James proving the Real deal
Did they need him? Where would he fit in? These were the questions asked of Real Madrid after they paid Monaco £63m for World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez. It appeared to be a tipping point in Florentino Perez's second Galactico project. He was sacrificing the balance provided by Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria for the sake of having the next big thing. And yet Carlo Ancelotti has got this Real Madrid working so well as a collective it doesn't appear to matter that they play without a holder or a destroyer in midfield.
James has also replicated the performances he wowed us with in Brazil. His assist for Cristiano Ronaldo at Anfield and Karim Benzema in the Clasico and that wonder strike against Granada on Saturday are all standout moments. He seems to be becoming more decisive week-by-week. Back the No.10 to score at home to Liverpool on Tuesday.
Back James Rodriguez to score @ 2.3811/8
Talisca a revelation at Benfica
Odd isn't it how teams struggling on the domestic front can find consistency in the Champions League? Crisis-stricken in the Bundesliga where they are off to their worst start ever, Borussia Dortmund have a perfect record on the continent and are one of two teams still yet to concede. The other is Monaco, a side seventh in Ligue 1 who also remain unbeaten in this competition despite loaning Radamel Falcao to Man United and selling James Rodriguez to Real in the summer.
Considering how tight they are at the back, a clean sheet away to Benfica looks attractive at 4.57/2 particularly given Zenit achieved one at the Estadio da Luz on Matchday 1. But Benfica's towering midfielder Anderson Talisca is one of the hottest properties in Europe at the moment. Top scorer in Portugal with eight goals in nine games, back the 20-year-old to find the net again at 2.26/5.
Back Anderson Talisca to score @ 2.26/5
Athletic make timely revival for Porto's visit
After a disastrous start to the season in La Liga where they won only one of their opening eight games, Athletic Club are bouncing back. On Sunday they faced a high flying Sevilla side with the opportunity to go top in the Primera Division and yet claimed a surprise victory at San Mames. It was Athletic's second in a row and takes them up to 11th in the standings. Another clean sheet also inspires confidence ahead of Porto's visit to the Basque country.
Still unbeaten at the Cathedral in Europe this season, Athletic need to win if they are to retain hope of qualifying following a draw and two defeats. Porto are dangerous though and have got good results away to Lille and Shakhtar this season. Back them to come away with a point at 3.45.
Back the Draw @ 3.45
AVB to out-think Schmidt
Zenit stretched their lead to an ominous seven points upon overcoming CSKA Moscow in Saturday's top of the table clash in the Russian Premier League. Undefeated this season on the home front, it's a slightly different story in the Champions League. Third in Group C, Andre Villas-Boas' team came unstuck on their visit to Roger Schmidt's livewire Bayer Leverkusen last time out.
Leverkusen are as unpredictable as they are entertaining, drawing with struggling Werder Bremen, Freiburg, and Stuttgart, and losing to Hamburg on Saturday. Suckered by Monaco on their last away day in this competition, Zenit should make the most of their home advantage. Back them to win at 2.447/5.
Back Zenit to win @ 2.447/5
Ludogorets fairytale continues
After centre-back Cosmin Moti's goalkeeping heroics in the play-off with Steaua Bucharest and their spirited performance against Liverpool at Anfield where they were unfortunate to lose to a 92nd minute Steven Gerrard penalty, Ludogorets have become a cult team. Underestimate them at your peril. Holders Real Madrid went behind in Bulgaria and only won it in the final quarter of an hour.
Late victors against 10-man Basel last month, Ludogorets are second in Group B and travel to Switzerland on the back of a 4-0 win against Marek Dupnitsa. They seem to be relishing their place in the limelight and even though Basel moved to the top of the Swiss league this weekend, they will be confident of obtaining a result. Back the Double Chance at 2.0621/20.
Back Double Chance Away or Draw @ 2.0621/20