Today marks the beginning of the end for the Group Stages in this year’s UEFA Champions League, as 16 teams are set to match up today with the remaining 16 set to play tomorrow. Through these past weeks we’ve seen the best of the best rise to the top and separate themselves from the heard, leaving the rest to battle for mostly second-place spots in their groups. Nevertheless, many of today’s matches have severe seeding implications–as well as Europa League implications – so still expect teams to come out motivated and ready. Here are some of my best bets for the first day of Matchweek 6.
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Real Madrid (+125) vs Inter Milan (+200) (Tie +250, O/U 2.5 Goals)
Real Madrid enters this match in top form–they are unbeaten since the beginning of October across all competitions, and have been victorious in their last three Champions League matches as well, beating Shaktar Donetsk twice before beating Sherrif Tiraspol in late November. Real Madrid sit atop their group with 12 points, and would officially claim first place as long as they remain unbeaten in their match against Inter, who currently reside in second place with 10 points. If Inter wins outright they will become the winner of the group, then likely drawing an easier bout in their round of 16 matchup.
Inter also comes into this game with a bit of steam, winning 5 of their last matches across all competitions, shooting them up to second place in Serie A
. The first time these two sides matched up in the group stages, Real Madrid was able to pull a 1-0 win on the road thanks to an 89th minute goal by Brazilian wunderkind Rodrygo, who found himself on the receiving end of a cheeky little cross from Eduardo Camavigna.
If Inter wants to continue their streak of success and finish atop Group D, they will need to shut down Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavigna, who has made his presence known in all Champions League matches so far this season. He’s accrued a passing accuracy rating of over 86% in his 3 Champions League matches and covers an average of 5 kilometers a match (3 miles) so he is a threat all over the field.
Real Madrid will also have their hands full however, seeing as Inter’s midfield unit is one of the strongest in the world. Spearheaded by veteran Arturo Vidal, the Inter Milan midfield is dangerously quick and accurate, making the counter-attack a top priority for Real Madrid’s defense.
Since one point is enough for Real Madrid to secure their top position in the group, we might see a bit of a defensive match if Real Madrid can strike early. I expect this match to be low scoring (similar to their first match) with the first goal either coming very early or very late. Inter will be pushing to score a goal in order to overtake Madrid in the Group, so a 1-1 tie seems like the best pick to me.
Picks: Tie +250, Under 2.5 Goals +125, Correct Score 1-1 +600
FC Porto (+150) vs Atletico Madrid (+170) (Tie +250, O/U 2.5)
Now here’s a game with a lot at stake–Liverpool currently sit atop this group with a perfect 15 points, so they are locked in as the winner of Group B. Porto currently sits in second place with five points, but AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are close behind with four points each–which means any of these three teams have a chance to find themselves moving on at the end of this final match week. If Porto wants to hold onto their second-place finish, a win would undoubtedly secure their spot–however, they are still alive with a tie as long as AC Milan doesn’t win. Atletico Madrid will need a win if they want a chance at swooping into this second-place spot, and would need an AC Milan loss or tie to secure it. With lots on the line, it’s clear that both of these sides will be giving it their all in this final group stage match.
The last time these two teams met we saw a 0-0 draw, in a game where Atletico Madrid was not in their best form. Despite their inability to score last game, you have to like Madrid’s chances to find the back of the net this time around thanks to their superior attacking talent. Between Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, and Luis Suarez, it's hard to imagine that all of the three will fail to find the net again.
Both Porto and Madrid have only scored an average of 2.2 goals per game this Champions League, so we can expect another low-scoring nailbiter. I do expect one of the times to net a goal, so a 1-0 result seems to be the play.
Picks: Atletico Madrid +170, Under 2.5 Goals -110, Correct Score 1-0 +800, Antoine Griezmann to Score First and their Team to Win +1000