Basel has high expectations in the Champions League

The Champions League is going to be swerving with excellent teams and for Basel to advance to the quarterfinals, it would be a huge achievement. They still have a long way to go and the first challenge is to defeat a former champion, as Porto comes to town. The Portuguese start with the first chance and they are fully aware of their status, so they won’t defend in Switzerland. They’ve got the offensive to exercise constant pressure, but recent results have been inconclusive and the defensive betrayed them.

baselBasel has already produced a major upset by causing the elimination of Liverpool at the end of a highly contested game at Anfield Road. Back then, they only had to defend the scoreless draw and then returned in the game after Gerrard scored for the host, to deny them the chance to play another final. It was a memorable results and in conjunction with those points collected in front of their fans, propel the Swiss side to the knockout stage.

Overall, they were impressive on many levels when they had home pitch advantage and it is something that they are counting on ahead of this fixture. It won’t be easy to take the initiative against Porto, because the Portuguese side is used to play offensive football and rarely encounters opposition. On the other hand, when opponents fight back, they sometimes lose focus and this happened over the last two months, when they allowed plenty of goals in the domestic championship.

Not surprisingly, they are already trailing Benfica who is leading the division and with six points behind them, Porto is fighting an uphill battle. Nothing is lost and there are enough rounds left but knowing how unbalanced the Portuguese championship is, the runners-up don’t feel too well. Martinez is the player that can single-handedly defeat lesser teams with the striker scoring a massive 14 goals in just 18 goals.

The visiting team will probably use a single striker in the first half, while Aboubakar is the obvious replacement for the remaining 45 minutes. He will probably join the striker regardless of the result at half time, so Basel needs to come out firing on all cylinders. Taking the initiative on be easy, but as long as they succeed at resisting the urge of defending with all lines, the Swiss team has a good chance to win.

The first instinct would be to bet on the more experienced team and credit the Portuguese side with a victory on the road. The odds are not that bad, but given past performance and Basel’s recent results it makes more sense to do the exact opposite. Place a wager on the home side not to lose and you will enjoy odds of 1.65, something that is quite impressive for a Champions League game at this stage.

Porto expected to take advantage on Bilbao’s struggles

Athletic Bilbao is sinking into near irrelevance after losing most of the games in both the Spanish Primera Division and the Champions League. Nothing seems to be going their way, with the offensive being simply abysmal while the midfield is struggling to fill the gaps. Not even the backline is what it used to be, with the Basques allowing plenty of goals when playing against mediocre opponents.

Their European campaign seems to be doomed after the terrible start, but even so they could keep their hopes alive by causing a major upset in Portugal. In the opening match, they had to settle for one point against Shakhtar and then lost to BATE on the road, while scoring a single goal in both games. This is particularly frustrating for a team that used to be dominant upfront and the fact that they have retained most of their strikers during the season break didn’t help one bit.

portoAnother critical problem for the visitors is that they tend to allow plenty of goals, with the first half being particularly hurtful for their chances. They are yet to win a game this season and lost three matches to nil in the domestic championship, while drawing twice against weak opponents. Barcelona and Real Madrid made short work of their defenses and they were never a danger upfront, so Athletic Bilbao fans have plenty of reasons to be worried ahead of this fixture.

By comparison, the Portuguese side fares slightly better but they are still behind schedule on both fronts and something needs to change soon. In the Portuguese championship there are trailing archrivals Benfica by one point and in the Champions League they can consider themselves lucky to have four points. After the convincing victory over BATE they barely scrapped a point on the road against the Ukrainian side and they will need to be more careful defensively if they are to keep a clean sheet.

Manager Lopetegui didn’t hesitate to use three strikers on the road in Ukraine, but this decision proved to be a big mistake because the forwards were mediocre at best. Much to his credit, he decided to make the necessary replacement in the last 30 minutes of the game and introduced Martinez on the pitch. The Colombian goal-getter worked his magic and scored twice in the last three minutes of the game, to deny the hosts their first victory in the Champions league.

It is most unlikely that the Portuguese manager will use the same starting formation tonight, and this time he will feature Martinez in the starting formation. Despite the fact that his opponents are struggling heavily on all fronts, he is not overconfident in his chances and expects a tough test. More on the matter can be found at

PSG hungers for revenge against Barcelona

It’s been exactly one year, since PSG was eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona and the French side is hoping to avenge that defeat. The timing is not exactly great, because the hosts are trying to field a starting formation that might miss its best strikers. Both Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi have missed the last game which ended once again undecided and there are some who claim that the two strikers will not be fixed to play tonight.

thesoccerThe problem is that even if manager Blanc insists on using them despite the fact that they are not fully recuperated, it is unlikely that either of them will play at full potential. Under normal circumstances, an Ibrahimovic doing his best to be enough to outshine most opponents, but against a team such as Barcelona, they need to have their best players playing their A-game. There are plenty of questions yet to answer and on top of that, PSG has a rather frightening record over the last month.

The French side used to dominate opponents both at home and on the road, scoring a bucket full of goals even against the most defensive teams. Apparently, things have changed and mostly for the worse, with four of the last five games ending in draws. The fact that PSG scored and allowed one goal in each of these contests is hardly encouraging, especially tonight when they are gearing up for an extremely difficult match against one of the best scoring teams in Europe.

Over the weekend, Barcelona impressed its fans with a 6-0 dazzling victory over another and both its key strikers scored on that match. Messi found his way to the net twice and Neymar the is even better, by scoring three goals and he created even more opportunities in the second half. One of the reasons for why the Spanish side decided to throw everything they’ve got in the domestic championship game was to make the scoreless draw against Malaga forgotten.

None of their key players suffered an injury in that match and overall they have all the veterans fit to play tonight, so the starting formation will remain unchanged. The expectations are high and the fact that Barcelona failed to win either the Champions League and the domestic championship last season further increases the pressure. They won’t have home pitch advantage tonight, but this won’t prevent them from playing offensive football, given the fact that PSG is probably going to play without its best strikers.

Punters have to decide on whether to back the hosts and tradition, which says that all head to head games ended undecided. The other option is to go with the favorites and settle for even odds offered by most bookmakers for Barcelona to prevail on the road. The Spanish side is not the most prolific one when playing away from home, but tonight they should be given credit to claim all three points.

Lyon fights a successful war on two fronts

A couple of years ago, Lyon was one of the best European teams, capable of making the final stages of the Champions League. Much has changed though and nowadays they have a hard time in even threatening PSG for the lead, with the players transferred during the season break being unlikely to change much. Even so, they have a competitive team and will try to prove it by making a deep run in Europa League, while reaching the podium in the French Ligue 1.lyon

It is far too early to predict how successful they will be in this attempt, because they are still playing in the European competition’s qualifiers while the domestic championship is yet to begin. Much to their credit, they have won back-to-back games and they are just one round away from making the group stage, while scoring a lot of goals over that span. They won both legs against Mlada Boleslav from the Czech Republic and advanced to the next stage of the competition with relative ease.

There are no official games scheduled anytime soon, so by the time they will face Romanians Astra, Lyon can expect to have its best players fit to play. Gourcouff, Bedimo and Fofana are not going to play tonight against Rennes, but even without these players, the hosts have the first chance to claim all three points. The good news is that two of them didn’t participate in the campaign of friendly games and were not a part of the team that won the double legged round against the Czechs.

The visitors don’t have injured or suspended players to worry about, but even if they are at full strength, Rennes don’t have a quality team. Opposing Lyon on the road was always a difficult task and in most cases, the visitors tried to settle for a draw. They were successful in nine matches, while losing eight times and they are still looking for the first victory away from home.

It is very unlikely that Rennes will snap out of their dry spell tonight and earn a rare victory on the road, especially with the visitors using this single striker. Lyon is fighting a war on two fronts, but so far they don’t seem to be tired and have recorded positive results all around. As it is, odds of 1.80 are just good enough to warrant a wager on the home side to kick-start its Ligue 1 campaign with a victory.

Aberdeen tries to cause another upset in Europa League

Aberdeen was the underdog in the first leg against Groningen, simply because the Dutch side was more experienced in playing in European competitions. The first leg could’ve easily gone either way, but when action shifted to the Netherlands, it was the Scottish team that looked more dangerous upfront. The visitors took the lead early and then extended their advantage in the first half, which left the Dutch team fight an uphill battle that proved to be impossible to win.thesoccer

This time, they try to cause another upset away from home, but they will play against a considerably better opponent. Real Sociedad used to be a force to be reckoned with, especially when they had home pitch advantage, but in the last couple of matches they were unable to build on this edge. Bookmakers are not very optimistic about the visitors’ chances of avoiding defeat, but those who favor Aberdeen will find a couple of morale boosting arguments at

Last time the Spanish side played in the European competition, things took a turn for the worse relatively early as they failed to advance from the group stage. Granted it was the Champions League that they were trying to survive, the disappointing performance both at home and away left fans with only unpleasant memories. With the domestic championship on break, Real Sociedad got themselves busy with a string of friendly games, but the results were subpar.

They got plenty of matches against Dutch teams but only won against Nijmegen, while dropping points against top competitors. Some of the best players were traded in the season break and the replacements are unlikely to provide the cutting edge that they need to return to the elite of Spanish football. Losing at home against Aberdeen would only amplify the misery, which explains why the hosts are under so much pressure ahead of this fixture.

The visitors will use a standard 4-4-2 formation with McGinn and Rooney upfront, as they were the most prolific scorers in Europa League qualifiers. They are hardly world-class strikers, but might prove good enough against a stiff defensive who fails to respond properly to counterattacks. There is no head to head record to use as reference, but Aberdeen didn’t lose in the last eight games, while winning five of those matches. By comparison, Real Sociedad won just once in the last six games.

Colombia can extend flawless run into the last 16

Columbia was credited with the first chance to win its group and at one time it was ranked among the favorites to lift the trophy Brazil. The reason for why the South Americans were held in high regard by both bookmakers and football specialists is that they had one of the best offenses. Falcao was supposed to spearhead the attack, but the gifted striker got injured many months before kickoff and despite their best efforts, the therapists couldn’t get him fit to play.Colombia vs Uruguay

He didn’t even travel with the national team to Brazil, but in his absence a couple of young striker stepped up and they did a fine job throughout the group stage. The manager expected to have a difficult time in choosing between the second and third striker, but nobody could’ve anticipated the interesting turn of events. Colombia used different strikers in the three games so far, but each combination proved to be successful and that’s why it is anyone’s guess how the starting formation will look like on Sunday.

Pekerman is very likely to stick to Rodriguez who didn’t disappoint him in his two games played so far, but it appears to be a mistake to keep Martinez on the bench either. The striker was finally given a chance to sign against Japan and he made the most of this opportunity by scoring twice and barely missing a hat trick. Naturally, he will run into a much more difficult opponent in this stage of last 16, but Uruguay defenses proved to be equally permeable.

Under the right circumstances, Colombia can keep an opponent under constant pressure and prevent it from using any of its offensive weapons. This is great news against a team that has a remarkable trident of strikers, with names such as Suarez, Forlan and Cavani on the list. The reason for why Uruguay is not celebrating their performance in group D, is that they have a hard road ahead and a couple of obstacles that have the potential of turning into huge issues.

To start with, Forlan is a talented but aging striker who can no longer sustain the intensity of a World Cup football game and is very likely to play less than one half. In fact, the coach decided to keep him on the bench early on and he never got the chance to play in the decisive match against Italy. The other big problem is that Suarez could get suspended as a result of improper behavior in the last match, when he allegedly bit an opponent.

Add to this the fact that Cavani is not playing at full potential and is yet to score goals for his team and it is obvious why Uruguay is credited with the second chance. The head to head record is in their favor, but they allowed plenty of goals when things didn’t go according to their plan and home pitch advantage meant a lot for this team. This is not the first time that they are narrow underdogs at the World Cup 2014, but they are clearly playing against better opponents, who are credited with odds of 2.10 to prevail.

Germany squad outlook for World Cup 2014

Among the teams that deserve to win the World Cup, Germany has a place of its own because the European nation missed out on numerous opportunities. With the kind of players that they bring to Brazil, they are entitled to expect to make the final and they have no reason to fear any opponent. On a good day, the German machine can steamroll past any other squad, which explains why bookmakers are willing to credit them with the third chance to lift the trophy.

thesoccerblogBrazil is clearly a favorite and Argentina comes in second, but Germany has a better chance than Spain to win the most prestigious tournament in football, at least if we are to trust the bookies. They don’t have a particularly easy group, with the likes of Portugal trying to block their way, while Ghana and the United States count on a miracle. The European nations are favorites to finish on the first two spots, but the outcome of the opening game would change all that.

At least in theory, they would benefit from the first match ending undecided, as they will need to win at least four points in the other two games to have a good chance at surviving Group G. What actually happens is that neither Germany nor Portugal is willing to settle for the second-place and will fight it out to win the group. The idea is to avoid a potentially lethal fixture with Argentina or Brazil in the next round and it goes without saying that it is easier to defeat Ghana or the US in the group stage.

Low has most of the players who competed in the European championship two years ago fit to play, even though some veterans announced their retirement. The manager is in a fortunate position of having a relatively healthy squad, with players that are quite young yet immensely experienced. A quick glance at the offensive line will reveal the fact that midfielders and strikers younger than 25-year-old have already played hundreds of games for formidable European clubs.

Bayern Munchen is not surprisingly the team that provides most of these talented players, but there are other top clubs where German midfielders and strikers play. Opponents will feel like they are hit by a tsunami, since Germany can attack with six players if needed and still have a solid defense. Overall, they have the most balanced team among all nations competing at the World Cup, even though individually they might be slightly behind Argentina and Brazil.

Discipline and fighting spirit are not in short supply and the farther Germany goes at the World Cup 2014, the better their chances are to play their a-game. Pressure is high as always, but the Germans know how to handle it and with Joachim Low at the helm, they shouldn’t be underestimated. The odds are not great, but it is worth betting on Germany to win all the games in the group stage and stick to this plan until they lock horns with Brazil or Argentina.

Benfica needs a single point in Turin

Benfica won the domestic championship with four rounds before the regular season ends and have a good chance at winning the Portuguese Cup as well. They will be facing Rio Ave in the final and start as favorites, so the only trophy they need is Europa league. Their chances of making the finals are relatively good, after winning the first leg, but the goal allowed in the second half hurts their chances.Benfica

Juventus needs to win and a narrow margin victory is what they will be aiming, after also winning Serie A this Monday as a result of a 1-3 victory on the road. They managed to keep their team healthy and with no absentees to worry about, the host will be fielding a standard 4-4-2 starting formation. Things would’ve been far more complicated, had the Portuguese won the first leg to nil, so the goal scored by Tevez would weigh heavily in the balance.

The Argentinian striker played decently well in the first leg and the fact that he scored his first goal in a European competition after a 5 years break was encouraging. It goes without saying, that he will feature in the starting formation once again, alongside Vucinic, but Llorente is also an option. The Spanish striker is the second most prolific player in their rotation after Tevez with 15 goals in 32 games, but he had some fitness issues that kept him away from the pitch.

Juventus is wary of the Portuguese’s offensive prowess and they will be gradually increasing the pressure. The trick is not to allow Benfica to take the initiative, because once they establish a beachhead in the other half, they are hard to counter. The visitors have several offensive players that can catch the Italians on the counterattack, not to mention that the hosts are counting on aging back line.

This is going to be a very tight fixture that could easily go either way, depending on what happens in the first 30 minutes of the game. If the hosts take the lead, then the match is going to slow down a bit and Juventus will be trying to score the second goal at the end of position or play. The bottom line is that the Portuguese side only needs one goal to be sure that the game won’t take a turn for the worse. The odds for Benfica to win or draw stand at 2.35, which is tremendous value, so this is the best choice for this fixture.

Splitting points is a convenient option for Granada

Perhaps one of the least interesting matches in Primera Division this weekend will be played in Granada, where the local team welcomes Levante. They are separated by just three points in the standings and they have a safe cushion ahead of the relegation area with no chance whatsoever of playing in a European competition next season.Granada vs Levante

This safe distance from both areas of interest make this a rather dull affair and many punters are contemplating the possibility of betting on the draw. Granada is in better form and they used to know how to extract maximum value from those games played in front of their fans. It definitely helps that the visiting team hasn’t won many games recently and bowed before some of the weakest teams in the league.

Celta Vigo and Betis made short work of their defenses and got away with all six points, despite the fact that they are both in miserable shape. Levante squandered manypoints in March, but they were fortunate enough to have their contenders struggling over the stretch. There is no pressure whatsoever in winning games, especially those played on the road and that’s why coach Caparros uses a single striker.

It comes as no surprise that he prefers David Barral match after match, as this gifted forward has the most goals scored for Levante. Naturally, he will receive plenty of attention from the home team tonight and this will make it very difficult for him to send dangerous shots at the opponent’s net. By comparison, Granada will be pairing El Arabi with Riki and it is quite possible for Ighalo to join them in the second half if the hosts fail to score.

There are basically two ways of tacking this game, one being a wager on the hosts to prevail at odds of 1.90, counting on the visitors’ poor form. Both punters will prefer to place a wager on an exact score, with 0:0 and 1-1 being the most likely results. If the game heads for an inconclusive result, none of the teams will take unnecessary chances to force victory and will probably accept a mutually convenient draw

Must win Champions League match for Manchester City

citybarcaUnlike 2013 when they didn’t survive the group stage, Manchester City made it through and they lock horns with Barcelona. The 2012 champions will try to would behind them the failure of last season when they were crushed by Bayern Munchen both at home and away. Securing a spot in the quarterfinals shouldn’t be a big challenge for the Spanish side, as long as they can leave England with at least one point. They are not the best traveling team and quite often during the group stage they settled for a draw.

At least in theory, keeping a clean sheet and splitting points wouldn’t be a disaster for Manchester City, but this means that the British side would have to score at Nou Camp. They’ve had a busy schedule this February and win just a bit over half the match is played this month, including a critical cup fixture with Chelsea. They only had three days to rest ahead of this important Champions League match and they’ve got their best players fit to play.

It goes without saying that Pellegrini will not rest any players for the upcoming Premier League match against Stoke this weekend, instead he will throw everything he’s got at Barcelona. Alvaro Negredo and Dzeko are the two strikers that he will be counting tonight to catch the visiting team offguard, with the latter struggling to return to form. Negredo didn’t play this weekend due to a knee injury but he is completely recovered and is expected to feature tonight from the first minute.

Barcelona scored six goals over the weekend without conceding one and they pack quite a punch up front, with Messi, Neymar and Pedro spearheading the offensive. In Champions League fixtures they seem to be more interested in preventing opponents from scoring than to take a lead themselves, but this doesn’t mean that Barcelona will be toothless in Manchester. All the aforementioned players are deadly on counterattack and they don’t need too many opportunities to score.

To make matters worse, City is struggling with subpar goalkeeping the season and have been shifting between Hart and Pantilimon. The former will be given the green light tonight but he is dependent on his back line to keep him out of harm’s way. Overall, this appears to be a balanced game that could go either way and punters who insist on wagering should choose the draw for the sake of better odds.