The second round of Champions Cup matches are previewed by Simon Mail starting with Sale's difficult test at home to former winners Toulon...
"Sale have faced Toulon twice back in the 2012-13 campaign and both matches were won by their French opponents. But the Sharks put up a decent fight at home, only losing 17-6, so this may not be one-sided."
Sale v Toulon
Live on BT Sport 2
Sale have found it hard going at the highest level in Europe with their 28-11 loss at the Scarlets their 12th successive defeat in the competition. The Sharks were always likely to find it difficult to challenge in this pool featuring the two most recent champions. But Steve Diamond will be determined for his side to give their illustrious opponents a tough evening under the lights.
Toulon's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage were dealt a significant blow after their 31-23 home defeat to Saracens in last weekend's opener. Incredibly it was their first home loss in the competition and the result leaves them facing the prospect of needing to finish as one of the best runners-up to go through. The three-time winners need a big response this weekend otherwise their title bid could be in tatters.
Sale have faced Toulon twice back in the 2012-13 campaign and both matches were won by their French opponents. But the Sharks put up a decent effort at home, only losing 17-6, so this may not be one-sided. With such a strong home record domestically, Sale will not go down without a fight and the best bet could be to back Toulon to bounce back with a win by no more than 12 points.
Back Toulon to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 8/5
Castres v Northampton
Live on Sky Sports 2
Castres got off to a losing start in the competition after being well beaten in Leinster. Their 33-15 loss in Dublin leaves the French side needing to respond with a win in their first home match. Castres have not got past the group stage since 2002 so history is not on their side in terms of success. Languishing 11th in the Top 14, few expect them to make a serious impact in Europe.
Northampton have made an uneasy start to the season domestically but the Saints picked up a potentially priceless European win over Montpellier. Jim Mallinder's side snatched a dramatic 16-14 win at the death after a Stephen Myler penalty. The result could have a huge bearing on their season and has set them up for a push in the Champions Cup having reached the quarter-finals in the last two seasons.
Castres come into this contest as narrow favourites but may struggle to live up to this status. The French side have lost five of their eight meetings against the Saints and will not be coming into this full of confidence. Northampton, who are fully focused on Europe after their struggles in the Premiership, look worth backing with a five-point handicap advantage in France.
Back Northampton +5 to win in the Sportsbook @ 10/11
Saracens v Scarlets
Live on Sky Sports 2
Champions Saracens remain the team to beat this season and proved as much after a brilliant win in Toulon last weekend. Their French opponents had never lost at home in the Champions Cup but Sarries destroyed their unbeaten record in a 31-23 victory. It means the Premiership title holders have won their last ten games in Europe.
The Scarlets are also off to a promising start after recording a 28-11 home win over Sale. The mid-table Pro 12 side came into the competition as outsiders for qualification but have given themselves a sniff of progress after an opening win. But this trip represents arguably their hardest challenge against the defending champions.
Saracens are in blistering form and the holders are prohibitively priced to win this weekend's game. It is almost impossible to make a convincing case for the visitors and it looks like a case of predicting the margin of victory. The Scarlets have not lost by more than 11 points this season but this is a step up in class and Sarries winning by 11 to 20 points may be worth a bet.
Back Saracens to win by 11-20 points in the Sportsbook @ 2/1
Ulster v Exeter
Live on BT Sport 2
Ulster suffered major disappointment in last weekend's opener after squandering a half-time lead to lose 28-13 in Bordeaux. After being ahead for most of the match, it was a big blow for the Pro 12 leaders. If the side want to reach the last-eight for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign a home win is required against Exeter.
The Chiefs also have much to ponder after a miserable start to the competition. Rob Baxter's side were outclassed at home to Clermont after a 35-8 defeat. Exeter have also been short of form in the Premiership and the side face a test of their character after enjoying such a strong season last year. Too many sloppy errors were ruthlessly punished by their French opponents.
Both sides badly need a win to revive their European hopes and Ulster look best placed to achieve this. The hosts have won all of their home games this season and have not lost at the Kingspan Stadium since February. Exeter may struggle to contain Ulster and it is worth backing the home side to cover a six-point handicap and claim a much-needed victory.
Back Ulster -6 to win in the Sportsbook @ 10/11
Toulouse v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 2
Wasps have made an extremely impressive start to the season and look well equipped to challenge for Champions Cup glory. Their only defeat in all competitions came against Saracens and Dai Young's side could be fighting it out with them for the trophy this year. Wasps pulverised Zebre in a 12-try rout last weekend.
Toulouse have a great history in this tournament but the signs are not overly promising regarding their chances of adding to their four victories. The French side failed to hold onto a ten-point lead last week after losing 23-21 in Connacht. Their form in the Top 14 has not been convincing and they may not get out of their pool for the third consecutive year.
Wasps are a team growing in confidence all the time and a trip to Toulouse will hold no fears for them. The Premiership club have a superior record against them with three wins and a draw from their six clashes in the competition. In their current form, Wasps are fancied to strengthen their position in the group with a win by up to 12 points in France.
Back Wasps to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 13/8
Leicester v Racing 92
Live on BT Sport 2
Leicester's European campaign got off to a poor start after crashing to a 42-13 defeat at Glasgow Warriors. This heavy loss has heaped the pressure on Richard Cockerill's side and left them badly in need of an immediate response. The Tigers are unbeaten at Welford Road in the competition since losing to Ulster in January 2014.
Racing 92 have yet to play in the tournament this season after last weekend's game was postponed following the tragic death of Munster coach Anthony Foley. The French club enjoyed their best run in the competition after losing in the final to Saracens in May. Their early form this season has been indifferent though and Racing may find it difficult to replicate their achievements in the tournament.
Following their defeat in Scotland, Leicester know they cannot afford to slip up this weekend. The Tigers lost 19-16 to Racing in the semi-final last season and will have revenge on their minds. Leicester have won their last seven European games at Welford Road and with the home fans behind them can keep this run going with a narrow victory.
Back Leicester to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 85/40
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