Reigning Champions League winners Bayern Munich dominated Manchester City at the Etihad when the teams met earlier in the competition in a 3-1 win and they’ll be looking to complete the double and ensure first place in Group D tonight.
Man City have already secured at least the runners-up berth, a marked improvement on their first round exits in the last two seasons, but only a win by a three-goal margin will see them progress as group winners.
And that seems wholly unlikely for a number of reasons. Munich will host on the back of battering Werder Bremen 7-0 on the weekend to make it 40 league games unbeaten. They have won all eight home league clashes at the Allianz Arena this campaign and all five games in this competition.
Compare their formidable home record with City’s poor away form this term and there’s surely only going to be one winner. Manuel Pellegrini’s team have yet to gain back-to-back away successes this season and, although they have won both away trips in Europe, they were against CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plezen – a pair who’ve managed three points between them from their ten matches. In the Premier League, City have lost four and won just two of eight outside Manchester.
Norwich’s victory in 1992 and Arsenal’s surprise 2-0 win here last term are the only times in 17 European meetings with English teams the runaway Bundesliga leaders have suffered losses at home.
They should win but it might be tighter than the supremacy quote of 1.2-1.4 implies and a small sell may be worthwhile with Pep Guardiola’s side having little to play for.
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It’s been a season of firsts for Manchester United so far, but you won’t see anyone connected with the club boasting about them.
With their first manager since Sir Alex Ferguson took over in 1986, David Moyes’ team have lost at home to West Brom for the first time since 1978; been turned over at Old Trafford by Newcastle for the first time since 1972; suffered a home defeat to Everton for the first time in 21 years, and have failed to score in successive home games for the first time since 2007.
Those recent reverses to the Toffees and the Magpies were the first time since 2002 United have lost back-to-back games at the Theatre of Dreams. It’s not since 1962 the record English champions have lost three on the bounce there.
The visit of Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk tonight is a tough ask for Moyes as he desperately bids to keep his side out of the record books again.
United do need just a point to finish top of Group A, having already qualified, and they won their last European outing 5-0 away at Bayer Leverkusen. That was their best performance of the season but they’ve struggled for consistency and goals at various stages during this term.
Donetsk held the Red Devils to a 1-1 draw in Ukraine and they need to win to guarantee qualification and leapfrog United as group winners. A draw or a loss will likely spell an end to their Champions League participation as Leverkusen only need to triumph at home against winless Real Sociedad to qualify.
Surprisingly, considering United have made three finals in this time, it’s six years since Manchester United last won all three Champions League group matches at Old Trafford.
Even so, you would expect the hosts to bounce back with their backs against the wall and the supremacy quote for United/Shakhtar at 0.3-0.5 looks worth buying. Donetsk have always struggled on their travels, losing four of their five previous encounters in England, and only avoiding defeat in a 1-1 Europa League draw with Fulham.
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Seattle Seahawks (11-1) secured their place in the post-season with a hugely impressive 34-7 rout of New Orleans Saints last Monday. Coach Pete Carroll’s next mission is an eighth victory on the bounce that would clinch the NFC West and, with that, a first round bye.
Division rivals San Francisco 49ers (8-4) are up next and the Seahawks are hoping to avoid a fifth successive defeat in the City by the Bay.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson was outstanding versus the Saints as he completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards. Wilson also carried five times in the first half, with three of those designed plays. That effort took him to 22 regular-season wins, which is tied for the most ever for a second year QB.
Wilson is now 14-0 at CenturyLink Field and it’s clear why the Seahawks are so keen to secure home advantage throughout the NFC play-offs. Marshawn Lynch didn’t have his most productive day last week as he was held to 45 rushing yards. However, ‘Beast Mode’ is second in the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns and sixth with 970 rushing yards.
The last two meetings between these franchises have been dominated by the Seahawks. They have outscored them 71-16 and held them to 520 yards, but the games were both in Seattle.
Home advantage is key and this time it’s San Francisco’s turn. As it stands they have a one-game lead for the NFC’s final wild-card slot.
San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick has stepped up his game of late. He has scored four touchdowns in the last two games with no interceptions. Michael Crabtree made his first start this year last week and caught two passes for 68 yards. Another week on the practice pitch can only be positive for the star wide receiver.
The visitors boast the league’s best passing defence and, with Wilson in such good form, I fancy them to edge a little closer to home-field advantage. Spread bettors should sell the 49ers’ supremacy at 2 with Sporting Index.
Here’s our take on England’s performance at the World Cup over the years and now the draw has been made we also take a look at our Group D opponents in what’s being labelled the ‘Group of Death’.
Friday 29th November
I was back at Newbury racecourse today and I must say I’m having a great time. There’s plenty of time to catch up with old faces and the racing today was very good. When racing is very good, it actually means very competitive and, as such, hard to pick a winner.
I’d been at Alan King’s yard earlier in the month and it’s no secret he rates Chocala as a useful horse with Triumph Hurdle credentials. He was favourite for the opener but, with a bit of deadwood in the race, the three-year-old looked a fine buy at 18 on the race index.
I’m not a great fan of seeing horses go off from the front when they are closely pursued by another front-runner and it was no surprise to see Chocala weaken at the business end, finishing third. Not that he would have beaten the impressive winner, Calipto, anyway.
So, first race gone and I was down £80. Not really the start I was looking for and it was freezing cold too. I bought a coffee and then promptly spilt most of it down my white shirt. Luckily I could avoid the embarrassment of walking around like a total twat by doing my jacket up to the top.
Wonderful Charm was a comfortable winner of the feature but, at 35 on the race index, he hardly had my pockets overflowing with cash.
Saturday 30th November
Hennessy Gold Cup Day at Newbury and always a bumper crowd for one of my favourite day’s racing in the calendar. There was the usual mix of eager racing fans, lads and lasses out for a good day, and a number of famous faces that puts I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here to shame.
Must admit it was strange sharing the paddock with the likes of Joan Collins, who at 80-odd is looking fantastic, and there was a surreal moment I caught of Tinie Tempah (nah, me neither) talking to Daryl Jacob, jockey for the fancied Rocky Creek before the big one.
I had put up Lord Windermere as my bet for the Gold Cup last week and the Irish challenger was well-backed all day. But sadly Ireland’s poor recent record in the £175,000 showpiece continued as he faded to finish eighth.
It was quite infuriating to see the likes of Myleene Klass and Amanda Holden cheering on the surprise winner Triolo D’Alene as if they’d backed it! Had they f*ck!
I had bought Arsenal/Cardiff though and the Gunners delivered in fine style with a 3-0 win to send a welcome £250 my way. A sell of goals in the Aston Villa versus Sunderland match was almost obligatory at 2.4 and a goalless draw made it a good hour for me.
Parsnip Pete only finished second in the finale at Newbury but a buy at 12 still made up 25 and I left the track for the short drive home in good spirits. Unfortunately, the whole town turned into a car park and it took me hours to escape Berkshire.
Sunday 1st December
Having basically had a mini-holiday at the races for the last three days it was time to make it up to the family and we set out to buy a Christmas tree.
I’m sure many of you remember when you could pick up a tree for about a tenner, spend half an hour wrestling it into the back of your inadequately-sized car and then try and drag it out back home in a struggle that would leave your car covered in conifer needles.
Aah, the good old days. Now you end up forking up around £50 for a non-drop tree that comes packaged in what looks like a massive condom.
The kids obviously wanted a huge one and, without really considering how we’d fit it into the car with two kids in the back, I handed over the money. Like a plonker I had to go home, drop the kids off and then come back on my own so we could fit it into the car. Certainly wasn’t the morning I’d planned on having.
I did make it back just in time for the Tottenham v Manchester United game that started at a frankly ridiculous 12 o’clock on a Sunday. Spurs hadn’t been scoring of late but I still fancied a hatful of goals in this one with United arriving in north London having stuck five past Bayer Leverkusen in midweek.
I bought goals at 3 for £130 and settled down for a stormer of a game (also got the big TV as the kids were decorating the tree). As soon as it kicked off I was regretting not buying Wayne Rooney’s goal minutes at a very reasonable 23. Of course, the in-form England man hit two, both equalisers, in the 2-2 draw.
I was roped into putting the angel on the tree and the family was all ready to turn the lights on. Of course, they didn’t work and I was sent out to the shops to buy new fairy lights. The fun never ends at Christmas for parents!
Monday 2nd December
I had one bet today. Passionada in the 4.40pm at Wolverhampton. Not a great race but this course and distance winner looked nailed on to record successive wins and I bought the filly at 16 on the race index.
Men say they can’t understand females, but try understanding fillies! She clearly wasn’t up for it today and finished well out of the frame, leaving me to think of a million better things I could have done with the £160 that I’d just lost.
Tuesday 2nd December
The magic of spread betting is that you can turn even the dourest of sporting events into a winning exercise.
Not even the most diehard West Ham or Crystal Palace fans could conceivably have been looking forward to tonight’s clash at Selhurst Park. I sold goals at 2.3 and couldn’t really have the Hammers as favourites. Instead I had a £5 buy of their first goal at 57 – I was wary after the freak number of early goals in the Premier League this term.
It finished 1-0 to Palace in the end, giving me £130 profit on the goals sell. I’d cashed out after half-time on the time of the first West Ham goal to secure a profit. Obviously in the end, it would have made up 90 but better safe than sorry.
Wednesday 3rd December
England got their pants pulled down by Australia big time in the first Test of the Ashes Down Under and I couldn’t support them for the second Test in Adelaide kicking off at midnight today.
But I thought Sporting Index traders were taking a risk on Brad Haddin’s Test runs. The Aussie had a tremendous time of things in the opener and I had a £12 buy at 60.
It’s a nightmare trying to stay up and watch any of the action when you have to be up early. You think when we owned Australia we would have made the time zone more accommodating for us!
It was a catastrophe once again really and I went to bed at 2am disappointed.
Thursday 4th December
More Ashes fun and games tonight and it’s actually well into Friday as I’m writing this. The only consolation from the Three Lions getting another pasting is that Haddin made-up a massive 118, securing me a windfall of £696.
That gives me a decent war chest to go to battle with this weekend. Aintree hosts its first meeting of the new season and the Becher Chase looks like a mini-Grand National with 24 runners set to line-up over the iconic fences.
I fancy a couple on the race index, Planet of Sound and Gullible Gordon. I don’t have fond memories of this race, though. I lost out on a fortune last year in this when Join Together failed by a neck to catch Hello Bud.
So, I’m hoping for better luck this time around.
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