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European weekend preview: Tough road trips for English trio

European Champions Cup action returns this weekend and three Premiership sides face tricky trips on the road.

All the action starts on Friday night, with Premiership champions Leicester Tigers making the journey across the Channel to face Clermont.

Tigers must show their claws

WhatClermont v Leicester
WhereParc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
When20:00, Friday 13th January 2023
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsClermont 4/9, Leicester 15/8

After a heavy defeat at Newcastle Falcons last week, Leicester interim head coach Richard Wigglesworth will be looking for a response from his side.

Leicester’s season has been disrupted heavily by the loss of head coach Steve Borthwick to the England job, while defence coach Kevin Sinfield also joined up with the national side.

Wigglesworth has been tasked with trying to steady the ship but a 45-26 defeat to Newcastle will have been a concerning result for the Tigers.

Leicester do have some serious quality in their ranks, with the likes of Anthony Watson and Freddie Steward in their backline. The England duo might well need to come up with some moments of brilliance to make sure the Tigers stay in the contest.

A trip to Clermont won't be easy and Leicester will have to produce one of their performances of the season to come away from France with victory.

Clermont have been the nearly men when it comes to this competition, having finished runners up on three occasions in their history.

The Top 14 outfit are looking for another crack at the title and are deserved 4/9 favourites to win on home soil in Game Betting 3-Way on Friday night.

Chiefs look to grab Bulls by the horns

WhatBulls v Exeter Chiefs
WhereLoftus Versfeld, Pretoria
When20:00, Saturday 14th January 2023
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsBulls 8/15, Exeter Chiefs 8/5

With two wins from two, Exeter Chiefs have made a perfect start to their Champions Cup campaign as they prepare to travel to the Bulls on Saturday.

The Chiefs and Bulls have already met in the Champions Cup back in December, with Exeter running out 44-14 winners at Sandy Park.

Luke Cowan-Dickie managed to bag himself an impressive hat-trick in that encounter, which is no mean feat for the 29-year-old hooker.

Exeter will have to do without the man from Truro for the weekend as Cowan-Dickie is currently sidelined with an ankle injury and is set to miss at least the start of the Six Nations.

Compared to the win at Sandy Park, down in Pretoria the Bulls will be a different prospect but Exeter will still be looking to attack the hosts' weaknesses they showed on their trip to England.

This is likely to be a much tighter encounter than the one at Sandy Park last month but Rob Baxter's Chiefs look to be good value at 8/5 to claim the victory in Game Betting 3-Way down in South Africa.

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Saracens can put down marker

WhatSaracens v Lyon
WhereStoneX Stadium, London
When20:00, Saturday 14th January 2023
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsSaracens 1/18, Lyon 15/2

After battling out a 28-20 win on the road last month, Saracens will be looking to complete a double of Lyon this weekend.

Sarries were pushed all the way in the encounter in Lyon, with England captain Owen Farrell scoring two penalties and two conversions that day.

Saracens will have to do without the fly-half this weekend after he was given a four-week suspension for a dangerous tackle against Gloucester last time out.

Even with Farrell out on the sidelines before returning to action most likely for England against Scotland in the Calcutta Cup on 4th February, Saracens should have enough quality to win against Lyon on Saturday.

Lyon have been solid in the Top 14 this season but they might well struggle on their trip to the StoneX Stadium, which is why they are available at 15/2 to cause a shock in north London.

Racing eyeing Quins revenge

WhatRacing Metro v Harlequins
WhereParis La Defense Arena, Paris
When15:15, Sunday 15th January 2023
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsRacing Metro 2/9, Harlequins 10/3

After suffering a 14-10 defeat against Quins at the Twickenham Stoop in December, Racing Metro will be eyeing revenge when they welcome the Premiership side to Paris on Sunday.

Racing have struggled on the road in the past but at the Paris La Defense Arena they will be a completely different proposition for Quins.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell will be looking to pull the strings with a powerful pack ahead of him and prolific finishers behind him.

The likes of Gael Fickou, Juan Imhoff and Christian Wade can all strike from anywhere on the pitch and get the home crowd off their seats.

It's a shame England fly-half Marcus Smith is unavailable with an ankle injury, as head-to-head encounters between himself and Russell tend to throw up exciting moments from two of the game's most attacking 10s.

Harlequins do still have their own attacking threats but they will require a strong defensive performance and accurate set-piece if they are to come away from the French capital with the victory this weekend.

This is a game that could get away from Quins if Russell and the formidable Racing pack get some momentum going.

The pressure is on Racing to land a first win in the competition or face a real uphill battle in their bid to reach the knockout stages of the Champions Cup once again.

Racing are 10/11 to win with a -10 handicap in Game Betting 3-Way as they look to land that first victory of the Champions Cup this season.

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