Champions League Play-Offs: 29 August
The final play off stage of the UEFA Champions League conclude today with just five more teams fighting for a place in the famous group stage of the competition.
Despite financial turmoil off the pitch, Malaga overcame Panathinaikos to make the group stage of the completion for the first time in their history and they were joined by Europa League finalists in 2011, Braga, who saw off Udinese via a penalty shoot-out.
One of the ties of last week saw Romanian champions, CFR Cluj, record a surprise victory over Champions league veterans, FC Basel. Despite dominating possession in Switzerland, Basel were undone by two superb strikes by Modou Sougou in the space of five second half minutes and will face a resolute CFR Cluj defence tonight.
After losing Xherdan Shaqiri to Bayern in the summer and with the influence of key striker Alexander Frei beginning to wane, Basel must hope that their famous youth team is capable of providing some more stars of the future. Valentin Stocker, Fabian Frei and Yann Sommer are the stand-out youngsters in this current squad. It won’t be too long before they leave the Swiss 1 Liga.
CFR gained further Champions League experience last season and with this I expect them to hold on for the draw they need and progress tonight. Back the draw here at 5/2 with Bet365.
Elsewhere, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Monchengladbach, seem up against it as they have to overcome a 3-1 defeat away in Kiev. This game may have come too soon for the young and transitional side but if Juan Arango is on set-piece duty his price of 11/1 to score first looks good value for Die Fohlen.
Another match which is finely poised is Fenerbahce against Spartak Moscow, with the Russians holding a narrow 2-1 advantage. It took a spectacular Dmitri Kombarov strike to separate the teams last week and with Dirk Kuyt showing Liverpool how good he is if you play him up front, this tie could be a classic.
The Dutchman has scored in his last five games for Fenerbahce, and is likely to be the biggest goal threat for the side which finished second in the Turkish league last year. They will be without their talismanic captain, Alex, but have strengthened well this summer: Moussa Sow will score goals and Milos Krasic should fulfil his potential if he can nail down a starting berth.
I think the greater experience of the Fenerbahce players will come through and I’d back them to progress tonight. Back them at 13/8 to qualify.
Full list of fixtures tonight:
Celtic v Helsingborg
LOSC v København
CFR Cluj v Basel
Fenerbahçe v Spartak Moskva
Dynamo Kyiv v Mönchengladbach
Read our review of every Champions League final, in its current format here: Champions League Finals
Our preview of last weeks play-offs: Champions League Play-Offs: 21 August