The Champions League reaches a crucial stage as teams look to book their place in the quarter-finals. Porto are odds-on to qualify, although Swiss outfit Basel are well known for their surprises in Europe. Roberto Di Matteo’s Schalke travel to the Santiago Bernabeu to fight a losing battle against Real Madrid who have a two goal advantage, while Bayern Munich will be looking to capitalise on their home patch when they welcome Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk to the Allianz Arena. After clinching their first piece of silverware last weekend by lifting the Capital One Cup, Chelsea will once again have their eyes on ‘the holy grail’ but will have to overcome a star-studded PSG. The Blues will always be favourites at the Bridge and with their away goal, the French outfit will need to take the game to them.
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Porto certainly have the edge over Basel after clinching a late equaliser in the first leg to dent Swiss hopes of a maiden Champions League quarter-final appearance. Even though Porto are considered the big favourites here, Basel are a pretty decent team and they showed it throughout the group stage. Porto, however, have been playing with confidence since the start of the season and are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions with six wins. Porto, two-time winners of the competition, are one of three teams still unbeaten in this season’s Champions League alongside Chelsea and Real Madrid. They will be relying on Jackson Martinez, the Portuguese outfit’s prized asset, to grab the goals as the Colombian striker has scored a remarkable 24 time in 31 games in all competitions so far this season. These are two upwardly mobile teams who have made a habit of defying resources over the past few seasons and offered big surprises. It makes this very hard to predict, although Porto's higher level of quality should just be enough.
Real Madrid 1/5
Real Madrid may have been in pink, but their 2-0 win at Schalke was far from pretty. Roberto Di Matteo’s team proved much tougher opposition than last year, when they were thrashed 6-1 at the same stage by the same opponents. Carlo Ancelotti's side have now won ten consecutive games in Europe - a run which stretches from last season's semi-final stage. They’ve been dominant at home in La Liga with ten victories from twelve matches having found the net on 36 occasions and conceding just eight times. Cristiano Ronaldo has been a force on the European scene, scoring a total of six goals in the competition thus far. The Portuguese forward has been a menace to Schalke having scored a brace in each leg last season, which meant his goal in the first leg was his fifth against the Germans in three games. It’s almost impossible to think that Schalke are going to eliminate Real Madrid. Los Blancos won the Champions League last year and they will be determined to do everything in order to win it again. The holders have a plethora of weapons in the attack and should annihilate the Germans from start to finish. Real Madrid to win Half-Time/Full-Time looks a good bet at 6/10.
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Bayern Munich 2/11
Bayern were held to a goalless draw with Shakhtar last time out and will now have to welcome the Ukrainian side to the Allianz Arena to finish off the tie and reach the last eight of the tournament. The Bavarians have always been rather dominant in front of their own fans and will surely fancy their chances at overcoming such a result from the first leg. Shakhtar know a well-timed away goal could blow this fixture wide open, but Bayern are surely the overwhelming favourites to progress to the quarter finals. Arjen Robben has been Mr. Consistent for the Bavarian giants all season long, but Shakhtar will need to be weary of other talents like Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, considering the pressure on both to turn the corner and make good on their potential. Mircea Lucescu has done well to get his team this far and Shakhtar have played some fine football on the way. It's still, however, where their European season is likely to end. Bayern are just too good. I think the Germans will have a strong stab at the Champions League this season and should overcome Shakhtar without any real stress in front of their own fans. They should oust their opponents by being deadly in attack while remaining solid at the back. Back Bayern to be the only team to score using the Which Team to Score market at 7/10.
Paris Saint-Germain 3/1
Chelsea escaped the Parc des Princes with an away goal to take into the second leg of their Champions League last-sixteen tie against Paris Saint-Germain, but had it not been for Thibaut Courtois, who was superhuman between the sticks, the Premier League leaders could have come into this clash with a mountain to climb. A score draw, as I predicted, was an excellent result for the Blues and it is now in their favour when you consider they were 3-1 down against the French club last year and still went through. The Blues have been invincible at home having won eleven of their thirteen league matches with two draws, scoring a remarkable 27 goals while conceding just five times. Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation provides a lot of balance to the team as there is equal impetus on defending and attacking. There are many dangerous players and huge scoring threats in this Chelsea side with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard, who could cause all sorts of problems for PSG’s defence who haven’t looked up to scratch having kept just two clean sheets in their last six outings. The Blues should progress without the need for a last-gasp goal this time.
The quad works out to just over 6/1! Take the bet and reap the rewards.