/4 to score in a Man Utd win (from EVS) , Rooney is expected to play a crucial role for Ferguson's outfit, and with the return of flashy winger Ashley Young, Rooney will likely be presented with a host of chances (3/1 that Rooney scores 2 or more)
Braga come to Old Trafford on the back of a successful start to their domestic season, only three points from the top of Liga Sagres, whilst a good win in Galatasaray has put them in a great position to qualify from a tough group. If they can pick up anything in Manchester, it would be a huge boost. Central to their hopes is explosive striker Eder, whose recent debut for Portugal will only encourage the 24 year old of Guinea-Bissauan descent, currently priced at 16/1 to score in a win for SC Braga (from 11/1).
With 21 hat-tricks to his name in a Barcelona shirt (just ridiculous isn't it?!), Leo Messi lines up for his 71st Champions League game at 25, in which time he has score a pitiful 23 goals. I reckon a quiet night will be on the cards for Charlie Mulgrew and co.
Of course, that is if they can keep Messi and his band of cohorts quiet. Easier said than done considering that band is made up Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, David Villa...need I go on? The Catalans do seem to have a weakness though, as they will be missing Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique from their squad due to injury. Messi however seems as prolific as ever, however it is Spanish hero Andreas Iniesta who is enhanced as part of William Hill's Anytime Wincast, being elevated to 5/2 to score in a Barca win (from 21/10).
A trip to Deportivo saw Tito Vilanova's side ship four goals at the weekend (in a 5-4 win), however the tenacity of Scott Brown, Kris Commons and Gary Hooper could prove to be bountiful for the Scottish champions (13/8 that more than 4.5 goals are scored)
Off the back of their first Champions League win away from Celtic Park, Neil Lennon will have cause for the slightest optimism at the Camp Nou, knowing that Celtic are a well disciplined team, not to be taken lightly. However, Vilanova, only five months into the job, is already showing signs of where he can take Barca, and the tactic of outscoring their opposition has proved fruitful so far in his stewardship, considering they have fallen to only one solitary defeat so far.
The Scots are of course out to avoid humiliation, however the club's leading scorer Gary Hooper will be looking to add to his already strong tally in Europe this season with a goal, which in a Celtic win, has been enhanced to a magnificent 66/1 (from 40/1), whilst second leading scorer, Kenyan Victor Wanyama is 20/1 to find the back of the net.
As the champions of a continent, Chelsea have fared reasonably well. Demolishing nearly all to have crossed them domestically, including a stunning midfield performance at White Hart Lane on Saturday, has seen the Blues rocket to the top of the Premier League, whilst in Europe, only a courageous Juventus fight back from 2-0 down has seen Chelsea look uncomfortable (15/2 that Shakhtar come from behind to draw).
The return of the (n)ever controversial John Terry will see Chelsea defence weakened, whilst young Spanish start Cesar Azpilicueta is expected to make his European bow in Ukraine. Roberto di Matteo will be looking to steer clear of the pack with a win in Ukraine, and isn't expected to make many changes to the line-up that beat Spurs comfortably, so in form striker Fernando Torres is likely to start, and priced at 6/1 to score the first goal of the match.
For the Ukrainian champions, success in this competition has been hard to come by, but after a hard fought draw against Juventus in Matchday 2, Shakhtar will hope to challenge the expected top two when it comes to crunch time, and a win against Chelsea would be a great statement of intent.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of the brightest prospects in European football, and after breaking out last season, the Armenian forward, who scored against Italy only last week, will look to add to his account here against the Blues, having average a goal in each of his 18 appearances this season. That sort of record is exactly why he is a steal at 7/1 to score 2 or more.