The group stages of the UEFA Champions League – the greatest club competition in world football – is potentially just 180 minutes away. And this coming Tuesday (21 August) will see three first leg ties in the final qualifying round take place, with a further three kicking off the following evening.
Getting the ball rolling
First things first, swing by the Oddsshark website, procure your favourite betting agency and sort out your very own account with a username and password. As a new customer and with the group stages of the Champions League set to kick off next month, there should be a wide range of promotions and offers available to you.
Where should I be investing my money?
First up, Serbian league leaders Red Star Belgrade host Austrian league champions Red Bull Salzburg. It is a tie that pits two dominant domestic forces against each other in a bid for continental recognition, and it should be a closely fought contest across the two legs.
And you can make a simple bet based solely on who you think will make it to the group stages. Red Bull are the clear favourites at a price of just 1.22, while Red Star Belgrade are out at 4.00.
And despite having home advantage in this first leg, Red Star still come in as the underdogs. The Belgrade outfit are at 3.30 to win in front of their own fans, while Red Bull are at just 2.20 to collect a victory on the road – a draw is at 3.30 as well, with a 1-1 draw coming in at 6.00, meaning that a US$ bet would lead to a US$30 pay out, according to the Oddsshark site.
Clash of the champions
And in Belarus, the national league champions BATE Borisov welcome Holland’s national league winners PSV Eindhoven. BAATE find themselves in excellent recent form – they are unbeaten in their last 10 outings across all competitions – but will have faced few tests as stringent as this upcoming meeting with PSV.
The Eindhoven club finished four points ahead of Ajax to clinch the Eredivisie title and are not on a bad run of form themselves. PSV have won five and lost just one of their last 10 games, that single reverse coming in a bizarre 6-5 defeat to Feyenoord in the Dutch Super Cup.
And while this match may not contain quite so much drama, we could still see goals. PSV come into this game, as well as the tie overall, as the clear favourites.
PSV are at just 1.14 to qualify for the Champions League group stages and 1.85 to pick up a win in Belarus. By way of comparison, BATE are at 5.50 to progress in the continental competition, although that price drops to 4.00 for them to win this first leg in front of their own fans.
PSV have a much more technically capable squad, however. A 2-1 win for the visitors is priced t 9.00, offering close to a ten-fold return on any investment.
Benfica have one more hurdle to clear
And the final first leg tie this Tuesday comes from Lisbon, with Benfica hosting Greek outfit PAOK Salonika. Both teams won their first leg ties in the previous round by a margin of just one goal – Benfica edged past Fenerbache 1-0, while PAOK came from two goals down to beat Spartak Moscow 3-2 in a thrilling encounter.
And both teams ensured draws in the return encounters to reach this stage. All in all, this looks like being a very tight game, and as such a tough one to call.
Looking at the tie overall, it is Benfica who come in as the clear favourites to progress to the group stages of the Champions League. The Portuguese giants are at just 1.28 to go through, while PAOK are out at 3.50.
And considering only this first leg tie in Lisbon, with home advantage, the odds would appear to be even further in Benfica’s favour. The home side re at 1.40 to pick up a valuable advantage ahead of the return encounter in Greece, while PAOK are all the way out at 7.50 to record a shock win on the road – a draw is priced in the middle at 4.50.
PAOK have not got this far on luck, however, and will likely sit back and try to absorb pressure, and there are unlikely to be many goals in the tie. A 1-0 win for Benfica is priced at 6.00.
UEFA Champions League qualifying first leg ties:
(4.00) BATE x PSV (1.85); draw (3.60)
(1.40) Benfica x PAOK (7.50); draw (4.50)
(3.30) Red Star x Red Bull Salzburg (2.20); draw (3.30)