Here we go. The final round (of group play). No better way to get in the Christmas spirit than mailtiming it for one week watching futbol and then taking the entire next week off and going to the Bahamas (translated: let's win some money so I can drink a million Kaliks).
Here are the Tuesday games this week, and as always I'm giving you winners on all of them. Keep in mind, this is the last round and some teams have already clinched or been eliminated:
Anderlecht @ Borussia Dortmund
Anderlecht are eliminated with only 5 points through the first 5 matches. Dortmund have 12, and have a narrow lead on Arsenal (who have 10 and get to stomp the shit out of Galatasaray today). In games like these, when one team is a lot better, the only thing that scares me is a lack of motivation. Well how's this for motivation, from manager Jurgen Klopp: "This is also about getting a boost for our upcoming Bundesliga matches – this game fits nicely into our schedule and the opposition will pose a real challenge." Whatever. You can NOT pick Anderlecht here.
Pick: Dortmund -1.5 (-150)
Basel @ Liverpool
Unless you think Lodogorets Razgrad is taking 3 points from the Real Madrid B-team, this Basel-Liverpool match is going to determine 2nd place in Group B. Liverpool are mid-table in the EPL, whereas Basel are decidedly in first place in the Swiss Super League. That doesn't tell us a whole lot, but Basel (at least based on results, because I admittedly have not watched a whole lot of them) seem to be a much better team at home. They are on the road today, and that's good enough for me.
Pick: Liverpool to win -140
Ludogorets @ Real Madrid
Cristian Bale cannot finish any lower than first place. It seems like that means time off (for either injury or suspension) for the following: James, Luca Modric, Sergio Ramos, Sami Khedira. It's tough to know if that will also mean a day of rest for Ronaldo, Bale, Chicharito, Isco, or Tony Kroos. Christ, this team is stacked. Carlo Ancelotti, your thoughts? "I will decide my lineup in the morning. If players are not in good condition, they won't play." Oh, well what the fuck does that even mean? What did it for me was the Real Madrid form guide from the past 5 matches across all competition: WWWWW (it looks the same for their last 5 Champions League matches). I am, however, taking an extra half-goal - just in case.
Pick: Real Madrid -2 (-210)
Arsenal @ Galatasaray
Unless I am grossly misunderstanding the Champions League format, Arsenal needs to win this match to have any shot of coming in first in Group D. The Gunners and Dortmund are going to be dealt two of the three teams from the (currently tight-knit) trio of Bayer/Monaco/Zenit. There isn't a ton of difference, as they're all great teams, so it's tough to know how much urgency Arsenal will have today. But what I can tell you is Galatasaray have not won a match in the Champions League this year (-12 goal differential), and their best result was a 1-1 draw against 3rd place Anderlecht. This one is easy - grab the draw protection and this is my favorite bet so far.
Pick; Arsenal pick'em (-125)
Malmo @ Olympiakos
Malmo is out. Olympiakos is in if (1) they win (2) Juventus loses to Atletico Madrid (3) they make up a goal differential of eight. Probably not going to happen, but you know those rowdy Greeks are going to bring it. Old Limpy Tacos are 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, so I do expect them to win. However, I don't think I like the 1.5 goal line. So for some more juice, both teams have conceded 11 goals through 5 games. Malmo have scored 2 and Olympiacos have scored 6.
Pick: Parlay Olympiakos to win (-270) with Over 1.5 total goals (-400) for a line of -140
Zenit @ AS Monaco
One of the matches that should help decide who gets to play Arsenal or Dortmund. Monaco have scored two goals (both in 1-0 wins), and have drawn two matches 0-0. Zenit have scored 4 and given up 4. Normally in these situations we just bet on Hulk. Factor in that Ricardo Carvalho is out (suspension) and my fear of Dimitar Berbatov subsided when I realized it isn't 2010, and there's no reason to change that.
Pick: Zenit pick'em (Even)
Prediction: Dimitar Berbatov scores and the game ends 1-0 Monaco
Bayer Leverkusen @ Benfica
If you're Bayer, would you rather play Dortmund of Arsenal? Arsenal? Then you better win this game and get all three points.
Pick: Bayer pick'em (-190)
Atletico Madrid @ Juventus
Both of these teams are likely advancing, and Diego Forlan is getting the 1st seed barring something outrageous. (Wait, what? Diego Forlan hasn't played for Atletico Madrid since 2011? WHAT?) Bovada has this pick'em (so it's protected against a draw) as -210 for Juve and +160 for Atleti. I'll use the same logic here as I did for Olympiakos. They probably can't move up, but they are going to have a rowdy crowd and a talented team on the pitch.
Pick: Juventus pick'em -210
You might notice there aren't any bets with any huge payouts on the ticket today. If you're looking for a parlay, move the pickems to winners and tack on half a goal where applicable (a draw/push doesn't do anything for you in a parlay). The 9-line parlay pays +27300.