Champions League Playoffs: Previews & Value Picks

liverpool soccer

Martin Green

Monday, August 14, 2017 5:32 PM GMT

Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 5:32 PM GMT

For 20 teams just a single qualifying tie stands between them and the manifold riches that come with qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League. The rewards are immense, but failure to make it through after coming this far would be positively miserable for fans and players alike. Here we preview the games offering the best value.

[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"https://www.youtube.com/embed/NWtwmyyB63E", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]Hoffenheim v Liverpool

Liverpool players can deem themselves unfortunate to have been drawn against as strong a side as Hoffenheim, which finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season. It should prove a tough draw for the Reds, but you would expect them to scrape through and as such they are -275 with Bet365 to qualify. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp knows the German league well and that rightly makes the Reds favorites, but they will not have an easy ride and they may not win the first leg. Given the superb attacking and disastrous defending displayed by Liverpool in its opening Premiership match, a 3-3 draw with Watford on Saturday, both teams to score looks the best bet in this match at -175 with William Hill. To get more value you could go for both teams to score and 'over' 2.5 goals at +100 with Coral and Stan James.

 Celtic v FC Astana

Scottish giants Celtic have had far more luck in the draw than Hoffenheim or Liverpool as they play the unheralded Kazakh champions FC Astana for a place in the group stage. Celtic is on a roll after winning the Scottish League without losing a single game last season and winning its opening games comfortably so far this season. It has the firepower in Scott Sinclair and Leigh Griffiths to gun down FC Astana, whose players will be tired after making a 4,000 mile trip to Glasgow for this first leg, and should win. Odds of -222 on offer at Betway are fine for a parlay, but for more value you could go for Celtic -1 Asian handicap at -140 with 188Bet. Celtic beat Astana 2-1 at Hampden Park in this competition last season and have since improved. An alternative would be Celtic half-time/full-time at +110 with Bet365.

 

Istanbul Basaksehir v Sevilla

It is also a nightmare draw for Sevilla, who made the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season but now have to overcome a dangerous Turkish side to make it through for the 2017/18 competition. Basaksehir finished second in the Turkish League last season, above veritable giants like Fenerbache and Galatasaray, and it is a hugely ambitious team that has since spent plenty of money to improve this summer. Sevilla is the huge favorite to qualify, but may not win this first leg. It has changed its coach and overhauled its team this summer, and the players will need time to jell with one another. This is Sevilla’s first game of the season, whereas Basaksehir is already underway in Turkey, and that match fitness and home advantage could be crucial in this first leg. Basaksehir +0.5 Asian handicap at -137 with Bet Victor looks good here.

 

Napoli v Nice

Along with Liverpool v Hoffenheim, this is the biggest tie of the round, pitting the third best teams in Italy and France up against one another. Nice did well to edge past Dutch team Ajax on away goals in the previous round but will struggle against a strong Napoli side. Nice has made a dreadful start to the season in Ligue 1, losing 1-0 to St Etienne and 2-1 to Troyes, and the players will be low on confidence going into this game. Napoli is a very good team and should win this comfortably, so Napoli -1 Asian handicap at -210 with 888 Sport and Unibet looks good.

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