The latest round of the Champions League qualification tournament takes place this week and Hungarian champions Ferencvaros can earn a draw in Azerbaijan.
Checking out the top sportsbook sites (see our online sportsbook reviews here) it’s clear that the bookmakers are favoring the home win. Qarabag are rated as +110 favorites to beat the visitors, while Ferancvaros are priced at +250 and higher and the draw is available at odds between +220 and +235.
Want to know more about how the UCL qualifying rounds work? Well get your calculators out because this is going to get complicated! For this Third Round, twenty clubs are split into two Paths: the Champions Path and the League Path. Six winners from the first Path will advance to the Champions Path play-offs, where they will be joined by two teams that received byes to that stage, while four teams from the League Path will advance to the League Path play-offs.
If that seems a little complicated, well, that’s a reasonable reaction. In the days before the Champions League, European qualification was a relatively simple matter. Teams were eligible for the European Cup if they won their national league. But in modern European soccer, every team in Europe wants to play in the Champions League yet the big clubs want to maximise the number of games that they play against other big revenue generating clubs. The result is this hard to follow qualification procedure.
Fortunately, all you need to know for wagering purposes is that a team’s chances of playing in the Champions League Group stage will be greatly increased if they can come through this Third Round, while the losers will miss out.
They won the Hungarian championship by an outstanding 12 points last year, but Ferencvaros will face a difficult test on Wednesday when they travel to the east to face the champions of Azerbaijan, Qarabag.
To get here, both teams have certainly had to fight hard. Ferencvaros defeated Slovan Bratislava and Tobol, while Qarabag, the nine-time Azerbaijan League champion, defeated FC Zurich and Lech Poznan. The win over Zurich was especially impressive because they closely matched the Swiss team over both legs and overcame their disappointment at having to go to extra time to win the game in Switzerland.
Qarabag also has some relevant European experience, having participated in the 2017–18 UCL Group stage and placing second in their section in the Europa League last season, and they will be motivated to progress once more. However, Ferencvaros are a formidable team with a proud European record. The Hungarian side began their league campaign with a 1-0 win at the weekend and I think they look good value to earn a draw from this trip to Azerbaijan.
Dinamo Kiev have been obliged to play their home games in Lodz, Poland due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and they will have a difficult opponent in Austrian club Sturm Graz in this match.
According to the new FIFA regulations, a number of international players have been able to leave Ukraine, which means that Mircea Lucescu, the head coach, has been able to maintain the core of his first team. Still, even though Kiev is a team with a long history in Europe, they have only advanced to the Group Stages of the Champions League twice since 2000, and this looks like a tough fixture.
Sturm Graz made a solid start to the 2022–23 season when they defeated the defending champions 2-1 and are currently in first place of the Austrian Bundesliga as they aim to overhaul the reigning champions Red Bull Salzburg in 2022-23. Although Lucescu’s squad will be keen to make an impact, Sturm Graz appear undervalued in the market given that this game will essentially be played at a neutral location.
Red Star Belgrade are the strong favorites here, although this will be their first Champions League game of the new season. In that sense, Pyunik, the defending champions of the Armenian league, have an advantage as they have already advanced through two qualifying rounds to reach this point. Pyunik has gained some momentum with those victories over CFR Cluj and Dudelange, but this will be harder.
Since being defeated by Rangers in their Europa League matchup last March, the Serbian champions have not tasted defeat in any competitive match. Additionally, they have made a fantastic start in their domestic league, winning four of the first four games and scoring 17 goals. The visitors might gain from playing without any pressure, but there is simply too much of a class divide to close and the home team will surely win this, though at odds of -540 few bettors will want to get involved.
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