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Champions League preview: Ajax vs Benfica, Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid

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Champions League preview: Ajax vs Benfica, Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid

Champions League preview: Ajax vs Benfica, Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid

Tuesday’s Champions League action sees Man United host Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Sebastian Haller hopes to extend his impressive scoring run for Ajax.

Ajax vs Benfica

This match is delicately poised after the first leg. Dutch champions Ajax had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Portugal last time out.

That’s the first time Ajax have failed to win a game in their Champions League campaign this season. Erik Ten Hag’s side go into this game as clear favourites. So is there any way the visitors can spring an upset here at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff Arena?

That seems optimistic, with the Lisbon club having won just one of the away games they’ve played so far in the Champions League this season. And Ajax have been excellent – in particular striker Sebastian Haller, who has scored in each of the Dutch side’s CL matches.

Haller has already racked up 11 goals in this year’s competition (12, if you included the own goal he scored for Benfica last time out). The former West Ham striker is 18/5 to open the scoring here. Or you could try backing Ajax to win and Haller to score at any time in a double at 59/50, which seems very doable.

Goals seem a strong possibility too; five of Ajax’s seven CL games played in this campaign have featured four or more goals. Over 3.5 goals is a 22/25 shot. Combine that bet with Ajax to win and Haller to score in a treble for 23/10.

Manchester United vs Atletico Madrid

He’s had plenty of criticism this season, but Big Cris warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with a hat-trick against Tottenham on Saturday. Can we expect Man United’s superstar striker to prove similarly decisive when Diego Simeone’s side visit Old Trafford on Tuesday?

It’s been an iffy season for Atletico – the side are currently fourth in La Liga. But the Madrid team have won their last four league games and Joao Felix has five goals in as many appearances across all competitions. It was Felix who scored the opener against United in the reverse fixture last month too. Can Joao overshadow his illustrious countryman at Old Trafford this week?

United were fortunate to come away with a draw in that first leg. But the hosts can produce a more assured performance on home turf. Atletico’s form in this competition has been unspectacular, the Spanish side winning just twice in the group stage this season.

United rarely lose at Old Trafford under Rangnick

And despite grumblings that performances remain underwhelming, United rarely lose at Old Trafford under Rangnick. There’s been a 1-0 defeat to Wolves at the start of the year, and an FA Cup exit when United lost on penalties to Middlesbrough.

Could Simeone (knowingly or otherwise) take a leaf out of the Smoggies’ book here? It wouldn’t be the first time Atletico put the emphasis on stopping the opposition from winning. Simeone’s influence at Atletico may finally be waning, but he will still be hopeful of pulling off a heist in United’s backyard here.

For all that, it would be quite damning if United can’t rouse themselves at home against an Atletico side that don’t always travel well in the Champions League. They went out at this stage last year to Chelsea, losing 2-0 in London. And two years ago they were losing 1-0 to Liverpool after 90 minutes at this point, 1-1 on aggregate – though on that occasion, they came back to win in extra time.

Maybe that’s the danger again here. Certainly, this is likely to be another tight game. But the hosts can edge it; back United to win and under 2.5 goals at 13/4.

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