Just 180 minutes stand in the way of 20 European clubs and a place in this year’s Champions League group stage. It should make for some cracking midweek action over the next couple of weeks, starting with five first leg matches on Tuesday night.
With so much to play for, every team will be desperate to get amongst the goals. We’re backing these six to do just that.
At odds of just under 7/1 at Betfred, it has to be worth a punt.
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BATE Borisov V Partizan Belgrade
Belarusian side BATE Borisov enter Tuesday’s first leg with Partizan Belgrade as favourites to clinch an important lead, but the hosts shouldn’t expect everything their own way against the Serbians.
Aleksandr Yermakovich’s men enter this crucial clash having failed to find the target in each of their past two matches. However, they’re usually very reliable in front of goal, especially at the Borisov Arena. They were also extremely dominant against Videoton in the previous round of Champions League qualifying and will be looking to put one foot in the group phase.
However, as we saw throughout 2014/15, BATE are vulnerable at the back and the visitors will look to punish those weaknesses. Zoran Milinkovic’s men will be up for this test and will be hoping to see former Mancheter City striker Valeri Bojinov continue his fine start to the season.
We’d expect BATE to win, but wouldn’t be surprised if the visitors push them all the way.
BTTS Yes @ 6/5 with Betfred
Lazio V Bayer Leverkusen
The night’s most exciting clash comes from Rome’s Stadio Olimpico as Lazio look to seal their place in the Champions League group phase for the first time since 2007/08. However, the Serie A side couldn’t have asked for a more difficult challenge than the one posed by experienced Germans Bayer Leverkusen.
Stefano Pioli’s men have been more acclimatised to Europa League football in recent years but the firepower of Miroslav Klose and Filip Dordevic will give the Italians confidence. Meanwhile, Ravel Morrison adds excitement to a very talented midfield.
The visitors are a club that you’d expect to reach the last 16 of the competition, however, and Roger Schmidt’s men will be expecting to edge through this test. They started their Bundesliga campaign with a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim on Saturday and the quality of Stefan Keissling and Hakan Calhanoglu should give the Germans a great chance.
Lazio know that they must claim a positive outcome here while the Germans will be eager to score a potentially crucial away goal. Back both teams to score.
BTTS Yes @ 4/5 with Betfred
Sporting Lisbon V CSKA Moscow
Jorge Jesus’ men welcome Russian outfit CSKA Moscow to the Estadio Jose Alavande knowing that they must establish a lead if they are going to have a serious chance of progression. We think they will get it, but they might have to work extra hard for it.
The Portuguese hosts boast some quality players. Youthful midfielders Zakaria Labyad and William Carvalho offer a great attacking edge while Alberto Aquilani will be eager to rebuild his career following his recent arrival. Moreover, strikers Bryan Ruiz and Teofilo Guttierez are just two potential sources for goals.
However, CSKA will have grown in confidence after their valiant attempts in last year’s group stage where they managed goals against both Roma and Manchester City. Leonid Slutsky’s men have also found the net in all seven competitive fixtures this season, so have no reason to fear this trip to the Portuguese capital.
Over two legs, we wouldn’t want to predict the outcome. As far as the first leg is concerned, let’s just hope there are goals at both ends.
BTTS Yes @ Evens with Betfred
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