Man Utd v Wolfsburg – Wednesday 30th September
Man Utd are flourishing right now; top of the Premier League, Wayne Rooney looks to be getting back to his best, the England man is forming a promising relationship with Martial, and Depay has hit 4 goals since his arrival too. The goal in the 3-0 victory over Sunderland will do wonders for Rooney’s own confidence; the striker had previously gone 999 minutes goalless in the Premiership. Juan Mata has warned his teammates that they’ll need to be at their best to defeat Wolfsburg, he stated in his blog: “They are a dangerous team with talented players I know very well, like Schürrle, a former team-mate.”
United need this win after losing away to PSV, but as Mata notes, it could be trickier than it seems. Van gaal might decide to squeeze in Ashley Young after his impressive off-the-bench performance against Sunderland. Young can attack and create chances but this naturally leaves an opportunity for Wolfsburg to capitalise. After a great start to the campaign, they’ve been less than impressive in their past two games; drawing with bottom club Hannover, and losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich. They were the club upon whom Lewandowski rained down with his five goal haul in record time. Defender Dante admitted that such a defeat is “not something you get over quickly.” Luis Gustavo is a doubt for Wednesday’s clash, whilst Wolfsburg are enduring a few other injuries to boot; consider odds for the draw to go above 4.0 before kick off.
This downward turn in fortune has coincided with behind the scenes turmoil with the scandal at major benefactor Volkswagen. The car company could be fined £11.8bn following revelations that they cheated US emission tests. How this will affect Wolfsburg is unclear right now, but it could be devastating financially. Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports and Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University, told the BBC World Service: “Sponsorship is one of the things that gets hit during times of austerity. It has to have an impact on the club.”
Verdict: Wolfsburg, the original Volkswagen club, are suffering amidst the controversy at the car manufacturing giant, and right now is not a time you want to go and play United at Old Trafford. Buy United Under.
Celtic v Fenerbahce – Thursday 1st October
If you’ve not been keeping tabs on the Scottish Premier League this season, prepare to be surprised; Celtic aren’t top. They are in fact four points behind leaders Aberdeen; who’ve won 8 out of 9 games. This could however benefit them in the Europa League, a proper domestic title challenge should make the squad more determined, more united and ensure each individual is fighting for a place and the chance to prove themselves. There’s no greater platform than European football.
Celtic drew 2-2 with Ajax away from home in their opener, and players such as James Forrest and Efe Ambrose will be eager to impress on Thursday. Celtic manager, Ronny Deila, announced his delight at the performances of Forrest this season: “His influence on the team is growing all the time and he can be a big player for us in this Europa League campaign.” Coach John Kennedy meanwhile has backed Efe Ambrose, who’s been covering well in the centre of defence in recent weeks. He saw red for a last man challenge against Hearts at the weekend, though such sacrifice will doubtless have earned some respect amongst his teammates.
Kennedy has urged the Hoops to ignore speculation of a reported rift between Robin Van Persie and Fenerbahce coaching staff. It could play a role regardless, and will weaken the Turkish side’s attacking capabilities if the Dutchman doesn’t start. RVP hasn’t started for the team in two weeks, though he came off the bench to score against Besiktas. Lazar Markovic scored a blinder too, though was then forced off through injury. No update has yet been given on said injury, and whether he’ll be fit for Thursday. Odds for the draw to fall from 3.45 in the Spiffindex to 3.25.
Verdict: Which RVP will turn up, and will he even be given a game? A lot could ride on this, as there’ll be a lot less to handle for Celtic’s defence without the Dutchman playing. Celtic’s home advantage will count for something too, odds for Celtic to win to fall so buy Celtic Under.
PAOK v Dortmund – Thursday 1st October
Under Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund have been winning and scoring freely this season, though their previous two games have ended in disappointing draws. A double from the in form Aubameyang on Sunday ensured a point against Bundesliga newcomers Darmstadt, meaning the Gabon striker now has only one less than Lewandowski in the league, and has scored in every game (9 goals in 7 games). The German side will be determined to get back on track on Thursday, and history is on their side with PAOK without a win against a German club in 34 years.
The Greek side are strong at home however, this season they’ve won all three to date, scored 12 and conceded 0. Odds for the draw should fall somewhat from 4.4 to around 4.1. Under Tuchel, Dortmund are a side rejuvenated, despite these two draws, they’ve still played great football. They have regained the fast, and pressing style so successful for a time under Klopp, but added a new dimension in terms of possession, passing based play. Tuchel is also extremely popular amongst the players; Aubameyang has spoken out on their excellent relations, whilst Adnan Januzaj stated this week his belief that he will be one of the world’s best coaches. Julian Weigl, Kagawa, and Hummels have also come into their own since Tuchel’s arrival.
Verdict: Dortmund have the upper hand, and the most inform striker in Europe at present in Aubameyang. But PAOK’s resilience at home will be testing. Buy Draw Under.
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