Champions League preview: Chelsea & Man Utd
Chelsea vs Krasnodar
This is a dead rubber for Frank Lampard’s team, who have already won their Champions League group, qualifying for the round of 16 following last week’s Olivier Giroud-inspired dismantling of Sevilla.
Chelsea are unbeaten in the Champions League this season and have won four of the five matches, conceding just one goal in the process. Lampard will likely make plenty of changes for this game, but Chelsea beat Krasnodar 4-0 on the road back in October and even with markedly different personnel there could still be goals on Tuesday.
Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi will both be out with injuries, and maybe Giroud will be deemed worthy of a rest after his recent heroics (in addition to the Sevilla masterclass, the Frenchman scored the opener against Leeds at the weekend). At least one man knows he’ll be on the team sheet; Lampard has told reporters Billy Gilmour will start for the Blues.
Regardless, Chelsea are unsurprising odds-on favourites, with the Russian visitors 9/1 to take the win here. Between late October and November Krasnodar played eight times in all competitions, recording seven losses along the way. They did beat Rennes last time out, though, so maybe they have the spirit to put up at least some semblance of a fight at Stamford Bridge.
Still, with Chelsea’s impressive ability to avoid conceding goals in this competition, backing the Blues to win to nil might be your best option – depending on just how much of a weakened team Lampard plays, of course. Chelsea to win to nil, available in our Match Events section, gives odds of 11/10.
Leipzig vs Man Utd
While Lampard has some breathing space, it’s all a little edgier for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who saw his Man United side defeated by Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford last week when a draw would have meant qualification to the round of 16.
Now, Solskjaer must earn at least a point this week against RB Leipzig, the team his side flattened 5-0 at Old Trafford back in October. On one hand, that scoreline obviously offers cause for optimism – but maybe, just maybe payback could be a bitch on Tuesday. With a win here, Leipzig will make certain of qualification.
Plenty of people fancied Leipzig to get the better of United before the last encounter; the side warmed up for this match with a thrilling 3-3 stalemate against Bayern at the weekend, though it should be noted that Leipzig let the lead slip twice en route to their draw against the German champions.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side also had to fight to the finish in another entertaining Champions League match last week, eventually winning 3-4 against Basaksehir on Wednesday with a stoppage time goal from Alexander Sorloth, after Irfan Kahveci scored a hat-trick for the Turkish team.
Leipzig might not be invincible, but they are at the very least up for the fight, then. So are United, in their own way; Ole watched his team being comprehensively outplayed for the first half against West Ham on Sunday, before impressing in the second half to secure three points AGAIN, following a similar comeback against Southampton a week earlier.
United have been living dangerously for a while, then. At their best, they’ve proved they can deliver emphatic victories – but their erratic nature is a concern, and figuring out who wins this one is beyond my limited powers. Leipzig have won both their home games in the Champions League, and are 31/20 to win this one – and you can back Man Utd to win at 31/20, the exact same price. The draw is 14/5.
Leipzig need to go for the win, and that approach could suit Solskjaer, who could be happy to see United hitting the German side on the counter. Then again, the Norwegian’s tactical acumen has been questioned, following his decision not to substitute Fred against PSG last week. If Man United win this one, it might be more to do with player performances than game plans. On that note, United will be without Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and Fred here.
The visitors can call on Marcus Rashford, though; Rashford hit a hat-trick against Leipzig last time they played, and is is 21/10 to score at any time on Tuesday.
Otherwise, backing goals might be your best bet; over 3.5 goals is available at 8/5, and has landed in five of United’s last six games in all competitions.
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