Our football writer previews the round of 16 for the UEFA Champions League.
We’re into the business end of the UEFA Champions League as 16 teams battle it out for eight available spots in the next round. The pick of the ties see Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona go head-to-head, while old enemies, Bayern Munich and Arsenal, face each other for the 11th time since 2000/01.
Defending champions, Real Madrid, host Italian giants Napoli in what should be a tight affair, considering both sides’ knack of scoring. When you mention scoring and high scores, Dortmund will always be in the conversation. Thomas Tuchel’s side will travel to Benfica, who have never suffered defeat in the Round of 16, winning in all three of their attempts. There’s plenty of value on offer so let’s get straight to the action!
Tuesday 14 February
Paris Saint-Germain 23/10 | Draw 49/20 | Barcelona 11/10
PSG host Barcelona// in the first leg of what promises to be a thrilling encounter between two of Europe’s giants. Both sides haven’t been at their usual best in their domestic leagues so far this season. In fact, PSG and Barca both sit in second spot behind Monaco and Real Madrid respectively. PSG, however, have made arguably the biggest signing of the sides left in the Champions League, snatching Julian Draxler from Wolfsburg. PSG finished second in Group A behind Arsenal on goal difference. The Parisians are yet to lose in the tournament this season and have also not tasted defeat at home in the French Ligue 1.
Barcelona have the proven talents of Luis Suarez, Neymar and top scorer, Lionel Messi. Luis Enrique’s side have shown in past seasons that they are capable of scoring anywhere across the globe. I don’t see PSG losing this one, but at the same time, I cannot see Barca not getting that all-important away goal. However, avoid all exotic markets for this one and back the draw.
Benfica 24/10 | Draw 47/20 | Dortmund 23/20
Benfica find themselves leading the pack in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, but still would be considered as underdogs. Borussia Dortmund topped one of the most difficult groups in the tournament, leaving defending champions, Real Madrid, behind in second place and Sporting Lisbon in third to drop down to the UEFA Europa League.
Dortmund broke the record for most goals scored in a group stage when they smashed in 21 goals. Benfica finished second in Group B behind Napoli, winning just two of their six games played. In that run, the Eagles conceded 10 goals – a statistic that Thomas Tuchel will remind his side of constantly. I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Get on the Away Totals market – Over 1.5 Goals at even money.
Wednesday 15 February
Real Madrid 11/20 | Draw 33/10 | Napoli 17/4
Real Madid will look to be the first team since the UEFA Champions League changed its structure in 1992 to make it back-to-back titles. First up, they’ll have to get past Napoli in the Round of 16. The Naples were handed a tough task in December when they drew Real Madrid’s name for the next round. Despite finishing on top of Group B, the Italian giants have arguably the toughest fixture of the lot, coming up against the tournament’s most successful club, who have Cristiano Ronaldo – the record goalscorer in the Champions League with 95 goals.
Los Blancos may have finished runner-up in Group F, but they remain undefeated coming into the business end of the tournament. To make matters worse for the travelling side, Zinedine Zidane's men won 28 of their last 33 European home matches. Madrid haven’t made any major changes to their latest UEFA Champions League squad, while Napoli have replaced Manolo Gabbiadini with Leonardo Pavoletti, who they recently signed in January from Genoa. No matter what side is put out on the day, Madrid should have too much class at home. Back Los Blancos at a decent price of 11/20.
Bayern Munich 5/10 | Draw 33/10 | Arsenal 47/10
Old foes, Bayern Munich and Arsenal, will go toe-to-toe for the 11th time in 16 years. Arsenal have undoubtedly been the unluckiest team in the UEFA Champions League. The Gunners finished their group on top, leaving the likes of PSG behind them. You would think they would be rewarded with an easier challenge after that. Bayern Munich have beaten Arsenal twice in this stage in recent years, and are expected by many to do so again.
The Bavarians haven’t been at their very best this campaign, losing two of their six matches played. Bayern have also been outscored by the Gunners this season and have conceded just as many. However, despite Arsene Wenger’s men boasting the better form of the two sides in the tournament, a trip to the Allianz Arena will never be easy. At 5/10, the home win looks a good bet and surely one to keep in mind when taking those midweek multiples.
QUAD @ 15/1
PSG vs Barcelona Draw 49/20
Dortmund Over 1.5 Goals 1/1
Real Madrid Win 11/20
Bayern Munich Win 5/10
Written by JesseNagel @Hollywoodbets