Simon Mail previews the fourth round of pool games in the Champions Cup including the crucial clash between Leicester and Munster...
"The Tigers have no shortage of motivation on their side after last weekend's thrashing against Munster but it is very difficult to turn around a 38-point loss within a week, regardless of their strong home record."
Bordeaux v Exeter
Live on Sky Sports 2
It has been a miserable start to the Champions Cup for Exeter after losing their first three matches to leave their qualification hopes in tatters. The Chiefs were well off the pace after being beaten 35-8 at home to Clermont. They were arguably unlucky to lose 19-18 at Ulster but their disappointing home defeat to Bordeaux has effectively crushed their European hopes midway through the pool stage.
Bordeaux came into the tournament under the radar but the French side have given themselves a decent chance of progression after two wins from their three fixtures. The Top 14 club started with a dominant 28-13 home victory over Ulster although found it hard going against domestic rivals Clermont in their away defeat. But a hard-fought win at Sandy Park has put them in contention for a last-eight spot.
Although Exeter will not be advancing from their group, pride is still at stake and Rob Baxter's side are not likely to fold easily. Bordeaux have home advantage and so much more to play for but this may not be as one-sided as some anticipate. The Chiefs lost 13-7 to them on Sunday and can keep it close again but the hosts should justify favouritism with a win by up to 12 points.
Back Bordeaux to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 17/10
Leicester v Munster
Live on BT Sport 2
It has been a tough week for Leicester after their 38-0 drubbing at the hands of Munster at Thomond Park. Richard Cockerill described it as an unacceptable performance as his side were humiliated. The Tigers are renowned for having an excellent home record at Welford Road and they will know a win is vital, after losing two of their three games, to keep in touch with Munster and Glasgow in their pool.
Munster turned on the style last weekend with their bonus-point victory ensuring they set the pace in their group. The team have only played two matches in the competition but have picked up maximum points against Glasgow and Leicester. After a number of recent disappointing seasons in Europe, the signs are Munster are threatening to reproduce the form which saw them twice crowned champions in the last decade.
The Tigers have no shortage of motivation on their side after last weekend's thrashing against Munster but it is very difficult to turn around a 38-point loss within a week, regardless of their strong home record. Of course you can expect a response from Leicester but all the momentum is with the visitors. Munster are on a six-match winning run and can extend this sequence. But the last two away victories were by a single point so backing a slender success looks the way to go.
Back Munster to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 17/10
Connacht v Wasps
Live on Sky Sports 2
Connacht remain in the running to win the group despite last weekend's 32-17 defeat to Wasps. After edging to a 23-21 home win over Toulouse, the side then breezed to a one-sided win over Zebre. The loss at the Ricoh Arena has left Connacht three points behind their opponents which underlines the significance of coming away with a win at the Sportsground to prevent the Premiership side running away with the pool.
Wasps have the ability and depth in their squad to potentially challenge for the Champions Cup this season. This was emphasised last week after Kurtley Beale's long-awaited debut saw him score a try with his first touch. Dai Young's side gained experience from their run to the semi-final last year and an unbeaten start this season has put them on course for another extended European campaign.
Connacht certainly gave Wasps a few problems in last week's clash and it will not be any easier for the Premiership side. There were only three points between the teams at half-time and there is reason to believe it could be tighter this time. But Wasps have won 11 of their 15 matches this season and can maintain this impressive record with a tight victory in Ireland.
Back Wasps to win by 1-12 points in the Sportsbook @ 13/8
Leinster v Northampton
Live on BT Sport 2
Leinster have made a promising start to the competition with two victories giving them a one-point lead at the top of their group. The Pro 12 side started with a 33-15 home win against Castres before falling to a 22-16 defeat in Montpellier. But Leinster gained control of the pool with a comprehensive 37-10 at Northampton last week.
The Saints' disappointing season suffered a new low after being dismantled in front of their fans at Franklin's Gardens. Dylan Hartley's red card obviously played a role in the defeat but Northampton were already chasing the match. The result leaves Jim Mallinder's side bottom of the pool with four points and with their hopes of qualification virtually over.
Leinster are warm favourites to complete the double over Northampton and it is hard to bet against them after the way they crushed their opponents last week. The Saints will be desperate to make amends but Leinster, with five wins from their six European clashes, should be too strong for them. The hosts are given a 17-point handicap but have the confidence and quality to achieve this at the Aviva Stadium.
Back Leinster -17 to win in the Sportsbook @ 10/11
Sale v Saracens
Live on BT Sport 2
Defending champions Saracens are showing no weaknesses in the competition with three successive victories giving them total control in their pool. The Men in Black pulled off a brilliant victory in Toulon to give them the perfect start before easing to comfortable wins over the Scarlets and Sale last week. Mark McCall's side have won 12 Champions Cup games in a row.
It is a tough time for Sale with Steve Diamond's side bereft of confidence after five consecutive defeats in all competitions. The Sharks are also propping up their pool after losing all three matches. The Premiership strugglers suffered a 50-3 thrashing at Sarries in their last game and it will take a dramatic turnaround to avenge this result in such a short space of time.
Saracens are overwhelming favourites for this clash and it is easy to see why considering the respective teams' form. Sale are at a low ebb while the visitors are showing no signs of letting their exceptionally high standards slide. Sarries won 28-13 at Sale last month in the league and a similar scoreline could be on the cards so backing an 11-20 point victory may provide a spot of value.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
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