Victory at home to PSV Eindhoven next Wednesday would see Manchester United progress to the second round of this season’s Champions League with a game to spare.
Three points matched by a CSKA Moscow win at home to VfL Wolfsburg would also see Louis van Gaal’s side advance as group winners. Victory for United and any result for the Bundesliga side would mean the Red Devils would go to Germany for their final group stage match needing to avoid defeat to win the group.
After overcoming a surprise loss in Eindhoven in their opening group stage match this season, Louis van Gaal’s side have taken seven points from their next three matches to group the group with two games to play.
The Man Utd Champions League betting tips had the Premier League side pegged as favourites to progress from this group with Wolfsburg not recovering from the sale of their star Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City, PSV selling a number of their first-team players over the summer and CSKA Moscow simply not good enough to compete with the best sides in Europe.
Anything less than a win at home to PSV would throw the group wide open and cast doubts over United’s progression but van Gaal has his side playing successful football right now, even if they’re not the sweetest on the eye.
United are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions with CSKA Moscow scoring the only goal against David de Gea during that run – a penalty.
One can and should expect us to progress from this group from this position – and to profit from this guarantee you can back United to win next week using a Paddy Power free bet offer – but how far should we be looking to go this season?
Winning the group would almost-certainly mean avoiding the three favourites for this season’s competition – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Barcelona need two points from their last two games to ensure they win the group, Bayern Munich would win group F with a victory over Olympiacos at the Allianz Arena next Tuesday (they were 3-0 winners in Greece) and four points from Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo would be enough for Real Madrid.
So who are the potential tricky runners-up that we’ll be wanting to avoid as early as the second round?
Group A: Paris Saint-German are almost-certainly going to take the runners-up spot behind Real Madrid. The French side eliminated a below-par Chelsea side last season and will certainly be one to avoid. Regardless of their defence including David Luiz, they’re otherwise strong all over the park.
Group B: This is our group, we cannot face the runners-up in the next round.
Group C: It’s between Benfica (9 points) and Atlético Madrid (7 points) to win this group, whilst Galatasaray could still finish as runners-up, although it’s looking unlikely. We’d certainly want to avoid Diego Simeone’s side, even if they have lost at home to Benfica and drawn in Astana. Benfica are nothing special.
Group D: Manchester City and Juventus are battling it out for the top two places with Sevilla and Borussia Mönchengladbach not strong enough this year. We can’t face fellow English opposition in the second round and we’d certainly like to avoid last season’s runners-up even if they’re currently mid-table in Italy.
Group E: It’s between AS Roma (5 points) and Bayer 04 Leverkusen (4 points) to finish behind Barcelona in this group. We’re writing BATE Borisov off even if they do have 3 points. Facing the Germans would see a welcoming for Javier Hernandez who left this summer, whilst Roma could be a tricky tie.
Group F: Bayern Munich will win this group and we’re confident Arsenal will still finish second. Should the Gunners mess up, then we’d take Olympiacos in the second round over any other possible runner-up.
Group G: FC Porto are three points ahead of Chelsea but the final game between the two at Stamford Bridge is set to determine the winner. Dynamo Kiev aren’t quite out of the running for second spot themselves, but we’re tipping the Portuguese side to finish below the Premier League champions. We’d certainly take Porto over many a potential opponent in round two.
Group H: Zenit Saint Petersburg are close to winning the group so Valencia may well be the runners-up from this group, unless Gent can surprise them. After a slow start the Spanish side have picked it up in recent weeks and could produce a tight affair if we’re drawn against each other.
Winning the group is the most important thing right now and luck of the draw certainly helps to determining how far we can go in this season’s competition. I’d certainly fancy our chances against most of the teams I expect to finish runners-up, but avoiding Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are key. If so, I’d expect a place in the quarter-finals at least.