After a shocking break for international matches, which saw Italy fail to qualify for the World Cup, club soccer returns for an action-packed week. The Champions League enters the penultimate round of the group stage and it’s a do-or-die moment for many teams hoping to move onto the knockout stage.
A handful of entertaining matches are on the docket and, as always, here’s our take on how you should wager on them, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Dortmund (+115) vs Tottenham (+245), Draw (+290)
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 21
With no wins and only two group games remaining, Dortmund require a miracle in order to advance to the knockout stages. They face an in-form Spurs next and finish with a match against defending champs Real Madrid. They may as well begin preparing for the Europa League.
BVB started the season with a bang and led the Bundesliga during the opening weeks. But it all came crumbling down in the last month or so. They currently have just one win in their last seven games across all competitions, which has seen them drop to third in the Bundesliga and has more-or-less ruled them out of the Champions League.
Spurs landed a huge 3-1 win over Real Madrid in the last round of group games, and are poised to finish at the top of their group. They opened their Champions League campaign by marching through Dortmund, then drew against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, and topped it off by beating them at Wembley.
Domestically, they’re on track for another top-three finish. If Manchester City weren’t so ridiculously strong this season, Spurs would have a serious shot at winning their first league title since 1961.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Totties. Harry Kane and Dele Alli are both nursing injuries. They’ve returned to training with the rest of the squad and should be fit for their weekend clash against Arsenal and the midweek Champions League match against Dortmund. However, since Spurs are already guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages, Mauricio Pochettino could take the cautious approach and rest one or both of his star players against Dortmund.
With both Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic out injured, Dortmund have been forced to rely on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to an even greater degree. That’s particularly worrying since the Gabon international will miss BVB’s next league match due to “disciplinary issues.”
He’ll be back for the Champions League match, but the team’s top scorer isn’t too happy with his club. He’s been angling for a move to a bigger European team and it looks like he could leave on pretty bad terms.
Trapped in a slump, missing two of their star players, and feuding with their only reliable goalscorer: these are dark times for Dortmund. Tottenham are well-positioned to punish them and officially put an end to their Champions League hopes.
Pick: Tottenham (+245)
Atletico Madrid (-103) vs Roma (+340), Draw (+260)
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 22
Like Dortmund, Atlético Madrid have failed to win a single Champions League match this season and are also trapped in a tough group. They’re unbeaten in their last eight games across all competitions, but that run includes a handful of draws against very beatable teams. They’ve drawn twice against Azerbaijani side Qarabağ FK and recently failed to beat third-division side Elche in La Liga play.
Their match with Roma will come on the heels of a domestic meeting with intra-city rivals Real Madrid this weekend. That’s two significant matches in the span of just a couple of days, and a tough way to try to emerge from a slumber.
But hope remains. Atletico’s slump in form can be mostly attributed to the absence of Koke and Yannick Carrasco, who have been out injured for over a month. Both are expected to make their return this weekend, and their timing couldn’t be better.
Roma are on a five-game win streak, which includes a devastating 3-0 rout of Chelsea. Like Atleti, Roma also have a high-stakes domestic derby this weekend, taking on the surging Lazio for a pivotal Serie A match on Saturday.
Both clubs will be battered after a hostile weekend derby. If Koke and Carrasco recover in time, Atletico Madrid should be back to their usual selves. But that doesn’t justify Roma’s long odds at +340. While playing Atletico away is tough for any team, Atleti haven’t been good enough in recent weeks to be such a heavy favorite. Take advantage of the line and back Roma next Wednesday.
Pick: Roma (+340)
Juventus (+193) vs Barcelona (+157), Draw (+250)
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 22
After kicking off the Champions League by beating Juventus 3-0 at Camp Nou, Barcelona should be pretty confident when they travel to Juventus Stadium on Wednesday. They’re currently undefeated in La Liga with a four-point lead over the rest of the league, and are among the favorites to win the Champions League this season.
Juventus, on the other hand, are second in a hyper-competitive Serie A and considered only a long-odds contender in the Champions League, despite reaching the finals last year. It’s not that I Bianconeri have been particularly bad this season, it’s just that other clubs have surpassed them. The Serie A title is no longer a shoo-in for the perennial champs and Champions League favorites like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have reinvented themselves over the summer while Juve stagnated.
Barcelona are, as always, a spectacular side. Losing Neymar was a blow to their front line, but his absence hasn’t really been a problem so far. Even with Ousmane Dembélé out injured for the rest of the year, they have the depth to survive almost anything.
Juventus will want to give their fans something to cheer for after Italy failed to qualify for Russia 2018, but I wouldn’t count on them overcoming Barca.
Pick: Barcelona (+157)