Mark O' Haire: "I'm More Than Happy To Oppose Atleti On The Asian Handicap"

11 min


Atletico Madrid v Monaco

As we head into Matchday 5 of the Champions League, Group H already looks all but over. Heavyweights Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are tied at the top, both enjoying a five-point advantage over third-placed Club Brugge; it would take a real disaster for either side to blow their qualification position now.

It’s important to understand the group dynamics, and Champions League rules and regulations at this stage.

Teams level on points are split first by their head-to-head records. With Atletico and Dortmund having already played home and away, the Germans have the upper hand and will seal top spot should they match or better the Spaniards’ final two results.

The reason I feel this is of significant value is, there’s now no major benefit for Diego Simeone’s team to rack up, or at least attempt to run up a cricket score in their remaining Group H games, starting with Monaco this midweek. Even so, the markets have given Atletico a steep two-goal handicap hurdle.

Obviously, it’s not completely unheard of for Los Colchoneros to pummel teams. They boast the ability to shred weaker opponents, but it’s also quite unusual.

In fact, only once in the past four years have Atletico Madrid won by a three-goal margin or more and that came against Astana back in 2015.

Diego Simeone’s side will comfortably qualify for the last 16.

Since returning to the top table of European football in 2013, the capital club have won five of their 28 home Champions League ties by at least three goals, although four of those occasions arrived before 2015.

The hosts swatted Huesca aside 3-0 as hosts here in September during La Liga action but that’s the only game in 19 matches that Simeone’s men have provided profit when backing them to cover this spread this season. It’s also only one of three contests in 2018/19 that has seen Atleti score at least three goals.

Los Rojiblancos have had an odd campaign.

They might be challenging for title honours on current inspection of the Spanish top-flight standings but Atleti haven’t always convinced. Despite returning W5-D2-L0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, they’ve produced just a +8 goal difference, even though five of their visitors were bottom-half dwellers.

Again, in La Liga, Atletico are posting negative supremacy figures when looking at shots, shots in the box, Expected Goals and Expected Goals from open play.

Sure, such returns aren’t hugely surprising when it comes to Simeone’s side but it is rather disconcerting if you’re looking to back a team to overcome a sizeable handicap.

Thierry Henry has been feeling the heat in the Principality.

Monaco head to Spain on the back of their first Ligue 1 triumph since the opening weekend of the season. Thierry Henry’s troops put in a sketchy performance and still managed to come away with a 1-0 win in Caen.

The principality club will take much-needed confidence from that victory, and even though qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League is already beyond them, Monaco are sure to want to at least follow up that positive result with a competitive performance in Madrid.

Henry will want to avoid a shellacking, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, Les Monegasques haven’t often been put to the sword this season with back-to-back 4-0 losses to PSG and Club Brugge when they were missing a minimum of 13 players that major black marks against them this term.

That Brugge defeat was nowhere near as convincing as the final score suggested, whilst a 3-0 reverse in Dortmund saw the final goal arrive in second-half stoppage-time. So with Radamel Falcao, Youri Tielemans, Aleksandar Golovin, Jemerson and Andrea Raggi all available, and Djibril Sidibe close to a return, Monaco should be capable of a damage limitation job.

So I’m backing Monaco with a +2.25 Asian Handicap start around the 1.75 mark.

Basically, the only way we won’t make money is if Atletico run out winners by three goals or more, and as I’ve outlined above, there’s no real need for Simeone’s side to go all-out for a big win or major evidence to suggest they will.

Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge

If Atletico Madrid weren’t appealing to overcome a stiff handicap, Borussia Dortmund certainly are having been given a kind 1.5 spread to hurdle on Wednesday night against Club Brugge.

The current Bundesliga leaders beat Mainz 2-1 on their travels this weekend to establish a nine-point advantage over Bayern Munich. Head coach Lucien Favre was delighted with his team’s efforts in what was a potentially trappy tie immediately off the back of an international break.

BVB are now unbeaten in their opening 12 league matches for the second time in their long and rich history with Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer again instrumental in victory.

Reus, in particular, has been exceptional this season with his fitness and conditioning playing a big part in his consistently high-quality displays.

If we look at Dortmund’s record in the Bundesliga and Champions League, the hosts have won all but four of their 16 duels, only losing away at Atletico. The home side have hit at least three goals on nine occasions and won by two or more goals in seven such fixtures.

Dortmund players celebrate their first goal in last weekend’s win over Mainz.

If we only look at matches at their Westfalenstadion home, Die Schwarzgelben have plundered 30 goals in eight games, notching three or more times in seven showdowns and winning by two goals or more in five outings. In six of those encounters, Dortmund have generated at least 2.5 Expected Goals.

Whilst BVB don’t need to go looking for a big win here, it’s not in the nature to sit on a one-goal advantage and visitors Club Brugge arrive in a sorry state.

The Belgian champions made a flying start to their title defence (W8-D1-L0) but have since managed W1-D3-L3, including a shoddy 3-1 defeat at home to Zulte Wagerem on Friday night. Head coach Ivan Leko was at a loss to explain the rotten reverse, describing it as their worst performance of the season.

Brugge have now shipped 12 goals in their past seven games, giving up an average of 1.50 Expected Goals. On the road, they’ve won once in six at teams in ninth and above, and in all competitions, it’s four losses in seven away from home as they’ve leaked at least twice on five occasions.

Recommended Bets

    • Monaco +2.25 Asian Handicap (1.75)
    • Dortmund -1.5 Asian Handicap (1.99)

On this week’s Champions League Podcast, Mark joined host Phil Kitromiledes and journalist Paolo Bandini to preview the best of this week’s games including a refreshed look at the outright market. Listen below and search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app to subscribe.