Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Northampton Saints v Racing Metro 92 | Friday 18 December | Franklin Gardens | 21:45
After receiving a 33 point pasting in Paris last Friday evening, Northampton will be out for revenge when they meet Racing in the return leg this Friday. The Saints desperately need this win - not only to save face but to also keep their qualification hopes for the next round alive. They'll have their work cut out for them, though, as they are facing a Racing side who have been inspired by new signing, Daniel Carter.
To Win Match (80 Mins)
*Hadicaps to be added on release.
After an extremely positive start to their campaign - they had won both their games prior to last week's fixture - Northampton were brought back down to earth last weekend. The loss has left them in quite a perilous position. They occupy second spot on the log but if Metro manage to do the double over them, then the Saints will have to hope that they get through to the next round by way of finishing as one of the top runners-up.
So how do Northampton turn things around? It's not that hard really, all they have to do is stop the greatest flyhalf of the modern era, Daniel Carter. As you may have realised, there was a large dash of sarcasm to that last statement. The All Black ten has enjoyed one of his best season's this calendar year.
The men facing the unenviable task of stopping the former Canterbury Crusaders pivot will be Courtney Lawes and Teimana Harrison. The two loosies aren't the quickest around the pitch, though, so they are going to need their colleagues in the centres to lend them a helping hand. Another area that Northampton will have to work on, so as to negate the threat posed by Carter, is their discipline. Any penalty inside their own half - or even 5 or 6 yards inside the opposition half - will undoubtedly end up with three points being conceded.
While they're going to need to keep Carter quiet, they are also going to need more from their own star, George North. The giant winger hasn't been at his best since signing his contract renewal last month. However, if North can rediscover his form from earlier this year then Northampton may just be in with a sniff of turning their European campaign around.
He may have only been at the French club for just over a month now, but Daniel Carter has already become the talismanic force Racing were crying out for. The new recruit controlled proceedings last week with that educated boot of his. It wasn't only his kicking display that would have sent Metro fans scrambling to book tickets for the quarter-finals, however. The renewal of his partnership with former All Black flyer, Joe Rokocoko, would have left the Metro faithful salivating.
Carter and Rokococko aren't the only attacking threats within the Metro ranks. Argentine winger Juan Imhoff and French fullback, Brice Dulin, both managed to get their names on the scoreboard last weekend. With Dulin, Imhoff and Rokocoko completing an impressive back three, Northampton pivot, Steven Myler - I suspect he'll come in for JJ Hanrahan after the latter failed to impress last week - is going to have to ensure any clearance kicks travels well into the crowd.
One clash that really fascinates me is the one between Victor Matfield and Francois van der Merve. The younger of the two South Africans definitely won the battle last weekend, but we all know how wily a character Matfield is. The veteran will be looking to get one over his junior at line-out time this week but in order to do so, he's going to need the rest of his pack to step up.
Verdict: Racing 11/10
My money is on Dan Carter leading his team to victory for the second consecutive week. Back the French club to come away from Franklin Gardens with a vital win at 11/10.
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