Jim's Past Picks
Sociedad have already qualified for the next round, but they would love to set up a chance to win the group. They take on Inter in the group finale, so they won’t let up here. Salzburg have been devastated by injuries, with up to 10 players who could be out Wednesday and youth players being brought in to fill some roles. The hardest hit area has been the back line. The Spaniards are almost fully fit and beat Salzburg 2-0 on the road in the first meeting. They have one draw and one loss (to Barcelona) in their past eight and should get a convincing victory at home. I expect them to score at least three, so anything from Salzburg would be a bonus.
Despite the 3-2 Galatasaray victory at Old Trafford last month, I’m not expecting a lot of goals here. But with Man U’s shaky back line, expecting to cash an Under on a Red Devils match is a fool’s errand. United are wracked by injuries, and top scoring threat Marcus Rashford is suspended after seeing red in the 4-3 loss to Copenhagen. I expect the visitors to be playing not to lose. Galatasaray should be, too, with a potential winner-take-all (well, second place) against Copenhagen to close group play Dec. 12. The hosts have won all six of their home league matches, with a 16-5 advantage in goals. They should beat beleaguered United at home.
These are evenly-matched teams, and they played to a 2-2 draw in Belgrade last month. They have scored nine goals and conceded 21 between them in eight combined matches in group play. Young Boys are 5-1-0 at home in Swiss Super League play, with 20 goals scored, while Red Star have scored 39 goals in their 15 Serbian SuperLiga matches. This is a step up in competition for both, but the teams combined for 38 shots and 15 on net in the last meeting. With both teams angling for a Europa League spot, I expect a back-and-forth affair. All eight matches in Group G have gone Over 2.5 goals so far.
Fresh off a 1-0 victory against Barcelona at home, the Ukrainians host a Royal Antwerp side that has yielded 14 goals in four group-stage matches. With Group H co-leaders Barca and Porto squaring off later Tuesday, Shakhtar can move into contention to advance. They beat the Belgians 3-2 on the road last month. Shakhtar have actually been better on the road in the Ukrainian Premier League, but Antwerp have won just one of eight Belgian Pro League road matches (1-4-3). The hosts should win this one by a couple of goals.
Los Blancos are on the brink of advancing with two games left, so I’d keep an eye on the starting lineups before making any picks here. Real star Jude Bellingham has a minor shoulder injury and could get some rest. Braga have played a lot of high-scoring games, with their five league matches at home seeing 27 goals combined, but I think they’ll be lucky to score at the Bernabeau. Real have outscored their league foes 10-2 in five home games, and 11 of their 15 overall matches this year have gone Under 3.5.
Benfica have been an excellent road team in league play, going 5-0-1 with a 13-7 goal advantage, but have yet to score in UCL group play. Sociedad have a 15-9 goal edge in their home league games while being outscored 6-5 on the road. They play a more open game on their turf, which could allow Benfica to finally get on the board. My gut is telling me to take the Over, but my brain won’t let me. Sociedad are the better side, and Benfica are on the brink of elimination and have a huge match with Sporting this weekend. The Portuguese side won’t give in easily, but I expect Sociedad to eke out a 2-1 victory.
Feyenoord look like the better side at the moment, and the Dutch Eredivisie’s second-place team won the first meeting 3-1 two weeks ago. But Lazio are at home, and while they sit eighth in the Italian league, they seem to be rounding into form. They have beaten two teams ahead of them in the Serie A table over the past month and lost to another 1-0 on the road. Lazio have conceded four goals in five home matches, while Feyenoord have allowed six in six on the road. This should be a low-scoring game, and I expect it to end 1-1.
The Magpies are capable of scoring outbursts, but they lost the last meeting 1-0 and this one is on the road. Dortmund also have a strong attack but have scored more than one goal just twice in their past six games. They also are a little more defense-minded at home and have scored one goal and conceded two in three group-stage matches. Newcastle are missing their most dangerous attacker, with Alexander Isak out injured. With both teams sitting on four points, two behind leader PSG in the group, they should play it safe and take their chances in their upcoming matches against the Parisians. This one could even end up scoreless.
Leipzig can light it up but can also make some mistakes in the back. They beat Young Boys 3-1, then lost by the same score to Man City. Belgrade also lost 3-1 to City and drew 2-2 with Young Boys. That’s four games, with all four going over 3.5. The Red Bulls have 19 goals in eight Bundesliga matches. Meanwhile, Red Star have scored two or more in 11 of their 14 matches in all competitions. If I had to pick a score, I’d go with Leipzig 3-1, which seems to be a theme in this group. But Belgrade’s attack could surprise, depending on the status of Osman Bukari, who has scored in both group matches but is recovering from a knock.
The Magpies are on a roll, and while I don’t expect a repeat of their annihilation of PSG, they should get the victory. I’m guessing more along the lines of 2-1. Newcastle beat the French powers 4-1 in their last group match, then cruised past Palace 4-0 in their league meeting at home Saturday. The Magpies are 5-2-0 in their past seven overall, with a 0-0 draw with AC Milan and a 2-2 EPL stalemate with West Ham, both on the road. Dortmund haven’t scored in their first two group matches but have yielded just two goals. Both sides are allowing one per game in league play. I wouldn’t bet Under 2.5, but I would lean Newcastle to win and Under 3.5.
The Portuguese side will be highly motivated to get back in the race in Group D, as they seek their first points. Losses to Salzburg and Inter Milan put them behind the 8-ball, but playing with desperation at home should give them the edge. They played more than 75 minutes with 10 men in the 2-0 loss to Salzburg, but they dominated most of the match. If they avoid the mistakes that haunted them against the Austrians, they’ll get the full points. They have outscored their home foes 7-0 in Primeira Liga play so far.
The Gunners should come out motivated after their slow start at Chelsea. They managed to secure one point at Stamford Bridge, and they’ll be pushing hard for a victory here. Arsenal are yielding less than a goal per game in English Premier League play (eight in nine matches) while scoring two per contest. Sevilla are in 13th place in La Liga, with a plus-1 goal differential (14-13 in nine games). The Europa League winners come in off a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid and played to stalemates with PSV and Lens in group play here. Still, Arsenal should eke out the victory.
Inter are the superior team, but unless they go crazy here, I don’t see this one going Over. The Italians have scored twice in the two UCL matches, so they aren’t pushing too hard for goals. They have yielded five goals in nine league matches while scoring 24. Salzburg have scored 24 and yielded just eight in their 11 games in the Austrian Bundesliga. I just don’t see this one as a high-scoring match, with the teams bunched up in the table. Inter are tied with Real Sociedad on four points, one ahead of Salzburg, while Benfica have zero. Inter should win, but not too convincingly.
It’s definitely going to be a tense one, at least early on, with both teams looking for their first points in group play. Antwerp have been tough to break, but Shakhtar typically find a way to score. The Ukrainians haven’t been shut out in 10 overall matches this season, scoring 18 goals while going 5-3-2. The Belgians have played to three straight 0-0 league draws since their 5-0 UCL rout at the hands of Barcelona. Shakhtar lost 3-1 to Porto and had a 2-1 setback to Vorskla Poltava in their last league game. Still, they’re better offensively than most sides Antwerp have faced. It should be low-scoring and could easily end in a draw, but I like Shakhtar to eke out the victory.
Los Colchoneros can’t afford to take the conservative approach they have often leaned on at home in the UCL. They have won once and played to seven draws in their past 11 Champions League home matches. After an early exit last year, they must win this game. They certainly have the talent, and Feyenoord star striker Santiago Gimenez is out on a booking suspension. Atleti's Antoine Griezmann has 19 goals and seven assists in 32 career UCL home matches. The hosts shouldn’t have any trouble winning this one.