Champions League Betting Preview: Lionel Messi Could Return for Showdown Between Paris Saint Germain and Man City

Paris Saint Germain v Manchester City

PSG have yet to beat the Cityzens in five attempts dating back to 2008. That though is not the most interesting head-to-head when assessing this marquee Champions League fixture.

Should Lionel Messi recover from a minor knee problem — and at this point it is 50/50 — and start in the Parc des Princes on Tuesday evening, he will once again face his former charge Pep Guardiola. On the previous four occasions the magical Argentine has scored six times.

Messi’s blockbuster move to France this summer made headlines across the globe and to an extent over-shadowed the other substantial deals Les Parisiens made with seven stellar new signings arriving in total, all of whom strengthen an already star-studded squad. Of the newbies, it is Messi and Sergio Ramos who stand out as the genuine world class talent, though with a combined age of 69 they cannot be expected to feature in every game. Aptly, it is these two who are PSG’s biggest injury concerns ahead of this Group A clash.

Still, Mauricio Pochettino’s options are enviable even if neither are available, and a front three of Di Maria, Neymar and Mbappe in Messi’s absence remains a frightening proposition, though City do have recent form for nullifying them. Five months ago, across two semi-final legs, Ruben Diaz and Co. restricted this formidable trio to just four shots on target home and away and elsewhere reduced this extravagant side to the dark arts and exasperation. 

City’s dominance and progression to the final last season will surely be a psychological factor here.

On this occasion however, the Premier League champions must attempt to replicate their feat minus half of their first-choice back-line with Oleksandr Zinchenko definitely out and John Stones a major doubt, but confidence can be sourced from shutting out Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. With Aymeric Laporte back and Joao Cancelo admirably filling in at left-back, City can look to build on a back catalogue that’s seen the Blues breached only once in the league all season. 

At the other end, Guardiola’s side are irresistible once again, scoring five-plus goals in four different games before September is out, and furthermore this match will be viewed as something of a free hit, following their opening victory over Leipzig on the same night PSG surprisingly drew against Brugge. Certainly, it’s the least critical of their triptych of big fixtures that began with victory at Chelsea and concludes at Anfield next Sunday. 

It bodes well for City that Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez have each scored three times against PSG in recent seasons while for the hosts Ander Herrera is in terrific form, scoring four times to date in Ligue 1 and converting against Brugge. Gigi Wijnaldum meanwhile always seems to reserve his most influential performances for Manchester City. 

Wijnaldum is 4/1 to score anytime in a contest that includes too much quality not to produce a goal or two.

FC Porto v Liverpool

Porto’s shut-out of Atletico in the opening round of fixtures may have raised a few eyebrows but Sergio Conceicao’s side are traditionally difficult to break down. Last term, across all competitions they conceded a goal every 99 minutes and that fine record included clean sheets against Manchester City and Chelsea in Europe.

Such parsimony has continued in 2021/22, with just four goals against in eight competitive fixtures, and with their exciting winger Luis Diaz in a prolific vein of form — the Colombian has notched five in seven in the Primeira Liga to this point — the Portuguese giants present a viable threat to Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying from what can justifiably be deemed a ‘group of death’.  

It’s fortunate then that — as with Manchester City — the Reds’ opening win affords them some leeway here, especially with Atletico dropping points at home to Porto. Subsequently, a draw would not be the worst result in the world for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Not that any half measures should be expected at the Estadio do Dragao, not after Liverpool’s exhilarating 3-3 draw at Brentford at the weekend left their manager magnanimous about their opponents but equally annoyed at how his team handled the Bees’ direct fare.

“We lost too many challenges in the air and that lost us momentum,” the German coach stated post-match. “With the ball, I was really happy with the performance. When the ball was in the air, not so much.”

Porto may not resort to many aerial bombardments but, in a similar fashion to Brentford, they favour an energetic high press, playing fast and aggressive in the final third, and suitably chastised by their gaffer, the Liverpool back-line will be on their A-game throughout. 

At the other end, there are no such concerns. The current Premier League table-toppers have scored three goals in each of their last five games and remarkably across all comps, Mo Salah has only failed to score in his side’s dismissal of Burnley. It may be early days but memories of his sensational 44-goal campaign in 2017/18 are piqued right now. 

All things considered, 4/6 for both teams to score is a must for your bet builder with the visitors backed to ultimately prevail. 

Manchester United v Villarreal

This Champions League rerun of last May’s Europa League final very adamantly has the form of a draw, like letters through a stick of rock. 

That final of course ended all-even, requiring a marathon penalty shootout to determine Villarreal as the victors and prior to that extended evening these sides had faced each other on four occasions. All were in the Champions League. All ended 0-0.

This term, Unai Emery’s side have drawn five of their six league games — four of them finishing goalless — while last season only two Premier League teams drew more often than Manchester United.

Couple all this to the Reds’ recent blip after a promising start that has seen them lose two of their last three fixtures and that here they’re coming up against a well-drilled rearguard, the likes of which United have so regularly struggled to break down during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure, and is there any other feasible conclusion to a stalemate?

Granted, there may be goals — one apiece presumably — and this can be ascertained because the Yellow Submarine like to score early and United like to score late. Last season, Villarreal amassed an impressive 50 league points after notching first with a staggering 30% of their total goal-tally converted inside the opening 20 minutes of games. United, across all competitions, scored 26.4% of their goals beyond the 80th minute throughout 2020/21. 

Identifying the source of these goals is harder to pin down. The Red Devils have a compendium of brilliant attacking threats who are each capable of producing a moment of individual magic: from Ronaldo, to Bruno Fernandes, to Mason Greenwood. The hosts meanwhile are no longer so reliant on Gerard Moreno and are sharing around their scant bounty.

Ultimately this is a side-issue though. All that really matters is that a draw is available at 15/4 and in these circumstances that is exceptional value. 

Juventus v Chelsea

This was supposed to be a season of resurrection for the Old Lady after a largely disappointing campaign last year under novice coach Andrea Pirlo. 

With Massimiliano Allegri returning to Turin after a two-year hiatus, even the substantial loss of Cristiano Ronaldo was considered a mere blip that the Italian giants would successfully navigate. After all, they still possessed a tremendous roster of attacking talent in Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Morata, and Paulo Dybala, the first two highly impressive at the Euros. After all, Allegri had guided I Bianconeri to five successive Scudettos, not to mention two Champions League finals in their recent pomp.

In the event however the toil and trouble has persisted, with Juventus amazingly residing in Serie A’s relegation zone until consecutive 3-2 wins over Spezia and Sampdoria restored some kind of order.

It will be intriguing therefore to see how they fare on Wednesday evening against an exceptional Chelsea collective, especially as they must take on the reigning European champions minus Dybala who hobbled off injured at the weekend. 

Thomas Tuchel’s side may be temporarily stunned from their loss to title rivals Manchester City on Saturday but they remain peerless in this competition under the German, getting their defence underway by patiently bypassing Zenit in their group opener. The Blues’ redoubtable back-line have carried over their remarkable stats from last term, conceding every 210 minutes in 2021/22 so far and now furnished up front with Romelu Lukaku they have fearsome and consistent firepower to further compound their solidity. 

Chelsea are also boosted here with the return of Christian Pulisic who they have missed as much as a team who have mainly been excellent can miss one of their stars. 

Does another famous European night await the Pensioners? 19/20 for a Chelsea win says it just might.

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