The Champions League playoffs begin on Tuesday and there are some cracking ties to look forward to. Ajax survived a scare last week when they beat PAOK 5-4 on aggregate and now they head to Cyprus to take on Apoel Nicosia, who did well to scrape past Qarabag. Ajax went to the Champions League semi-finals last season and they are the heavy favourites to win this game. They have been shaky at the back in recent weeks and both teams to score looks interesting at 4/5 with Bet365. The same bet might appeal when Russian outfit Krasnodar take on Olympiakos in Greece on Wednesday. Krasnodar beat Porto 3-2 last time out, while Olympiakos swept aside Istanbul Buyuksehir, so we should be in for an entertaining clash. Bet365 has even money on both teams to score.
The third Test gets underway at Headingley on Thursday and Joe Root’s men will be desperate for a morale-boosting victory. They were crushed in the first Test at Edgbaston and they are currently battling the rain at Lord’s in the second Test, but they need a win if they are to regain the Ashes. The weather looks good this week, so the third Test should yield a winner. Rory Burns has been by far and away England’s best player so far and a bet on him being the top England batsman looks like a good shout.
Runaway Super League leaders St Helens are the clear favourites to topple Warrington in the Challenge Cup final on Saturday. Saints picked up a 30-12 victory over Warrington a couple of weeks ago and that should give them plenty of confidence ahead of this clash. Warrington have a horrendous record in finals and they are in poor form. Defeat to Wigan at the weekend was their third in a row, and they have won just once in their last five matches. St Helens have looked invincible this season, so Saints -8 looks appealing at 21/20 with Unibet.
The World Cup takes place next month and the leading contenders will play a number of warm-up matches against one another in the coming weeks. England slumped to a 13-6 defeat to Wales at the weekend, and now they host Ireland at Twickenham. The Irish have not travelled well recently, and they suffered a chastening defeat last time they played at Twickenham. Yet odds of 9/5 on the away team look tempting here, as the Irish group is packed full of world-class players and they are desperately battling for a place in the final 31-man squad.
Aston Villa host Everton in the Friday night game and it promises to be an intriguing contest. Dean Smith’s men have lost both games thus far and they will be desperate to pick up their first points of the season. Everton played out a dull 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace in their first game of the season, and then they scraped a 1-0 win over Watford on Saturday. The draw looks attractive here at 12/5 with Bet365. Man Utd should crush Crystal Palace on Saturday, and giving them a -1 handicap appeals, while you would expect Wolves to make short work of Burnley and 7/8 looks like a great price on Nuno Espirito Santo’s men. Liverpool v Arsenal could well descend into a goal fest. Man City should return to winning ways against Bournemouth on Saturday, and Spurs should destroy Newcastle.