This week’s Champions League action hasn’t even begun but one thing is already clear, beating last week for drama and pure surprise will be a hard task. Two, if not three, of last week’s ties look decided, but will be see closer games this time round? With the return legs still to come, here are the four ties attracting all the attention this week.
Bayer Leverkusen V Atletico Madrid
Neither of these sides are enjoying their most productive of league campaigns; Bayer sit in eight in the Bundesliga, seven points behind fourth-place Hoffenheim in the final Champions League qualifying position, while in Spain, Atletico sit comfortably in fourth, but are already seven points behind city neighbours Real, who have two games in hand. Last season’s beaten finalists have tremendous recent Champions League pedigree, and of course will be favourites to progress, but Bayer showed in their performances in the Group stage that their high-energy game can cause teams problems…just ask Tottenham, who were eliminated at the German side’s expense. Bayer were also eliminated by Atletico at this stage two years ago, so could revenge be a motivating factor?
Team news: For the home side, Hakan Calnaoglu is suspended and Jonathan Tah is out with a thigh injury, while the visitors have a host of key players out, including Juanfran (thigh), Diego Godin (groin) and Tiago (knee).
Return game in Madrid on Wednesday 15th March
Manchester City V Monaco
No doubt there was a sigh of relief in Manchester when City drew Monaco out of the hat, but upon closer inspection, this is an immensely difficult tie for pep Guardiola’s men. Monaco were at times sensational on their romp to the top of group E, and Leonardo Jardim’s side currently sit three points clear at the top of Ligue 1, having notched an incredible 76 goals in their 26 games to date – fully 26 more than nearest challengers PSG. No such luck for City who trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by eight points, and with a defence that has conceded 11 more than both Chelsea and Tottenham, keeping a clean sheet against the free-scoring side from the Principality could be a hard ask. The bookies have them as short odds favourites, which has attracted interest for Monaco from a lot of punters
Team news: Gabriel Jesus is a definitely ruled out for the hosts and there are further concerns over club captain Vincent Kompany as well as fellow defenders Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov. Jemerson is suspended for the visitors, while Gabriel Boschilla is out with a knee problem.
Return game in Monaco on Wednesday 15th March
Porto V Juventus
FC Porto’s home form has been imperious, with Nuno’s side unbeaten across 15 Primeira Liga and Champions League fixtures on home turf this season. At the same time, runaway Serie A leaders Juventus have lost four times away from home in the league this season, although the Old Lady did manage to win all three away games in Group H in this competition. No doubt the Italian side will be favourites to progress, but Porto are a formidable opponent in the cauldron that is the Estadio do Dragao.
Team news: For the visitors, Giorgio Chiellini is out, while the home side have no new injury concerns.
Return game in Turin on Tuesday 14th March
Sevilla V Leicester City
Claudio Ranieri’s English champions will look to put their dismal league form behind them as they continue their European odyssey at Sevilla, whose La Liga progress this term has been anything but disappointing. The odds offered on a Leicester victory here are representative of the visitors’ woes, especially away from their King Power stadium home. Yet the Foxes proved in the Group stages that domestic form can have very little impact on European performances, and this will be exactly the message Ranieri transmits to his players prior to this game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Few are expecting the away team to claim this one, but then again, nobody expected Leicester to win last season’s Premier League title either.
Team news: Islam Slimani is a doubt for the visitors with a groin problem, while the home side have Gabriel Mercado and Jorge Sampoali suspended, and at least another three players missing through injury.
Return game in Leicester on Tuesday 14th March
Betting Odds (courtesy of Pinnacle)
Bayer Leverkusen 3.440, Draw 3.210, Atletico Madrid 2.389
Manchester City 1.602, Draw 4.350, Monaco 6.030
Porto 3.740, Draw 3.220, Juventus 2.260
Sevilla 1.411, Draw 5.000, Leicester City 8.969
Paris Saint Germain’s demolition of Barcelona last week may have caught many by surprise, but such is the nature of sports betting that long-term gains are more important that any individual results, and so consistency over a number of matches is always key. As an tipster worth his salt will tell you, stick to your plan and never bend strategy as a consequence of one result. For a detailed analysis of predictions and the numbers behind the most successful sports tipsters, visit betadvisor.com, but here are some selections on this weeks’ matches.
Bayer Leverkusen V Atletico Madrid Under 2.5 = 1.65 with Bet Stars
Monaco Match odds 6.030 – Pinnacle
Porto V Juventus Both teams to score ‘yes’ – 2.20 with Stan James
Sevilla -1.5 = 2.14 with Marathon Bet
All odds correct as of 18:00 CET on 20/02/16