It’s crunch time in the UEFA Champions League group stage. With only two matches left to be played after this week, the urgency will be ratcheted higher for those teams with their back to the wall. We could see the first teams clinch spots in the Round of 16.
The stakes and desperation should make for some wild results across the 16 matches, making them tough to pick. We’ve honed in on four of them for this week’s best bets, with the picks featuring three home teams and one away side.
The two picks for Tuesday’s slate are followed by another two for Wednesday (odds courtesy of DraftKings):
Champions League best bets: Tuesday, Nov. 2
Villarreal -1.25 Asian Handicap (+105)
Villarreal may not be enjoying the best start to its La Liga season (13th place), but head coach Unai Emery has had the Yellow Submarine locked in when it comes to the UEFA Champions League group stage. In Matchday 4, it faces a critical, must-win home game against a Young Boys team that Villarreal should beat if it pretends to be a Round of 16 contender.
Outside of a lone loss (to seventh-place Osasuna), Villarreal has gotten results in its five other matches played at home this season (2-1-3), winning all the expected-goal battles at the Estadio de la Ceramica except for that one setback. Villarreal will be missing last year’s 30-goal scorer Gerard Moreno, but you have to like Emery’s chances after having a full two weeks to game-plan against a Young Boys side that it beat on the road in Switzerland, 4-1.
The -1.25 Asian Handicap requires a Villarreal win by a margin of two goals to be a winner. A one-goal win by Villarreal results in a refund of half the stake. If the rumors linking Emery to the Newcastle United job don’t derail the team, a home win is expected.
Juventus -1 Asian Handicap (-105)
Juventus is a shadow of the side that dominated Italian football over the past decade. It’s winless in three straight Serie A matches and sits in ninth place in league play, 16 points adrift from the leaders. It’s safe to say that at this point it’s all about the UEFA Champions League for the squad managed by Massimiliano Allegri (below).
With three straight shutout victories in Champions League group play, Juventus is at the top of Group H. A home win against St. Petersburg-based FC Zenit would lock up a spot in the Round of 16 and continue to keep the club in position to finish as group leaders with two matches to go (group winners are top seeds for the Round of 16 draw).
The -1 Asian Handicap is a winner if Juventus gets a win by two goals or more. The entire stake will be refunded in case of a one-goal Juventus win. But only a convincing win will quell the storm that has engulfed the club after a second straight league loss to Verona over the weekend.
Champions League best bets: Wednesday, Nov. 3
Inter Milan to win in shutout (+105)
The Sheriff Tiraspol run atop Group D was entertaining while it lasted. After a surprise start to the group stage, the Champions League debutant could see the favorites finally catch up in the standings in Matchday 4.
Inter Milan, which beat Sheriff 3-1 in Italy in its last Champions League outing, won’t be taking Sheriff lightly when it makes the trip to Moldova. The Italian club knows that a win would move it into one of the top two spots with two matches remaining. Another reason Inter cannot let the opportunity slip: One of its final two matches involves a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.
The defending Serie A champions have been on a strong run of defensive form. In the past four games in all competitions, they have two shutouts, and were only beaten by a free kick and penalty kick. With Sheriff likely taking up a defensive stance in the hope of picking up a point to keep its Cinderella run alive, the chances for an Inter shutout grow. The challenge for the Nerazzurri will be finding a road goal to decide the game. A rested Lautaro Martinez should help.
RB Leipzig Asian Handicap pick’em (+115)
With three straight losses in the group stage, RB Leipzig’s Champions League campaign comes down to this match at home against vaunted Paris Saint-Germain. The German side took it to PSG in France and arguably deserved to come away with a win if not for two costly errors. That’s been Leipzig’s only loss in the past six matches across all competitions.
A desperate RB Leipzig, coached by American Jesse Marsch, will not be getting the best version of PSG. Not only are the French league leaders coming off another unconvincing result in which they once again fell behind, but there are a handful of key injury absences they’re dealing with. The loss of Lionel Messi to hamstring and knee ailments will get all the headlines, but the injury absences of central midfielders Marco Verratti (above right) and Leandro Paredes may be tougher to overcome.
The Asian Handicap pick’em is essentially a draw no bet wager. It wins if RB Leipzig wins and it pushes in case of a draw. If PSG wins it’s a loser, though it’s worth noting that PSG has a 1-1-2 record in its past four road games and the lone win came on a dramatic stoppage-time strike by Achraf Hakimi at FC Metz.