BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

United up for the fight against Juventus

Champions League
BT Sport 2, 8pm Tuesday


Juventus showed their intention to make a serious bid for Champions League glory by signing Cristiano Ronaldo but even with the Portuguese superstar in their ranks they may not be celebrating maximum points against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Bookmakers are giving Juve ultimate respect, rating them favourites to overcome Manchester United on the road, but this looks a tricky test for the Italians with the hosts fancied to raise their game.

United were so close to giving their season a serious kick-start at Chelsea on Saturday before conceding a last-gasp equaliser in a 2-2 draw, although Jose Mourinho will have been able to have taken plenty of positives from their best performance of the campaign.

Despite conceding twice, United nullified the threat of Eden Hazard which bodes well for the visit of Ronaldo and the Manchester men have kept successive Champions League shutouts.

United have lost only one of their last 22 European home matches, a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Sevilla, which was in part due to them having to chase the game late on due to the away goal rule.

There are still doubts regarding the Red Devils' rearguard, but if Paul Pogba turns up against his former club and can grab control of midfield there will be chances to hurt Juve through Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Stamford Bridge goal hero Anthony Martial.

Juve have previously been linked with Martial and Lukaku which adds spice to a fascinating game that sees Ronaldo and Pogba in action against the clubs where they became household names.

Ronaldo's goal against Genoa on Saturday was his 400th league strike in Europe's top championships and yet the perennial Serie A champions were unable to build on the early opener in a 1-1 draw.

That was the first time Juventus had failed to win this season with their record-breaking victorious run ending at ten, still surpassing their best previous start of eight straight triumphs in 1930-31.

Centre-back Leonardo Bonucci's arrival alongside Ronaldo strengthened Juve in both boxes over the summer and as well as beating Valencia 2-0 with ten men on matchday one they also thumped Young Boys 3-0 on matchday two with Paulo Dybala grabbing a hat-trick.

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However, the Juventus attack definitely lacks a focal point without the injured Mario Mandzukic.

Dybala prefers to play off a target man and Ronaldo, who has done most of his damage for the Bianconeri in a wider position, is the same. That explains why Karim Benzema was undroppable at Real Madrid despite rarely reaching the goalscorer heights expected of a striker representing the Spanish giants.

It remains a tough game for United, but as outsiders they are worth a bet to avoid defeat.

Recommendation
Man Utd +0.25 Asian handicap

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Match in Focus

12:30 Sa 20Apr SKY

Man City v Tottenham

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Man City have lost only once at home in the Premier League this season.
Expert verdict
Following their Champions League humdinger, Manchester City and Tottenham reconvene in the Premier League and the game is unlikely to be anywhere near as pulsating. With City not needing to press for early goals, they can play their usual free-flowing game and make it seven wins in nine matches against top-six opposition this season. Only one of those eight meetings so far have featured over 4.5 goals and punters should expect a narrow win for Pep Guardiola's side.