And so the battle continues for a spot in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League tonight. Indeed, it is an exhaustive phase for the participating teams as we hit round 2.
The oppositions are tougher and the margins for errors lower. Bodo/Glint, Sheriff, Maribor, Ludogrets and Qarabag are amongst the predicted teams that progressed to this stage.
Now, Fenerbahce, FC Zurich, Midtjylland, Dynamo Kyiv, Viktoria Plzen, Olympiacos and Maccabi Haifa will begin their quest for qualification.
Some exciting fixtures suffice. There will be drama as a result. And yet, punters will also be looking to cash out big.
Here are four properly analysed bet options that could almost guarantee this:
Viktoria Plzen To Win Against HJK
The Czech champions will be excited to get a chance to play on the continent after failing to qualify for the Europa Conference League last season.
And yet, two consecutive second round eliminations will play on their minds as they travel to Finland.
Against HJK, Michal Bilek will be positive. The Finnish team only advanced to this stage after managing to defeat RFS on penalties. Even then, they have failed to progress past this stage in the last three seasons.
Of course, the hosts will hope to at least get a win at home, which could see them attempt to play on the front foot. Malik Abubakari will hope to win the fight to start for Toni Koskela.
However, based on quality and experience, Plzen are slight favourites to nick this one.
The swift movements of Tomas Chory and Cadu could cause problems for the likes of Miros Tenho.
Over 2.5 Goals Between Maccabi Haifa And Olympiacos
Certainly, this is one of the most anticipated encounters of this round based on the pedigree of both teams.
The Israeli side will be hopeful of a group stage berth for the first time in 13 years. And for the Greek giants, they will be desperate to return to the limelight after failing to qualify in the last two seasons.
Barak Bakhar will be concerned about his team’s form after losing the Israeli Super Cup final last weekend on penalties.
But if there is anyone competent enough to pull this side through, it is Bakhar. His Hapoel Be’er-Sheba team had some brilliant results in 2017 including a double against Inter Milan.
Pedro Martins’ men were utterly dominant in the Greek Super League, winning the title with 19 points ahead of PAOK.
Their recent friendlies have been anything but consistent, especially with a frail defence being their Achilles heel. For all it is worth, though, they are friendlies, and it will be difficult to judge based on those matches.
Henry Onyekuru has struggled to impact in this side. He has now been loaned out. Tiquinho Soares will expectedly lead the lines alongside Youssef El-Arabi. Veteran defender, Costas Manolas will get the job of commanding the defence.
The hosts are missing midfielder Mahmoud Jabber due to injury. But Neta Lavi will get his manager’s backing.
Both teams will go at this with everything. Hence, this tie will most likely be decided in the second leg. Yet, a very safe option for punters is an over 2.5 goals bet.
Over 1.5 Goals Between Dynamo Kyiv And Fenerbahce
Somehow, the competition will have to do without either of these teams in the group stages.
Perhaps, Dynamo Kyiv will be more disappointed if they do not advance having featured alongside Barcelona and Benfica last season.
Mircea Lucescu’s men last played a competitive League match in April following the cancellation of the season due to the ongoing war. However, the experience of the 77-year old in this competition will count for plenty.
Fenerbahce will be hopeful this season after appointing former Benfica manager, Jorge Jesus.
Former Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder, Mesut has also been let go, with his contract terminated.
For the Ukrainians, the objective will remain the same: hit swiftly on the wings. Mykola Shaparenko will be pivotal in this regard. Vladyslav Supryaha will also be expected to plunder the goals.
Newly signed Bruma and Serdar Dursun will be the Fener players likely to hurt Kyiv.
There will certainly be goals in Stadion Miejski, the new home of Dynamo. An over 1.5 bet option is looks good to deliver.
Under 3.5 Goals Between Maribor And Sheriff
Maribor come into this tie off the back of a strong defensive performance that saw them win Soligorsk 2-0 on aggregate in the first round.
And almost in the same fashion, Sheriff managed to score just one goal against Zrinjinski to progress past the first round. In fact, it was an own-goal.
With both teams favouring the defence, especially going by their respective opening round matches, one can expect a close game with few goals.
Although, the Moldovan team will be keen to prove to the world and themselves that last season’s group stage performance was not a fluke.
Maribor will, once again, do without their now-retired Marcos Tavares up front. But with Baturina stepping up and scoring a brace in their last Champions League match, the forward might not be direly missed.
Nigeria international, Ibrahim Akanbi might yet fancy his chances against Maribor.
An under 3.5 goals bet looks just about apt for a match involving two low-scoring sides.