Champions League Feature – With Sportingbet’s Mark O’Haire

With the Champions League now becoming a global betting phenomenon, Mark O’Haire from Sportingbet kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his views on this season’s tournament, and the some of the bets he has come across so far.


What are your major tips for this weeks Champions League encounters, and why?


(Mark): I expected to see Porto shorter than 8/11-4/5ish, if I’m honest. They’ve a superb home record – unbeaten in 19 matches and are notoriously strong at the Dragao in Europe.

Malaga are unbeaten in the Champions League defence but were lucky to be drawn in a fairly comfortable group. Their away record in La Liga is sketchy and Porto have plenty of firepower to break their resolute defence.

Elsewhere, I was a big fan of Galatasaray when the draw was made. Schalke have been out-of-sorts since the Champions League group phase ended in November. I watched them on Saturday and they picked up a credible draw at Mainz which will no doubt give them some belief but a visit to Istanbul will definitely test their character.


What is proving popular with your punters?

Outright Bayern Munich are our biggest loser following by Real Madrid and Dortmund. Barcelona are also a small loser but all other runners are decent results for us at Sportingbet.

In this week’s games, Galatasaray have had a lot of interest and could be our worst result. Bayern Munich and Barcelona make up a number of accumulators and would represent poor results for us.


What’s the biggest bet that has been wagered on this year’s Champions League?

We’ve a big German punter who’s regularly placed bets around the £200,000 mark this season. He’s been less prolific in the Champions League but did have a winning £40,000 bet on Cluj double chance away at Galatasaray in the group stage at 6/4.


What’s the most obscure bet you have witnessed for the Champions League, on the whole?

There’s been a few. Last week one of our punters had £50 on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be sent off in our Zlatan specials at 40/1. He was given a red card in stoppage time of PSG’s game against Valencia.

But the strangest was probably a £39 bet on the winner of the Champions League to be from Belarus at 250/1!


Who is your fancy to win the prize outright, and why?


Taking price and betting out of the equation, Barcelona are the greatest club team I’ve ever seen with the best player to ever walk the earth so they’ll take all the beating. But my outsider pick ante-post was Juventus and I don’t think any side will enjoy playing against them.

Italian clubs haven’t performed well in Europe over the past few seasons but this Juventus side is head and shoulders above the rest without many weaknesses. I also think they’re being underrated in the markets.



If you wish to take Mark’s advice, there are some brilliant odds on offer with his very own Sportingbet.

Galatasaray to beat Schalke @ 23/20 (Sportingbet)

Porto to beat Malaga @ 4/6 (Sportingbet)

Juventus to win the Champions League @ 9/1 (Sportingbet)


Champions League – Last 16 – Value Bets (Week 2)

Following last week’s feast of footballing brilliance in the opening fixtures of the last 16 of this seasons Champions League, there is even more expectation heading in to week two.

It was a solid start in 2013 for the blog, with two tips being landed (Shakhtar/Dortmund draw and Over 2.5 goals in Valencia/PSG), which meant that we finished the week with a 1.8 point profit from a four point output, a solid return.

Arsenal host Bayern Munich on Tuesday, in what looks to be a massive night in North London, in particular for Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman has come under a lot of pressure as of late, following a poor run of form, culminating in being eliminated from the F.A Cup by Championship Blackburn. He understands he either needs to progress into the latter stages of the Champions League or secure fourth place in the Premier League, or his job will be under real pressure.

He will have relayed this message to his players who always seem to turn on the style on big European nights at the Emirates, none more so than when they defeated Barcelona 2-1, two years ago in the competition. This is an extremely different Arsenal side, but there is no reason as to why they should not be able to cause the German defence some problems.


Walcott, Giroud and Podolski are all extremely talented players and with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere pulling the strings in behind. The 7/5 on offer for Arsenal to score the first goal looks a brilliant bet.

Munich will attempt to press Arsenal high up the pitch, and if this happens, Theo Walcott looks set to be the obvious beneficiary as he is likely to line up opposite the attacking-minded David Alaba, which could be a key battle over the course of the evening. 11/4 for Walcott to score any-time looks enticing, as does the 8/1 for Jack Wilshere.

However it will not be plain sailing for the North London side, and with the likes of Mandzukic, Gomez and Ribery spearheading the German outfit’s attack, there is sure to be goals. Arsenal’s defence has been poor of late, conceding very sloppy goals and with Munich going all out to secure a first-leg lead, they will need to be on their toes to make sure they have any chance of winning the game.

There is limited value in any-time scorers bet, so the short-priced ‘good thing’ for most punters looks to be the 5/6 on offer with Ladbrokes for Bayern Munich to score over 1.5 goals.


Unbeaten Malaga travel to Portugal to face Porto in Tuesday evening’s other fixture, and it looks sure to be a very close encounter.

Porto are strong favourites to overpower the Andalusians, and in-form Jackson Martinez will be out to make sure he can help his side take a lead into the second leg.

He has bagged three in his last four in the Champions League, and eight in five in all competitions and comes into the game in tremendous goal-scoring form. Understandably he is a short price to get on the score-sheet with most firms, however BetVictor are offering a very generous 29/20 for the Colombian to hit the back of the net on Tuesday evening.

Arguably the most anticipated game of the week takes place at the San Siro as AC Milan entertain an imperious Barcelona side. All of the pre-game hype would have surely surrounded Mario Balotelli ahd he not been cup-tied (played for Manchester City in the group stages) but this has allowed the build-up to surround the football itself and in particular the magician that is Lionel Messi.

Messi notched his 300th goal in all competitions for Barcelona last weekend, and will be out to kick-start into the three hundreds as soon as possible. He has a habit of scoring against Milan, and with it likely to be a feisty affair, he is sure to get his chance to get on the score-sheet via set-pieces.

He is currently a stand-out 9/4 with BetVictor to score two or more, and this could turn out to be a magnificent price, as the Argentine has what it takes to put Milan to the sword and put the tie to bed before they face Real Madrid twice within a month in domestic competitions.


The final tie of this week’s fixtures is Galatasaray v Schalke, taking place in Istanbul. It gives Didier Drogba his first chance to taste Champions League football since scoring the winning penalty and subsequently lifting the trophy with Chelsea last May. His link-up play with fellow new boy Wesley Sneijder is set to be a key part of the Turkish sides chances, and the Ivorian has already made a big impact, scoring after only five minutes of his debut last weekend as he helped his side to a 2-1 win.

Galatasary are currently flying in the Super Lig, topping the table by seven points, wherease Schalke are struggling on the domestic front, currently lying in eighth place a massive 27 points off leaders Dortmund.

Their defence has been shaky as of late, and with Drogba seemingly not showing any signs of rustiness, he looks set to reignite his love affair with the Champions League and lead the Turkish side to a first-leg lead, which could prove all important. The 100/30 for Drogba to get on the scoresheet in a Galatasaray win looks too good to ignore.

 Advice (1 point acca):

Arsenal to score the first goal  @ 7/5 (Bet365)

Jackson Martinez to score any-time  @ 29/20 (BetVictor)

Lionel Messi to score 2 or more @ 9/4 (BetVictor)

Didier Drogba to score and Galatasaray to win @ 100/30 (BlueSq)


2013 so far: +1.8 points

Champions League – Last 16 – Value Bets

As I have been away from the blog for a little while, I have decided to adopt a slightly new approach to proceedings, by keeping up to date with the profit/loss made. Last year we made a healthy profit, but I never included actual figures, which could effectively help make your decisions as to whether you trust my judgement, with my tips.

This week signifies the return of Champions League football, with the feature game undoubtedly being Real Madrid hosting Manchester United at the Bernabeu.


The pre-match hype has surrounded Cristiano Ronaldo facing his former club (and rightly so..), and he also takes centre stage with one of our main bets this week. Since moving to Madrid from Manchester United, the Portuguese hit-man has notched up a staggering 136 goals in 123 games, including a hat-trick  against Sevilla last Saturday. He is currently in an incredibly hot streak of form, and will be looking to send a message out to his former employers about what they’re missing (if they didn’t already know..).

With Ronaldo in the side, Madrid look a cut above United, whose defence has already struggled against the likes of Andy Weimann this season. This all points to a Madrid victory and the current 13/8 on offer with William Hill, for Ronaldo to score in a Madrid win, looks too good to ignore.

The other game to be played on Wednesday looks set to be a tasty fair as the gritty Shakhtar Donetsk entertain the classy Borussia Dortmund. It looks set to be an open game, as Dortmund have failed to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their last 19 Champions League away games.

No Ukrainian team has ever beaten Borussia Dortmund in European competitions in six games, however Shakhtar are unbeaten in their last 4 encounters with German clubs in European competitions. These statistics mean that the game looks set to be a draw, and this is backed up by the fact that Dortmund are still unbeaten in the Champions League despite only winning one of their last six away from home, and that Shakhtar have only won two of their last seven Champions League games at home.

The draw is currently a best-priced 5/2 with Bet365, and looks tremendous value.

The ITV fixture of the week takes place at Celtic Park, as Celtic host Juventus. It looks set to be a very tense affair as Celtic know to have any realistic chance of going through, they have to take a lead to the Juventus Stadium. The atmosphere will be electric as Gary Hooper leads the line and attempts to get the all important first goal, however the Italians are renowned for their ability to soak up pressure and hit sides on the break.

The Juventus defence is incredibly disciplined, and should be ready to handle all that Celtic can throw at them. They never look likely to score too many, and for this reason, the 11/4 on offer with Ladbrokes for Juventus to win by exactly one goal appeals.

The final game I will be previewing this week, is the Valencia v PSG game, which is set to be a tight affair, full of attacking flair. PSG arrive in Valencia on the back of six consecutive victories, only conceding two goals in the process.


The French side play free-flowing attacking football, which mirrors the type of football often played at the Mestalla, where goals are always on the menu.

The fact that Thiago Silva, and Thiago Motta, two key defensive figures for PSG are both missing,means the likelihood of Valencia having more luck down the centre has dramatically increased.

It is set to be a footballing feast with Ibrahimovic, Soldado, Gameiro etc all gracing the same pitch, and the result looks extremely hard to call. For this reason, the 13/10 for over 2.5 goals with BetVictor looks a steal, and will allow the viewers to sit back and enjoy what has the potential to be a fantastic game of attacking football.


1 point: Ronaldo to score and Madrid to win @ 13/8 (William Hill)

1 point: Shakhtar/Dortmund draw @ 5/2 (Bet365)

1 point: Juventus to win by exactly 1 goal @ 11/4 (Ladbrokes)

1 point: Valencia/PSG – Over 2.5 goals @ 13/10 (BetVictor)