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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Huntelaar could hit the target for improving Ajax

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich set for victories

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Ajax
1 of 1

Ajax v AEK Athens

Ajax have not reached the Champions League group stage since the 2005-06 season but they have a good chance of qualifying from Group E and are red-hot favourites begin with a victory over Greek champions AEK Athens at the Amsterdam Arena.

Dutch football – at club and international level – has gone through a lean spell in recent years but Ajax are growing in confidence after going 11 games unbeaten since the start of the season.

High profile signing Dusan Tadic has weighed in with seven goals but the Serbian is three behind ten-goal forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who appears to have rediscovered his goalscoring touch at the age of 35.

Huntelaar has bagged six goals in his last three Dutch league appearances and looks the main threat to AEK, who look by far the weakest team in the section.

Recommendation
K-J Huntelaar to score at any time
1pt 11-10 Betway

Team news
Ajax
Hassane Bande (calf) and Joel Veltman (knee) are out long-term.

AEK Athens
Lucas Boye (groin) will not be available until late September.

Key stat
Huntelaar has scored six goals in his last four appearances.

Benfica v Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are the only heavyweight team in Group E and they can punch their weight by overwhelming Benfica at the Stadium of Light.

After winning their opening three Bundesliga fixtures, Bayern are in the familiar position of looking down on their domestic rivals.
A seventh successive championship title looks theirs for the taking and a lot of their efforts will be focused on making an impact in the Champions League.

Bayern are happy to take risks in their pursuit of glory but it can mean they leave themselves short at the back.
There will be sights of goal for Benfica, who are unbeaten in nine games this season.

But the Portuguese outfit lost all six games during last season's Champions League group stage (conceding 14 goals in the process) and their poor run in the competition may continue on matchday one.

Recommendation
Bayern Munich to win and both teams to score
1pt 2-1 general


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Team news
Benfica
Jonas (back), Sebastien Corchia and Filip Krovinovic (both knee) are out but Nicolas Castillo (muscle strain) is available after coming off the bench at the weekend.

Bayern Munich
Corentin Tolisso (knee), Kingsley Coman and Rafinha (both ankle) are absent.

Key stat
Bayern Munich have not kept as clean sheet in their last 14 Champions League away games.

Real Madrid v Roma

It has been a case of so far so good for Real Madrid as they get used to life without Cristiano Ronaldo and Los Blancos should start their quest for a fourth successive Champions League title with a comfortable home win over Roma.

Over the course of the campaign there will be many moments when Real fans rue the departure of a club legend.

But, in the short term, the blow has been softened by positive contributions from Gareth Bale (three goals in five matches this season) and Karim Benzema (five goals in five).

Roma will have their hands full containing Bale, Benzema and Isco and their last line of defence has been weakened by the sale of Alisson to Liverpool.

The Wolves have made an uncertain start in Serie A – taking four points from a possible 12 – and their resistance at the Bernabeu is likely to be broken by half-time.

Recommendation
Real Madrid-Real Madrid double result
1pt Evs Coral, Ladbrokes

Team news
Real Madrid
No fresh injuries have been reported since the 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Roma
Patrick Schick (groin) was injured during the international break but Alessandro Florenzi (knee) is back in contention.

Key stat
Roma have not kept a clean sheet in their last 28 Champions League away fixtures.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Hoffenheim

Shakhtar Donetsk have remained a force in the Champions League despite the inconvenience of playing home games in Kharkiv, a shade under 200 miles away from their former residence, and they can justify favouritism against Hoffenheim.

Last season the Ukrainians won each of their four home matches, including notable 2-1 successes over Manchester City and Roma.

Key players have departed this summer but plenty of new faces have arrived and Shakhtar seem to be coming up with the answers, having won seven of eight league fixtures.

A tough task awaits Hoffenheim, who look a shadow of the side which finished fourth in Germany last season.

Julian Nagelsmann's side lost 2-1 at newly-promoted Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday and have issues to sort out in both penalty boxes.

They haven't kept a clean sheet this season and lack a cutting edge following the sale of striker Mark Uth to Schalke.

Recommendation
Shakhtar Donetsk
1pt 21-20 Betfair, Betfred

Team news
Shakhtar Donetsk
Wellington Nem, Dentinho and Ivan Ordets (thigh) are ruled out with injuries.

Hoffenheim
Kasim Nuhu (ankle) and Kevin Akpoguma (head) are doubts and Benjamin Hubner (concussion), Kerem Demirbay (ankle) and Nadiem Amiri (foot) are sidelined.

Key stat
Shakhtar Donetsk have won their last five Champions League home games.

Valencia v Juventus

Signing Cristiano Ronaldo was a statement of intent from Juventus, who can show their quality by passing a tricky test at Valencia on matchday one.

Valencia have had some lean times since losing Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 but are going the right way under head coach Marcelino, who lead them to fourth place in La Liga last season.

However, Los Che have had to wheel and deal in the summer transfer market and it is taking time for the new arrivals (seven permanent and two loanees) to settle down.

They have gone four league matches without a win and will need to improve significantly if they are to give Juventus ad Manchester United a run for their money in the battle for knockout stage qualification.

Juve are visiting the Mestalla at the right time and look decent value at a shade of odds-on.

Recommendation
Juventus
1pt 20-23 Betfair

Team news
Valencia
Francis Coquelin (Achilles) and Ezequiel Garay (knee) are unavailable.

Juventus
Leanardo Spianazzola (knee) was left out of the Champions League squad.

Key stat
Juventus are unbeaten in their last 19 away fixtures.

Bet on these games at Soccerbase.com

Viktoria Plzen v CSKA Moscow

CSKA Moscow are going through a period of transition after a busy summer of ins and outs but have shown some positive signs in recent weeks and can start Group G with a victory over fourth seeds Viktoria Plzen.

After a slow start to the league campaign, CSKA have climbed from 13th to fifth following three wins and a draw from their last four matches.

They approach the group stage with confidence and are spearheaded by a prolific striker, 20-year-old Fedor Chalov, who has netted six goals in seven league appearances this term.

Czech champions Plzen are going well domestically, having won seven of eight games, but Champions League group stage football is a big step up for them.

CSKA won on the road at Benfica (2-1) and Basel (2-1) during last season's group stage and their extra experience could make the difference.

Recommendation
CSKA Moscow draw no bet
1pt 5-4 BoyleSports

Team news
Viktoria Plzen
Daniel Kolar (Achilles) is in contention but Roman Prochazka (muscle problem) is a doubt.

CSKA Moscow
Igor Akinfeev has recovered from a knee injury but Kristijan Biistrovic (ankle) joins Viktor Vasin, Konstantin Kuchaev, Aleksandr Makarov and Khetag Kosonov on the injured list.

Key stat
CSKA Moscow have won four of their last five Champions League away games.


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Juventus are unbeaten in their last 19 away fixtures
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