European Champions Cup: Saracens to maintain charge with Cardiff win
Simon Mail previews the third weekend of Champions Cup action which includes Saracens v Cardiff and Racing 92 v Leicester...
"Saracens have shown no weaknesses this season after a remarkable run of 11 consecutive wins in all competitions. Their last defeat came all the way back on April 1 at Leinster in the Champions Cup."
Edinburgh v Newcastle
Live on BT Sport 2
Hosts should power past Falcons
Edinburgh boosted their hopes of progression in the Champions Cup after hammering former winners Toulon 40-14 in October. Richard Cockerill's side enjoyed one of their best performances in European competition in the bonus-point win. It followed a narrow defeat to Montpellier in their opener to keep the Pro14 team in contention for a quarter-final spot.
It has been a season of contrasting fortunes for Newcastle with the Falcons bottom of the Premiership yet top of their European pool. A brilliant 26-25 win in Toulon was backed up by a 23-20 home victory over Montpellier. But the Falcons have been hit by a spate of injuries which has particularly weakened their front row for this match. Edinburgh can boost their qualification hopes with a win and should cover a 13-point handicap.
Chiefs to respond to defeat with home win
Exeter v Gloucester
Live on BT Sport 2 and Channel 4
Exeter's extraordinary run in the Premiership was halted last weekend after their first defeat of the season at the hands of Harlequins. Their hopes of reaching the last-eight of the Champions Cup already look slim though after a 10-10 draw with Munster and a 29-25 defeat in Castres. The Chiefs may need four wins from their remaining games to extend their run in the competition.
Gloucester also have it all to do in Europe after mixing a 19-14 home win over Castres with a 36-22 defeat in Munster. The Cherry and Whites are one point above their Premiership opponents but were beaten 23-6 at Sandy Park only last month in the league. A home win has to be the call and with a bonus-point looking necessary, Exeter can cover a 12-point handicap.
Champions will be too strong for Bath
Bath v Leinster
Live on BT Sport 2
Leinster were unstoppable last season as they won the competition after winning all nine matches on their way to the triumph in Spain. Leo Cullen's side started their defence by thrashing Wasps 52-3 but their unbeaten run was ended the following week after losing 28-27 to Toulouse. Although Leinster have not had it all their own way, it is difficult to envisage them failing to reach the knockout stages.
Bath squandered a great chance to win their opener after losing 22-20 at home to Toulouse. The Premiership side drew 35-35 at Wasps in their second game but must win this fixture to have any hope of progressing. Leinster are overwhelming favourites for this match and should be too strong for their opponents with a win by up to 12 points offering value.
Tight clash expected at the Ricoh Arena
Wasps v Toulouse
Live on BT Sport 2
Wasps are already facing an uphill struggle to reach the quarter-finals after taking three points from their first two games. After being thrashed by Leinster, Dai Young's side could only draw at home to Bath. Toulouse are setting the early pace, in a very competitive group, after edging to victories over Bath and the defending champions.
Toulouse have all the momentum on their side after an impressive run of seven successive wins in all competitions. It has taken them up to second in the Top 14 and given them a realistic chance of an extended run in Europe. Toulouse arguably should be favourites although they are the slightest of outsiders. With concerns over the form of Wasps, a bet on the in-form visitors at the prices appeals.
Relentless Saracens to keep winning
Saracens v Cardiff
Live on BT Sport 3
Saracens have shown no weaknesses this season after a remarkable run of 11 consecutive wins in all competitions. Their last defeat came all the way back on April 1 at Leinster in the Champions Cup. Premiership champions Sarries opened up with a 13-3 win in Glasgow in October before easing to a 29-10 victory over Lyon at Allianz Park.
Cardiff failed to build on a promising start, after beating Lyon in France, as they were defeated 29-12 at home to Glasgow. Saracens are overwhelming favourites for this match and it could be a long afternoon for their Welsh visitors. With key internationals returning, the hosts could punish their opponents and it may be worth chancing a home win by 21 to 30 points.
More away misery in France for Tigers
Racing 92 v Leicester
Live on BT Sport 2
Racing 92 pushed Leinster all the way in last season's Champions Cup final and the French club have made a promising start to this year's campaign. In their European opener, Racing 92 edged to a 14-13 win at the Scarlets. The Top 14 side backed this up by easing to a 44-12 home victory over Ulster to set the early pace.
Leicester lost 24-10 in Ulster but got off the mark in their second European match with a 45-27 win over the Scarlets. The Tigers' league form is worrying though and the Premiership club come in off the back of a 41-10 defeat, albeit with 14 men, at Bristol. Leicester's record in France is poor and it is worth backing European contenders Racing to cover a 17-point handicap in France.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2018-19 season
Back Edinburgh -13 to win @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)
Back Exeter -12 to win @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)
Back Leinster to win by 1-12 points @ 2/1 (Sportsbook)
Back Toulouse to win @ 11/10 (Sportsbook)
Back Saracens to win by 21-30 points @ around 3/1 (Sportsbook)
Back Racing 92 -17 to win @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)