Betting Insider looks ahead to the second round of Champions League group matches and predicts another damaging defeat for Jose Mourinho when Valencia arrive at Old Trafford...
Silva & Silva crucial to Man City evading Hoffenheim's high press
Hoffenheim v Man City
Hoffenheim are underperforming in the Bundesliga this season but Julian Nagelsmann will back his side to mimic Lyon and cause a shock against Manchester City on Tuesday. The German side's high-pressing football and complex 3-1-4-2 shape could stunt City's creativity - unless David Silva and Bernardo Silva can excel in the heart of midfield.
Despite looking to play patient possession football Hoffenheim's wing-backs tend to stay fairly deep, which means they will have a solid defensive base that City's wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane will find tough to penetrate. Pep Guardiola's team will have to work extremely hard to pass through this side, particularly given that Nagelsmann's positional coaching is arguably as impressive as the Catalan's. Hoffenheim will shuttle across and squeeze the spaces expertly, while copying the Lyon/Liverpool model by getting at the City back line.
The key battle, then, is between Hoffenheim's scurrying midfielders Florian Grillitsch and Leonardo Bittencourt (4.2 tackles per game between them) and City's two Silvas. Bernardo's ability to receive the ball on the turn and weave through midfield has been vital to opening up space in Kevin de Bruyne's absence, while David is the one City player capable of splitting a hard-hitting back five. If these two underperform then Hoffenheim's confrontationalapproach could expose City's high line.
Valencia's counter-attacking 4-4-2 should stun aimless Man Utd
Man Utd v Valencia
With the players looking scared at Old Trafford, the manager out of ideas, and all sense of tactical acumen out the window, the last thing Manchester United need is to face a disciplined, counter-attacking team like Valencia. Similar to Diego Simeone's tactics at Atletico Madrid, Marcelino marries an intricate, trap-laden pressing system with deep compact lines to frustrate the opposition before breaking at speed on the counter.
United probably won't cope. Jose Mourinho's side should dominate the ball but, with no clear direction, will not play at a high enough tempo to break down Valencia's banks of four. The ruthlessness and organisation of the visitors (who have conceded just two goals in their last four La Liga games) ensures another frustrating night for Mourinho.
More worryingly, Valencia should overwhelm United on the counter. Their wide midfielders Soler and Denis Cheryshev cut inside to support the forwards as Rodrigo Moreno drops off the front line, creating narrow short-passing options to cut through the middle. With Nemanja Matic and Fred struggling this season, not to mention Chris Smalling's issues, the speed of Valencia's transitions should prove too much for the hosts.
Vertonghen and Dembele to keep Messi quiet in repeat of Spurs' victory over Real
Tottenham v Barcelona
Barcelona are without a win in three La Liga matches and look bereft of ideas at the moment, which is exactly how Real Madrid were playing when they arrived at Wembley in November 2017. Spurs won that match 3-1 thanks to a counter-attacking 3-5-1-1 formation that denied the visitors space in behind; Mauricio Pochettino can do something similar to earn another famous Champions League victory.
The Spanish champions have averaged 73% possession across their three winless games, so if Spurs have done their homework they'll be happy to concede territory in order to frustrate Barca with a deep block. It should work, for the most part, although despite his team's poor start to the season Lionel Messi has five goals and four assists, reflecting his continued brilliance cutting in from the right flank.
Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen (if passed fit) are the two players Messi will directly attack, the former as the Argentine drifts infield and the latter coming out of the back three to make a challenge. Much will rest on Messi's influence, while at the other end Spurs can target Barcelona's right flank, where right-back Nelson Semedo is struggling. Spurs have enough quality, and resilience, for at least a point.
Mane and Robertson to target Napoli's weak right-back
Napoli v Liverpool
Despite Maurizio Sarri's departure Napoli remain an expansive attacking side under Carlo Ancelotti, which should play into Liverpool's hands in Naples. Both teams like to play quick vertical passes into the forwards, potentially creating an end-to-end game with plenty of goals, although Liverpool hold a slight advantage thanks to Napoli's Elseid Hysaj.
The Albanian right-back was at fault for two of Juventus's goals in their 3-1 victory over Napoli at the weekend. First he gave the ball away to Cristiano Ronaldo and was then easily beaten by the Portuguese ahead of Juve's equaliser, and then he was caught out of position as Juventus countered down that flank for their second.
Sadio Mane's decision-making this season hasn't been particularly good but his movement, and pace, make him a vital component of Klopp's side. That speed should see him come out on top in his one-on-one battle with Hysaj, especially if Andrew Robertson can get forward in support. Napoli lean heavily to the left (40% of the attacks) and so right winger Jose Callejon tucks inside; there will be space on Liverpool's left to overwhelm Hysaj.
- Over 3.5 goals in Hoffenheim v Man City at 11/10
- Valencia to beat Man Utd at 9/2
- Double chance Spurs/draw v Barcelona at 8/11
- Liverpool to beat Napoli at 11/10