Charlie Nicholas returns with his predictions for the British teams getting their Champions League and Europa League campaigns under way this week.
There are nine British clubs involved in the European competitions this year, including Liverpool, who are looking to defend their Champions League title.
And Soccer Saturday’s Charlie has given his predictions for the upcoming fixtures…
The difference Roberto Firmino makes is unbelievable. He doesn’t get the goals that Mohamed Salah gets or has the pace that Sadio Mane does but he has skill and cunning. He is a real team player and is my favourite out of the three, my favourite to watch, although he may be easier to mark than the other two.
Liverpool have not improved in midfield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a fringe player. We know they are a good side but those three have to be on their game to win matches.
Napoli are all-action and very strong at home, but not convincing away from home. Dries Mertens just rocks up and does the job. He gets big goals and I expect him to grab another through the week.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Valencia sacked their manager and I do not see them being as flamboyant. They will try to counter-attack which will make it hard for Abraham and Mount to understand.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace in the Premier League
This is an awkward one. Tottenham were very impressive in the first half against Crystal Palace, which allowed them to ease down to second gear in the second half. They kept hold of Christian Eriksen and so things have calmed down a bit. He started against Palace, so is that why it has calmed down?
Mauricio Pochettino has changed his team too much and that is why they look vulnerable at the back. I would imagine Tottenham would try to control possession, but this is an awkward trip and these are dangerous teams to travel to. Tottenham are still unpredictable.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Norwich’s 3-2 win over Manchester City in the Premier League
Manchester City found this one difficult last season. Shakhtar have always brought in a bit of pedigree but that is getting less and less as the years progress. They are not quite getting those names anymore and it takes away the creative ability that they were once dangerous with. They are not quite sure whether they should be contesting or not.
City will be badly winded after the Norwich game. Aymeric Laporte is a massive miss for them. I don’t know why Pep Guardiola decided to leave Kevin de Bruyne out at the weekend. This will be a comfortable win to get the Premier League champions back on track.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 0-4 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
What is the attraction to Sokratis Papastathopoulos? I would play Kieran Tierney on Thursday and see if Hector Bellerin could start too. Regarding Sunday’s game against Watford, when you see David Luiz giving instructions with 20 minutes to go, you know you are in trouble.
Konstantinos Mavropanos is still game time away from being fit. It would be the end if Shkodran Mustafi was to be brought back. We need to get Rob Holding, Bellerin and Tierney back into the side as soon as possible. I would take a hit and play these players to give them game time and let them get match fitness.
Nicolas Pepe was dreadful against Watford. How Emery took Mesut Ozil and Dani Ceballos off ahead of him was beyond me. It is starting to effect Ainsley Maitland-Niles and some of the other young players. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock came on and could not keep the ball.
It is the manager’s responsibility. He must resolve this and come to a conclusion on how to sort this out. Tierney, Bellerin, and Holding should play – I would play them this week and take a defeat if it meant they got the game time they needed.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-2 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Leicester in the Premier League
Astana will come and ‘park the bus’. Manchester United were not brilliant at the weekend, but it was a fabulous result – they nearly stumbled but they didn’t, and it is about getting yourselves the three points, in what was a dangerous game.
It doesn’t make a difference that Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard were missing – they have not been setting the world on fire. It is not convincing with United but this is another game in which they will get over the line, in comfortable fashion.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Wolves vs Braga
Nuno Espirito Santo will want to get one over on the Portuguese side. Braga are always dangerous but do not travel well. Are Wolves caught up in the emotion of the Europa League? They took their foot off the pedal in Premier League as they were thumped by Chelsea.
They were blown away at weekend and it was very unlike them to concede five and make so many mistakes. They need to get back to basics and get a win in in the Premier League, but Nuno will take this seriously and I expect Wolves to be too strong here, getting off to a fine start in the group stages.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Rennes vs Celtic
Rennes have started very well in Ligue 1. I am hoping that M’Baye Niang will not be playing. He is lightning quick, almost a lesser version of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. These guys can play and move, and that is what Celtic struggle against.
Celtic will be good on the counter-attack, but their reputation is always the same. They get scared when they travel away from home. They don’t know where to pitch their defence and whether to play a squeezing game or not. They will have technically gifted players and pace out wide, where they will look to exploit. Celtic still have defensive injuries and will not threaten here.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (17/2 with Sky Bet)
Rangers vs Feyenoord
This will be a fiery game. Feyenoord have a strong reputation. Feyenoord have the passion but are not bringing the support they would always bring. Rangers enjoy these nights and that is why Steven Gerrard is there.They have not clicked into gear just yet though. Jaap Stam’s side will sit in for 20-25 minutes and this could cause frustration around Ibrox – this is when they could pounce.