Michael Lintorn surveys Tuesday's Champions League play-off first legs at FC Astana, Lazio and Sporting Lisbon...
"Both clubs have bagged in five of the six prior Serie A home play-off legs."
Recommended Bet: Back both teams to score in Lazio v Bayer Leverkusen @ 1.910/11
FC Astana 2.26/5 v APOEL 3.9; The Draw 3.39/4
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The deck would appear to be stacked against FC Astana in their mission to become the first ever Kazakh side to reach the Champions League group stage.
Whereas no representative of the nation has ever advanced from a play-off round clash, APOEL - who are best known for their unlikely run to the quarter-finals at Porto, Shakhtar and Lyon's expense in 2011/12 - have a three-from-three progression rate in these ties.
However, Kazakh football is on the rise, as demonstrated by Kairat getting through the past three Europa League rounds at the expense of the likes of former continental trophy winners like Red Star Belgrade and Aberdeen and by FC Astana performing better than APOEL in this qualifying process.
They have won their two home games and scored seven times in the process despite being reduced to ten men in both. By contrast, APOEL won just one of their four matches across the previous two rounds.
Recommended Bet: Back FC Astana to win @ 2.26/5
Lazio 2.829/5 v Bayer Leverkusen 2.829/5; The Draw 3.412/5
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Four of Serie A's last five play-off round entrants failed to navigate a way through. Being drawn against the Bundesliga participants was therefore close to a worst-case scenario for Lazio given that division's five-from-six success rate in this phase, even more so when you consider that Bayer Leverkusen got to the round-of-16 in three of the past four years.
Lazio do at least boast a great record against German opponents, winning four and drawing one of their five home fixtures and eliminating Borussia Monchengladbach and Stuttgart from the Europa League as recently as 2012/13, after Germany had overtaken Italy in the UEFA coefficient charts.
The Biancocelesti scored ten goals across those four contests, but they offer no guarantee of victory over a Leverkusen team with two competitive triumphs and five goals behind them already this season. Indeed, as both clubs have bagged in five of the six prior Serie A home play-off legs, that looks like a wise wager.
Recommended Bet: Back both teams to score @ 1.910/11
Sporting Lisbon 2.01/1 v CSKA Moscow 4.3100/30; The Draw 3.65
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CSKA Moscow were lucky to survive the last round, surrendering the lead twice when hosting Sparta Prague to draw 2-2 and then going 2-0 down in the opening 16 minutes in Czech Republic.
That struggle has perhaps led to them being underestimated though for an encounter that the historical trends portray them as standing a strong chance of avoiding defeat in.
The only previous meeting between these sides occurred in the UEFA Cup final a decade ago as CSKA Moscow came from behind in Sporting Lisbon's own Estadio Jose Alvalade to prevail 3-1 and flee with the silverware.
Sporting have proven unable to overcome Russian adversaries in five prior attempts - losing the three in the Portuguese capital and conceded three times on each occasion - while CSKA Moscow have been beaten on just one of their five trips to Portugal.
Recommended Bet: Lay Sporting Lisbon to win @ 2.021/1