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European Rugby Champions Cup: Holders Saracens to overpower Clermont

Maro Itoje suffered a fractured jaw during Saracens' defeat at Harlequins
Maro Itoje suffered a fractured jaw during Saracens' defeat at Harlequins
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The Champions Cup resumes this weekend and Simon Mail previews a selection of the key games in Europe...

"Saracens will know the significance of stopping the rot otherwise another defeat will be considered a full-blown crisis. The Men in Black rarely lose at Allianz Park and are backed to grind out a tight home win over Clermont."

Toulon v Bath
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Sky Sports Action

Bath face a huge challenge this weekend as the Champions Cup resumes with the third round of matches. The Premiership side will have to be at their best to pull off a victory in France against the three-time European champions. Both sides have put themselves in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stage after winning their opening two games in the competition.

Toulon have had to scrape to one-point wins, in their first two matches, but the French side could release the shackles this weekend. In their last Top 14 game, Toulon eased past fourth-placed Lyon 39-11 and the visitors could be facing them at a bad time. Bath may struggle to hold out against the hosts and Toulon are fancied to pull away and cover a ten-point handicap.

Recommended Bet
Back Toulon -10 to win @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)


Northampton v Ospreys
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Action

Northampton come into this match in crisis mode after a run of five consecutive defeats in all competitions. The Saints were beaten late on by Newcastle last week and Jim Mallinder's side are bottom of their Champions Cup pool after losing their first two games. The Ospreys also lost both of their matches with the Welsh side also in dismal form in the Pro14 after defeats in eight of their ten games.

Both of these teams are desperate for a positive result to try to turn their season around. Already, these sides look out of contention for progress in Europe and this match is primarily about ending their miserable form and building some momentum. Northampton captain Dylan Hartley called for the team to return to the basics after their last defeat and the under-fire hosts could make a fast start and cover a five-point first-half handicap.

Recommended Bet
Back Northampton -5 in the first-half handicap @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)


Munster v Leicester
Saturday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2

Pool Four already looks like being the most competitive group of the competition with Munster and Leicester tied on six points and only one clear of Racing 92. The two group leaders face each other this weekend at Thomond Park and it already has major significance in such a tight pool. Munster opened with a 17-17 draw in Castres before defeating Racing 14-7 at home. Leicester were narrowly beaten in Racing before easing past Castres 54-29.

Munster have won all of their home games this season and are a very difficult team to beat especially in front of their fans. The Tigers are not great travellers and will find it hard to come away with more than a losing bonus point. Munster ground out a tight victory over Racing in the tournament and may have to do the same against Leicester with a win by no more than 12 points offering potential value.

Recommended Bet
Back Munster to win by 1-12 points @ 8/5 (Sportsbook)


Harlequins v Ulster
Sunday, 13:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Harlequins are facing the prospect of an early exit from the competition after losing their first two games against Wasps and La Rochelle. The Premiership side will need to produce a remarkable run to give themselves any chance of reaching the quarter-finals. Ulster battled to an opening win over Wasps but had no answer in France as they were blown away by their hosts.

Quins have produced memorable wins this season including their dramatic late victory over Saracens last weekend but the side have been dogged by inconsistency. Ulster have attacking threats across their backline, including exciting Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale, which can cause the hosts problems and keep them in touch. The visitors look worth backing with a four-point handicap advantage.

Recommended Bet
Back Ulster +4.5 to win @ 20/23 (Sportsbook)


La Rochelle v Wasps
Sunday, 13:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Wasps lost their opening European game in Ulster but responded with a dominant 41-10 win over Harlequins. The Premiership side face a daunting challenge this weekend against newcomers La Rochelle with the French side taking the competition by storm. A 34-27 victory at Quins was followed by a comfortable 41-17 victory over Ulster to give them a maximum ten-point haul from their first two games.

La Rochelle's form has been no fluke with the team currently leading the way in the Top 14 with nine wins from their opening 12 games. Wasps have rediscovered their own form with the last-gasp victory over Leicester making it four wins in a row. But this represents a step up in challenge for Dai Young's side and La Rochelle are taken to see off their opponents with a win by up to 12 points.

Recommended Bet
Back La Rochelle to win by 1-12 points @ 17/10 (Sportsbook)


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

It is not often these days you find Saracens are in a slump but the European champions come into this weekend's game under pressure after losing their last five games in all competitions. Harlequins stunned them with a late 20-19 win in the Premiership on Sunday and Sarries are without Maro Itoje after the England forward underwent surgery on a fractured jaw. At least their trophy defence is going smoothly after winning their first two games against the Ospreys and Northampton.

Clermont are also in strong shape in this competition after starting their campaign with back-to-back wins. The Top 14 champions are struggling domestically though languishing down in eighth position. Saracens will know the significance of stopping the rot otherwise another defeat will be considered a full-blown crisis. The Men in Black rarely lose at Allianz Park and are backed to grind out a tight home win over Clermont.

Recommended Bet
Back Saracens to win by 1-12 points @ 17/10 (Sportsbook)


Exeter v Leinster
Sunday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 2

Arguably the game of the weekend is the final match on Sunday with early pacesetters Leinster travelling to Exeter. The Chiefs have also won both matches in the competition and are on an exceptional run which has taken the Premiership champions eight points clear in their title defence. Leinster have won their last eight games in all competitions and head to Exeter in excellent shape.

The Chiefs are also on a superb winning run of their own after claiming nine victories in a row. Rob Baxter's side have also made significant progress in Europe this year after beating Glasgow and an outstanding 27-24 win at Montpellier. This should be a high-quality contest between two teams in excellent form. But home advantage at Sandy Park could be crucial and Exeter can edge this match with a narrow win.

Recommended Bet
Back Exeter to win by 1-12 points @ 7/4 (Sportsbook)

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Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 53pts
Returned: 37.14pts
P/L: -15.86pts

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