European Champions Cup: Saracens to clinch top spot with Glasgow victory

Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell helped Saracens defeat Glasgow in their first match

Simon Mail previews the final round of pool games in the Champions Cup with qualification for the last eight on the line...

"Mark McCall's Saracens won 28-10 in Lyon last week to make it five successive wins in the competition and they are the only unbeaten team remaining."

Newcastle could add to Toulon's woes

Newcastle v Toulon
Friday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 3

It has been a remarkable fall from grace for Toulon with the three-time European champions propping up the table after a dreadful season. Their 28-17 home defeat to Edinburgh last weekend was the latest failure and the team are in disarray. Newcastle also cannot reach the quarter-finals, despite two wins, after losing 45-8 in Montpellier last week.

The Falcons come into this match as favourites which sums up the current woes of the Toulon side. Newcastle are on a run of six consecutive defeats so this is a match pitting two struggling sides together. The hosts have to cover a ten-point handicap but a better option could be to back Newcastle to win by up to 12 points against a Toulon side without an away win this season.

Saracens to clinch top spot

Saracens v Glasgow
Saturday, 13:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Saracens are already through to the last-eight of the Champions Cup but the Premiership champions have the chance to clinch a home quarter-final and the top seeding with a victory. Mark McCall's side won 28-10 in Lyon last week to make it five successive wins in the competition and they are the only unbeaten team remaining. Second-placed Glasgow may still need a point to qualify as one of the best runners-up and could still mathematically pip Saracens to top spot.

This remains extremely unlikely and Saracens can continue their 100 per cent record in Europe this season by seeing off Glasgow at Allianz Park. The handicap mark is pitched at 16 points and the hosts look capable of covering this. Saracens won by 18 points last week in France, with McCall extremely positive about their performance, and they can make a major statement with a convincing win in their final pool game.

Ulster to seal knockout spot

Leicester v Ulster
Saturday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 2

Leicester are out of contention in Europe with only pride at stake but visitors Ulster still have everything to play for. The Pro14 side are in second spot with 18 points after their 26-22 win over pool leaders Racing 92. It means Ulster will qualify if they can win at Leicester and still have an outside chance of topping the group.

It is difficult to have any confidence in a Leicester side that have disappointed again this season, losing four of their five Champions Cup matches. Ulster won at Welford Road in 2014 and look well-placed to repeat this victory. Four of their last five wins have been by no more than 12 points and this looks the best play for their pivotal match at Leicester.


Gloucester facing defeat in France

Castres v Gloucester
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 3

Castres and Gloucester can no longer qualify for the last-eight of the competition but they will both want to sign off with a win in France. The Top 14 side were beaten 34-12 at Exeter last weekend although they have claimed notable home wins this season over both the Chiefs and pool leaders Munster. Gloucester were thumped 41-15 at home to Munster last week as they suffered a third successive defeat.

The Premiership side are struggling for form and it is difficult to see them pulling off a victory in France. Castres are worthy favourites to finish with a third win in the group stage although it may not be one-sided. Both of their European home wins came by single-figure margins and another tight victory looks worth backing.

Munster to end Exeter's hopes

Munster v Exeter
Saturday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 2 and Channel 4

Munster host Exeter in a heavyweight clash this weekend at Thomond Park. The hosts have been extremely impressive in Europe this season with their demolition of Gloucester last weekend giving them a four-point cushion at the top of the group. Premiership leaders Exeter must win at Munster to have a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

In their first meeting this season, Exeter were held to a 10-10 draw at Sandy Park. Munster have built on this result and looked at their brilliant best against Gloucester. It should be an enthralling encounter with so much at stake but Munster look to have the edge with home advantage. Exeter will push them all the way but Munster are taken to win by up to 12 points and seal top spot.


Toulouse to see off Bath

Toulouse v Bath
Sunday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 2

Toulouse have shown signs of a resurgence this season after winning their first four games in the competition. The Top 14 side lost 29-13 in Leinster last weekend which leaves them needing a win to secure a place in the quarter-finals. Bath defeated Wasps 18-16 in their last game for their first victory in the group stage. The Premiership side also should have beaten Toulouse at home but were pipped 22-20 in October.

The home side are overwhelming favourites and should oblige but it is difficult to be confident in backing them to cover a 20-point handicap. A win will be enough for them but their biggest win in the competition this season has been 15 points. Bath will have a point to prove after letting the result slip at home and the Premiership side are taken to stay within a generous handicap mark.

Champions to overcome Wasps

Wasps v Leinster
Sunday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 3

Defending champions Leinster booked their spot in the last-eight after an impressive home win over Toulouse last weekend. Leo Cullen's side still need more points to guarantee winning their pool though and head to Wasps to finish off the job. The Premiership side have been desperately disappointing with a solitary draw and four defeats in the Champions Cup.

Leinster are on a different level to their opponents and should clinch the victory needed to finish in top spot. Wasps have been a major letdown this season and cannot be fancied to pull off a shock win. Leinster are worth backing to win by up to 12 points with Wasps yet to lose by more than this at the Ricoh Arena this season.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

P/L 2018-19 season

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Returned: 55.85pts
P/L: -6.15pts

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