The third qualifying round of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League concludes this week with some intriguing ties to watch. One of the most evenly balanced fixtures is between Sheriff of Moldova and Qarabag of Azerbaijan. The first leg ended 0-0 at the Azərsun Arena in Baku and Sheriff will be hoping to make home advantage count in the second leg.
Sheriff have never reached the group stages of the Champions League and it would be a big achievement for them to make the playoff stage of the competition. Twice before they have reached the playoff round but never progressed any further. Qarabag have never gone any further than the third qualifying round of the Champions League so a win would be an historic moment for them.
Having claimed a 0-0 draw in the away leg of this tie, the Moldovan’s will be confident of getting the job done in the second leg. While Sheriff are by no means a well-known European team, they have been making progress in recent years, contesting the group stages of the Europa League three times. They have won 3, drawn 3 and lost 3 of their last 9 Champions League games. At home Sheriff are unbeaten in their last 4 Champions League matches, mainly thanks to a strong defence which kept a clean sheet in all 4 matches. There were 2 wins and 2 draws, both draws ending 0-0.
Qarabag have reached the group stages of the Europa League in each of the last 3 seasons but are yet to make the playoff round of the Champions League. In the Champions League, they are unbeaten in their last 8 games, which is why they will be confident this tie is by no means over after the first leg. They have kept a clean sheet in 5 of those 8 Champions League games, so it didn’t come as a shock to see the first leg end 0-0. Away from home Qarabag have lost 2 of the last 7, with 3 wins and 2 draws. They are unbeaten in their last 3 Champions League games on the road.
Sheriff have no injury or suspension concerns ahead of this match. Croatian Zvonimir Mikulic will start in goal and there are likely to be 4 or 5 Moldovan players in the starting XI, with a good range of nationalities in the team. Qarabag also have a full fit squad to choose from for this game and are likely to start with Dino Ndlovu in attack, who is their top scorer, plus Mahir Madatov providing additional support.
Top Betting Tips
Given the way both teams have approached recent Champions League qualifying games, there are unlikely to be many goals in this match. Sheriff have kept a clean sheet in their last 4 at home and Qarabag in their last 2 away from home. Under 2.5 goals is 1/2 with Ladbrokes. With so much on the line, neither team are going to be willing to open and change their style of play. Sheriff will be aware they cannot afford to concede an away goal, while Qarabag will know if they fall a goal behind it will be difficult to get back into the match. The draw is on offer at 2/1 with William Hill but the better bet is the 0-0 final score after 90 minutes which is 6/1 with Ladbrokes.