European Champions Cup: Munster to close in on quarter-finals with Gloucester win

Munster scrum-half Conor Murray
Munster are top of their Champions Cup pool

Simon Mail previews the fifth round of the Champions Cup including a crucial clash for Gloucester at home to Munster...

"Munster defeated Gloucester 36-22 and the Pro14 side can get the upper hand by completing the double over them at Kingsholm."

Munster to edge to points

Gloucester v Munster
Friday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2

Munster are in the driving seat to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals after topping their pool after four matches. The Irish club have won two of their fixtures but only lead by three points leaving them with work to do. Gloucester are bottom but are only four points behind their opponents so the Premiership side, who recall fit again fly-half Danny Cipriani, still have a chance to qualify.

In their first match, Munster defeated Gloucester 36-22 and the Pro14 side can get the upper hand by completing the double over them at Kingsholm. Gloucester have stumbled recently after back-to-back defeats against Sale and Leicester while Munster, who name a strong team including scrum-half Conor Murray, have beaten Leinster and Connacht. Both of their wins were by single-figure margins so the best value bet here looks to be a tight Munster victory.

Falcons face struggle in France

Montpellier v Newcastle
Saturday, 13:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Newcastle made a brilliant start in Europe after wins over Toulon and Montpellier but two defeats against Edinburgh have dented their hopes of progressing. The Falcons will probably be more focused on domestic matters though with the side languishing bottom of the Premiership. Montpellier are second in the pool but need a big finish from their last two games if they are to overhaul leaders Edinburgh.

The Top 14 side are overwhelming favourites for this match and should deliver a comfortable win. A bonus point victory is necessary and Montpellier can cover a 17-point handicap to maintain their knockout hopes. In their last European match, Montpellier won by 21 points at home to Toulon and the hosts can punish a Newcastle side on a run of five successive defeats.

Bath backed to win English clash

Bath v Wasps
Saturday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 2

It has been a desperately disappointing European campaign for both Bath and Wasps with the Premiership sides out of contention already. After failing to win any of their opening four matches, only pride is at stake for the teams. Their struggles in the competition are no real surprise with their modest domestic form highlighting their problems.

In the first meeting back in October, Wasps fought back to salvage a 35-35 draw but Bath won 24-14 at the Ricoh Arena in last month's league clash. These two sides have been riddled with inconsistency but Bath deserve favouritism. The hosts can deliver a narrow victory at the Rec against a Wasps team without an away victory since September.

Leicester can trouble Scarlets

Scarlets v Leicester
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 2

Scarlets are propping up their pool after losing all four matches in the competition this season. It has not been much better for Leicester but at least the side have won a game after defeating the Scarlets 45-27 at Welford Road. Racing 92 and Ulster are out of sight in the group though with these two sides out of contention for the last-eight.

Leicester have won eight of their ten meetings against the Scarlets in the tournament and the visitors look worth backing with a slight handicap advantage. The Tigers won the first game back in October convincingly and should be buoyed by a 34-16 win over Gloucester last weekend. The Scarlets are in miserable form losing five of their last six games and Leicester can add to their troubles.

Exeter to keep hopes alive with win

Exeter v Castres
Sunday, 13:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Exeter gave themselves an outside chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals after a 29-17 win at Gloucester in the last round of matches before Christmas. Rob Baxter's side are four points off leaders Munster and need to win their last two games to have a chance. Castres are one point better off than Exeter after two wins and two defeats in the competition.

The Premiership pacesetters are strong favourites to win this match despite losing in France to Castres 29-25 back in October. The Top 14 side do not travel particularly well losing both their away games and Exeter should land the win at Sandy Park. But a handicap margin of 16 points looks too much and there could be value in backing the hosts, who edged out Bristol 14-9 in the league last week, to prevail by no more than 12 points.

Saracens to extend winning run

Lyon v Saracens
Sunday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 2

Saracens are in command of their pool after winning their first four matches although Glasgow are within four points of them. The Premiership champions look capable of reclaiming the European crown although they have stumbled in recent weeks after away defeats at Exeter and Sale domestically. Lyon have been outclassed in the competition losing all four games.

Sarries should wrap up qualification with a fifth successive European win although backing them to cover a 13-point handicap is far from certain. Mark McCall's side have made a habit of winning tight matches away from home with all six victories this season coming by 12 points or less. Expect Saracens to get the job done with another slender success in France.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

P/L 2018-19 season

Staked: 59pts
Returned: 53.45pts
P/L: -5.55pts

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