Real Madrid vs Celtic
The journey is over for Celtic. The home draw with Shakhtar also means Europa League qualification is off the table now. Only pride is at stake.
As for Madrid, they’ll want to take all 3 points to seal the group. Dropping points would allow Leipzig the chance to take top spot.
It’s unclear if Benzema is fit or not. It appears from Ancelotti’s comments that he will make the squad, but whether that’s on the bench or as a starter remains to be seen.
Even with the absence of him and Tchouameni, Madrid should have more than enough in the tank to put Celtic to the sword.
They won the reverse fixture 3-0 and at a canter ultimately, despite some early pressure from The Hoops.
Without the Glasgow crowd & with little to play for, I can’t see them being nearly as dangerous in this one.
Madrid have averaged a very impressive 2.11 xG in this seasons competition. The bookies really fancy goals here, over 2.5 is just priced at just 1.36.
Celtic have drastically underperformed their xG, which has cost them dearly. They’ve got their forwards to blame for that, with the likes of Maeda, Abada, Kyogo and Giakoumakis all struggling to take chances on the big stage.
I’ve been regularly impressed with Celtic’s intensity and their ability to take chances. However, it must be said that they’ve lacked the quality to compete as they should have at this level.
Madrid won’t let control slip as they did for periods in Glasgow and I fear for what could happen to a Celtic side with no motivation to get anything from this.
Shakhtar vs Leipzig
This is the other game in Group F, with plenty at stake.
It may not look that way at a glance, but Shakhtar’s 4-1 win in the reverse fixture means that a win here would allow them to leapfrog their opponents and qualify for the knockout stages.
Goals look the best pick here. Leipzig games in this group have averaged 3.6 goals. Domestically, they’ve averaged 3.3.
The situation is perfect for goals too. Whoever falls behind has to chase the game.
I’d take that previous meeting with a pinch of salt. Shakhtar scored 4 goals from an xG of just 1.00, largely thanks to Leipzig mistakes.
Throughout the competition they’ve struggled. They’ve won the xG battle just once and that was 1.34 vs 1.29 in the away game vs Celtic. With a large part of that xG attributed to that incredible open goal miss.
Overall they’ve averaged an xG of just 0.87 in the Champions League and an xGA of 1.88.
Goals will be my pick. But the away side being 1.67 isn’t a mistake. They’re the better side.
AC Milan vs Salzburg
Another winner takes all scenario in Italy. These 2 are separated by a point, battling it out for 2nd place.
The prior meeting finished 1-1 and was pretty even, aside from Milan’s possession dominance.
Salzburg are set to be without a few first team players, including Oumar Solet, Nicolas Copaldo and Junior Adamu.
Milan have been struggling with injuries recently too. With Dest now a doubt, they’ll be without 3 right backs.
Alexis Saelmaekers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and first chocie goalkeeper Mike Maignan are all absent too.
I couldn’t be backing Milan at 1.47, despite their dominant win in Zagreb last time. Salzburg can’t be underestimated.
Cards look like the order of the day here. There were 6 in the first meeting. Both sides avergae above 2.2 domestically.
Antonio Lahoz is the referee. He’s always been fond of a card. Averaging 4.87 across his 330 game career.
Maccabi Haifa vs Benfica
Juventus and Maccabi are tied on 3 points. So whoever can better the others result, will gain a Europa League place.
PSG and Benfica are also tied on points, so whichever of those two betters the others result will qualify as group winners.
Benfica won the reverse fixture very comfortably. 2-0 doesn’t tell the full story with the Portuguese side restricting their opponents to just 0.24 xG.
Benfica are storming it domestically and have been untouchable. They come in to this off the back of a 5-0 win against Chaves. That made it 10 wins from 11 domestically.
Most impressively, nobody has beaten them yet. In any competition. Their Champions League performances have been remarkable. They drew home and away with PSG and won home and away against Juventus.
Despite Juve’s struggles, PSG definitely have the tougher test tonight and I could see the Old Lady getting something out of that. Which would mean Benfica topping the group should they win, which would be a huge achievement.