The final matches of the 2018/19 Champions League group stages take place on Wednesday evening. George Pitts has four best bets.
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Manchester City v Hoffenheim
Etihad, Group F, 2000 GMT, BT Sport 2
The Citizens have already booked their place in the knockout stages and have pretty much won the group - only a shock goal swing for Lyon, with City losing, would see them finish as runners up in Group F.
This clash could give Pep Guardiola the chance to rotate his team, not that it makes it any easier for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, who lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture after taking an early lead. After City's Premier League defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, Guardiola will be keen to see a reaction from his squad, hence the general 14/1 price for an away win.
It can be difficult to find value in goal markets for City games, with bookies expecting them to score plenty in every fixture. The interval time could be worth a short play, with City scoring early in Premier League games and the opening 15 minutes in two of their last four Champions League games. The first quarter of an hour is available at around 6/4 in places.
The shots market could be the way to go and the preferred option is to back the lead striker for both sides to get one on target each in a shots multiples with Sky Bet. Gabriel Jesus, dropped for the weekend trip to Stamford Bridge, is due a goal after failing to score since his hat-trick against Shakhtar in this competition at the start of November. He is 'almost certain' to start on Wednesday, according to the Manchester Evening News, and averages five shots per game in the European competition this season.
His compatriot Joelinton has impressed for Hoffenheim this term, scoring eight and assisting five in all competitions, and averages nearly two shots per game in Europe. Backing both Brazilians to have one or more shots on target at evens is a great option, with the hope that the Bundesliga outfit get chances to attack at the other end.
We mentioned the eye-catching price for Lucas Torreira to score anytime for Arsenal on Saturday - and he duly obliged - and the 9/1 odds for Aymeric Laporte are tempting here. The French defender has two goals in the competition already and is a danger from set pieces, so that price looks a little generous considering he now averages around a shot per game.
Given the strong position of Guardiola's side going into this match, his team could spring a few surprises and it is worth waiting for team news before siding with individual players. With Jesus likely to start though, backing him in the shots market looks like an excellent choice.
Group F permutations
- Manchester City currently lead the group by three points from Lyon and have already made sure of qualification.
- French side Lyon and Shakhtar Donetsk can also both still progress, while Hoffenheim are in with a chance of a spot in the Europa League.
- City will seal top spot with a draw at home to Hoffenheim or if Lyon do not win away at Shakhtar.
- Lyon can take first place in the group with victory and if City lose, as they hold a better head-to-head record over the Premier League champions.
- Ukrainian side Shakhtar, currently on five points, will progress if they beat Lyon. A draw or Hoffenheim failing to win would see them into the Europa League round of 32.
- German club Hoffenheim, who have three points, must win and then hope Shakhtar lose at home to Lyon to sneak into third place.
- Manchester City defeated Hoffenheim 2-1 away in Germany on MD2 of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League. In this game, the first two shots on target were scored within the opening seven minutes (Ishak Belfodil for Hoffenheim & Sergio Aguero for Man City), before David Silva scored in the 87th minute with the final shot on target in the match.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last six Champions League games against German opponents (W5 D1) since a 0-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in September 2014 - current Man City boss Pep Guardiola was in charge of Bayern that day.
- Hoffenheim have played away from home against English opposition just once before; they lost 2-4 to Liverpool in the playoffs of the 2017-18 edition of the competition, being eliminated in the process.
- After going 12 games without a loss at the Etihad in the Champions League (W9 D3), Manchester City have lost three of their last four there – though they did beat Shakhtar Donetsk 6-0 in their most recent such game.
- If Hoffenheim fail to beat Manchester City they will become the first to team finish bottom of their group despite scoring 10 or more goals since Olympiakos in 2002-03 (11 goals), and just the third side overall (also Monaco in 2000-01; 13 goals).
- Pep Guardiola is looking to lead his side to first place in the group stages for the ninth time in 10 seasons in the Champions League, only previously failing to do so in his first season with Manchester City (2nd in 2016-17).
- This will be Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s eighth competitive meeting against Hoffenheim as a manager. He’s yet to suffer a single defeat against them (W6 D1 L0), with six of those games coming in the Bundesliga while he was manager of Bayern Munich.
- Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez has assisted more goals (four) than any other player in the Champions League this season, setting up a teammate once every 75 minutes.
- Hoffenheim’s Reiss Nelson could become the first Englishman to score against an English side in the Champions League for a non-British side, and the first do so for a non-English side since Patrick Roberts against Manchester City in December 2016.
- There have already been 42 goals scored in this group so far; the most for any group in Champions League history is 51: Group F in 2016-17.
Valencia v Manchester United
Mestalla Stadium, Group H, 2000 GMT, BT Sport 3
A bit of a dead rubber for Valencia, due to the fact they will definitely finish Group H in third place, which is why it was surprising to see such good odds in Man United's favour.
Jose Mourinho's side are already through and can still top the standings, with some help from Young Boys against Juventus.
The Red Devils played out a goalless draw with the LaLiga outfit at Old Trafford, but their home games have been difficult this term and they have won both of their away games in Europe, including a victory at Juventus.
They are as big as 2/1 for the win in places and Mourinho's side will still be strong, despite injuries and suspensions with Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini among the expected starters, and they can come away victorious from this clash.
With those odds, a look at the double chance and draw no bet markets present value with added insurance, and that is why the latter looks a great option at above even money (11/10).
Given the speculation surrounding his future, Pogba could get on the score sheet in this sort of game to silence his critics. He has scored twice in the competition this term and averages nearly two shots per game. In a midfield three with Fellaini and Fred, he could be the more attacking option with late runs into the box. Backing him anytime could be worth a small play, but the 13/2 price in a score-and-win double is too good to turn down.
Fellaini was the hero last time out against Young Boys and 6/1 for him to score in 90 minutes also looks generous considering the aerial threat he poses. There is definitely value to be had in this game, considering the fact United can make it six unbeaten in all competitions.
Group H permutations
- Juventus currently top the group, two points ahead of Manchester United, with both teams already qualified for the last 16. Valencia will finish third, while Young Boys are eliminated.
- The Italians will secure first place if they win in Switzerland, while United will progress if they beat Valencia away and Juventus fail to take maximum points.
- This will be the eighth Champions League meeting between Valencia and Manchester United, with the English club never previously having lost to the LaLiga outfit (W2 D5 L0) in the competition.
- Valencia have won just one of their previous nine competitive meetings with Manchester United; with this coming at the Mestalla in the UEFA Cup back in September 1982 (2-1).
- The last six competitive meetings between Manchester United and Valencia have seen just five goals scored – their game on MD2 of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League ended 0-0 at Old Trafford.
- If Manchester United fail to score against Valencia, it will be the first time since 200809 against Villarreal that they have failed to score both home and away against a group stage opponent.
- Valencia have lost four of their last six Champions League games at the Mestalla Stadium (W2), having not lost any of their previous nine games there before this run.
- Manchester United’s 1-0 victory against Young Boys last time out marked the 17th occasion that José Mourinho has won by that exact scoreline in the Champions League – only Carlo Ancelotti (24) and Sir Alex Ferguson (21) have done so more often.
- Valencia have failed to score in six of their last eight games in the Champions League, including last time out against Juventus (0-1).
- Manchester United are looking to win all three of their away games in the group stages for the first time since doing so consecutively in 2009-10 & 2010-11.
- Valencia have failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League in consecutive attempts for the very first time. o Valencia have received 19 yellow cards so far; the last team to receive 20 or more in the group stages was Zenit St Petersburg in 2015-16 (20).
- Paul Pogba has been directly involved in 60% (3/5) of Manchester United’s away goals in the Champions League this season (two goals and one assist).
A lot of Wednesday's group games have the top two decided, with plenty of matches a case of deciding the winners and runners up, but there is a big clash in Man City's Group F, as Shakhtar and Lyon battle it out for second.
A point would be enough for the visitors, who can be backed to win at just over 2/1 against a side who they drew 2-2 with in the reverse fixture. Backing the Ligue 1 outfit to win either half at just below evens looks like good value considering they need to see this job through. With both teams having something to play for, it could be worth considering this match for your both teams to score coupon.
Bayern Munich's match at Ajax is vital in deciding who finishes top of Group E. Niko Kovac's side are now gathering form after a stutter in October, currently on a four-match unbeaten run, and they hit five last time out in this competition. With the strength and experience in their team, an evens price for them to win in Amsterdam looks good, despite Ajax's excellent unbeaten campaign in Europe.
Click the image below for Wednesday's Champions League permutations...
Odds correct as of 1330 GMT on 11/12/18