The group stage of this season’s Champions League reaches its conclusion this week with plenty of places in the knockout stage still up for grabs. Nine teams including the holders, Bayern Munich, have already qualified from the group stage with seven spots still to be secured. Group B is the most compelling group with all four teams still in contention and three points separating leaders Borussia Monchengladbach and fourth-placed Inter. Expect plenty of twists and turns over the two nights as teams aim to avoid dropping out of the UCL and into the Europa League. Here are some bets that I think are worth considering on DraftKings Sportsbook for the midweek slate of Champions League games.
Chelsea vs. Krasnodar
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have negotiated their way through Group E to the point where they guaranteed their place in the Round of 16 with a couple of games to spare. Frank Lampard now has the luxury of resting some of his key players ahead of their EPL fixture at Everton on Saturday. Chelsea are currently unbeaten in their last 16 league and cup games since losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool on September 20. Lampard will not want that run to end, and no matter what side he picks for the visit of the Russians, the Blues will be expected to win. It’s a chance for fringe players to shine — like Olivier Giroud did last week, scoring all four of Chelsea’ goals at Sevilla. The Frenchman was the rewarded with a rare league start at home to Leeds. Giroud, who scored Chelsea’s first goal against Leeds, now has six goals in his last four games for the Stamford Bridge side.
Barcelona vs. Juventus
It’s a shame there isn’t more riding on the outcome of this contest. Both Barcelona and Juventus have managed to get through Group G without any real fuss. The only points dropped by either side was when Barca beat Juventus 2-0 in Turin in late October. The Serie A side will want to balance that score and win at the Nou Camp for the first time since 2002-03, when they needed extra-time to beat the La Liga side and progress to the semi-finals. With nothing really to play for, this could be an open and entertaining encounter with a few goals scored. Barcelona will be looking to continue their run of scoring at least two goals in every UCL tie they’ve played this season while Juventus has scored two or more in all but one of their five group games.
Paris St Germain vs. Istanbul Basaksehir
Group H is wide open going into the final slate of fixtures. Manchester United currently lead the group, but they are only on top thanks to their superior goal difference over Paris St Germain and RB Leipzig. Of the three sides, Paris St-Germain has the more favorable closing fixture, and they will be expected to take care of business against the Turkish team that pulled off arguably the biggest shock of the group stage by beating the EPL 2-1. A win for the French champions will see them through and they could finish top of the group if United drop points in Germany. Paris St-Germain are unbeaten in their last four while Basaksehir are without a win in their last five. The form book suggests this should be a home win, and if Thomas Tuchel’s side can get an early goal, they could finish the group stage in style.
RB Leipzig vs. Manchester United
It promises to be a nervous night for both these sides as they battle it out for a place in the Round of 16. The bad news for Manchester United is that they have to go to Germany and get something from their clash with RB Leipzig. The good news for United is their 3-1 win at West Ham on Saturday was the fifth consecutive road game in the EPL in which they came from behind to win. Leipzig are still alive in this group after they came from a goal down to beat Paris St-Germain in the third week of play — so United have been warned. With so much at stake, this contest could take a while to get going. I’d expect the first half to be cagey, unless either side scores early. In the second half, depending on the score in Paris, both sides might have no option but to go for it — which is when we could expect a few goals at both ends of the pitch.
Inter vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
It’s been 10 seasons since Inter was featured in the knockout stage of the Champions League, and their wait could continue if they don’t beat Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukrainian side looked dead and buried in Group B after suffering heavy back-to-back losses to Borussia Monchengladbach by a combined score of 10-0. But a 2-0 win at home over Real Madrid has given them hope of advancing at the expense of one of Europe’s biggest clubs. This is a trap game for Inter. Playing at home, they should win, but pressure can do funny things to players. Shakhtar find themselves in a position where they know a draw could be enough to see them through, but only if the Real Madrid home game with Monchengladbach ends all square. There is a scenario where both Real Madrid, who has reached the knockout stage in each of the last 23 seasons, and Inter fail to make it out of the group.
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