Predicting All Four Champions League Quarter-Finals First Legs
Sevilla vs Bayern Munich
While most of us in the sporting community had pencilled Manchester United in to reach the quarter-finals, potentially setting up a rematch of the epic 1999 Champions League final between the Red Devils and Bayern, Sevilla had other ideas as they stole a monumental victory at Old Trafford last month.
Sevilla played their hand perfectly. After drawing their first leg fixture with United, they were given the opportunity to share possession with the home side in Manchester, and when the score remained unchanged after 70 minutes, Wissam Ben Yedder was introduced with immediate and cataclysmic effect - scoring twice within 6 minutes of entering the pitch to send the Spaniards into the quarter-finals.
Their reward in the draw was to host Bayern Munich, a side that had notched up yet another huge Champions League aggregate win in the Round of 16. While their 8-1 overall win isn't quite as impressive as their 12-1 win over Sporting Lisbon, nor their 10-2 victory over Arsenal, it is clear that the Germans show no mercy when entering as favourites, and Besiktas learnt that the hard way.
Unsurprisingly, Bayern will also enter this match as the clear favourite, although they will likely be aware that their last four Champions League exits have come at the hands of Spanish opponents (Real Madrid x2, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid). Sevilla also hold an imperious record against German sides in European club competition (12 wins, 5 draws and just 3 losses).
Although one simply needs to look at the pedigree of both clubs to understand one of the reasons for Munich's favouritism. This will be Sevilla's first ever appearance in the Champions League quarter-finals, whereas Bayern will be playing in the final eight for the seventeenth time, a competition record. Their experience, combined with the fact that they play at home in the second leg of this tie simply leaves us fairly certain they will advance to the semi-finals.
To consider the possible outcome of this match, we must note that odds on this game are for the first leg only. Teams playing away are never unhappy with a draw in the opening leg, knowing that they will have a great chance of winning the tie at home. Although this is Bayern Munich, and they won't hold anything back in their pursuit of a win in Spain. We think Bayern will win both legs, and the good news is that they are at incredibly generous odds to win the first match.Go for Bayern Munich (-181)
Juventus vs Real Madrid
Juventus found themselves in all sorts of trouble against Tottenham in their Round of 16 tie, which ebbed and flowed as only classic Champions League matches can. Up 2-0 in the first leg at home, a usually rock-solid Juve shipped two goals to enter Wembley at 2-2, which turned into a 3-2 deficit at half-time of the second leg. But last year's finalists managed to turn it around as only champion teams can, and will face the might of Real Madrid in this epic tie.
Madrid too looked sub-par at home against PSG before turning it on late, eventually cruising to an aggregate win over one of the tournament favourites. If they win this tie they will increase their record-breaking run of semi-final appearances to eight - potentially a record that will never be surpassed.
But despite their favouritism Zinedine Zidane will not be overly happy at drawing the Old Lady, despite his side being relatively injury free and in good form. As Tottenham found out in their Round of 16 clash, teams with pedigree and experience can prove to be the most difficult opponents in the Champions League, and although the Italians capitulated in last year's final, there is a sense that this time around they will be prepared.
Juventus are undefeated in their last ten games across all competitions, while Real Madrid have lost just once in the same number of preceding fixtures. The key though is that Juventus have a notable list of absentees, namely Miralem Pjanic and Mehdi Benatia who are suspended, as well as Mario Mandzukic and Alex Sandro who aren't likely to be fit for this match. It's going to be a test of depth for the Italian champions.
In spite of these absentees, you couldn't possibly be certain that Real Madrid will take a win back to the Bernabeu. Juventus are currently on a 27-game unbeaten run in European competition at home, a streak that dates back to April 2013.
Juventus start at +201, while the draw is at +227 and Real Madrid start at +137. Considering the Italians failed to hold out Tottenham in their previous tie, we're fairly certain Madrid will score, while we also think the home side will be good for at least one goal themselves. When the dust settles, we think Real can come out on top in this match.Go for Real Madrid (+137)
Barcelona vs AS Roma
Barcelona have almost been flying under the radar throughout this season's Champions League campaign. Teams such as Manchester City, PSG and Real Madrid have all held the tag of 'tournament favourites' throughout the campaign, and after a group stage in which they didn't ever really get out of first gear it wasn't surprising to see Barcelona third or fourth on that list.
But now Barcelona are finally recognised as a genuine threat. They were clinical against Chelsea in the Round of 16, and remain undefeated in La Liga. They were 2-0 down away to Sevilla in the league in the 87th minute of their weekend fixture, yet still managed to steal a 2-2 draw. You simply cannot write this team off at any stage of any match, and the top online sportsbooks have responded by instilling the Spaniards as favourites.
Roma were forced to work exceptionally hard against Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in their Round of 16 clash, and scraped through by the barest of margins. While they certainly have a number of top players and a decent Champions League pedigree, they are simply no match for the five-time winners, and their first match at the Nou Camp must be seen as an exercise in damage control if they are to have any chance of winning this tie.
The last time these teams met was in November 2015 - Barcelona managed a 6-1 win to hand Roma just their third-ever defeat by five or more goals in Europe. Barcelona have also gone undefeated at home since the start of the 2013-14 season, winning 23 of their 25 games since and outscoring their opponents 77-12. All signs point to a home victory here.
Barcelona unsurprisingly start at -496. The only other conceivable result is the draw, which is priced at +576 while AS Roma are long-shots at +1100. Considering Roma allowed Shakhtar Donetsk to score twice in the first leg of their last tie, we are sure Barcelona will equal or better this and we could be looking at a 3-0 or even 4-0 result.
If you aren't a fan of such short odds, you could look at placing a wager on Lionel Messi to score at any time - priced at -154. Also, if you believe Barcelona can win and achieve a clean sheet, you will get a very generous -109 for Barcelona only in the 'Which teams will score?' market.Lionel Messi to Score Anytime (-154)
Liverpool vs Manchester City
It is hard to believe that after having five teams in the Round of 16, there will only be one English Premier League team left in the Champions League after this tie is settled. But we wouldn't have it any other way - this is going to be an absolutely epic matchup between the two best attacking sides in English football.
Both sides commenced their Round of 16 ties with emphatic away-from-home victories - Manchester City travelled to Switzerland and trounced FC Basel 4-0, while Liverpool scored five against FC Porto in Portugal. Liverpool hold the honour of being this season's highest scorers in the Champions League, and the two meetings between these clubs domestically this season have produced 12 goals. Will this tie follow the same formula?
Manchester City are the stronger side on paper, and therefore enter this match as favourites, although Liverpool have not lost a Champions League fixture at Anfield in their last 14 European matches (9 wins, 5 draws). Jurgen Klopp also has a superior record over Pep Guardiola, and is the only manager to have won five matches against the Spanish coach.
We're expecting goals, so it's worthwhile pointing out the leading contenders. Sergio Aguero has scored in all four of his side's away appearances in the Champions League this season, and will be a strong chance of making it five assuming he recovers from a minor knee complaint. Leroy Sane is another threat for City having scored three goals against Liverpool already this season.
For Liverpool, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah are the stand out performers. Firmino has been involved in ten goals so far in the competition (7 goals, 3 assists), which is second only to Cristiano Ronaldo, while Salah has six goals and one assist to his name. The Egyptian is also in the middle of a record-breaking season for Liverpool, with 29 league goals to his name from 32 starts.
Defensively, there's no doubting that Manchester City are the stronger of the two sides. While John Stones and Fabian Delph are 'questionable', the reality is City have such incredible depth that this won't be too much of an issue. Liverpool on the other hand have lost Joel Matip for the season, and are likely to start Dejan Lovren and the inexperienced Trent Alexander-Arnold in the back four.
This match is very tough to pick. City are the best side in England and start at +133 despite playing away from home. Liverpool enter the match as +183 outsiders, while the draw is on offer at +255.
It's going to be a huge tie, and we think Liverpool can win the first leg narrowly to set up a huge return fixture.Go for Liverpool (+183)
Category : SoccerMore articles...