As we enter the second half of the knockout matches, it is worth remembering that teams who appear to have no chance of qualifying into the quarterfinals can produce outstanding performances and throw the form book out of the window.
The Champions League has a history of shock results and unlikely comebacks – no more so than Liverpool´s reversal of a 3-0 scoreline against AC Milan in the Istanbul final of 2005. Second leg fixtures in recent years have followed this trend, and there is some value to be had in the markets – particularly “who will qualify?”.
Before concentrating on this weeks games, let us look at some of the unlikely results from previous years:-
2009 Chelsea and Arsenal both carried slender leads from their home matches into the away legs against Juventus and Roma, yet both qualified through to the quarterfinals. Spanish team Villarreal achieved an away win at Panthinakos to qualify, after being held 1-1 in the home leg of their tie.
2008 Arsenal pull it off again, when they have to visit the San Siro after a goalless draw in London, beating AC Milan 2-0. Roma beating Real Madrid in Spain, Fenerbache qualifying in Seville and German club Schalke 04 progressing at the expense of FC Porto were results that were “against the odds”.
This pattern continues all the way back to the first ever final in 1956, when Real Madrid came from behind to beat Stade de Reims in front of a partisan crowd in Paris. So, with this in mind, here are some not-too-eyebrow raising predictions for the week ahead,
Arsenal (1) v FC Porto (2)
As we have seen above, Arsenal have a habit of getting through these tricky games, and despite being a goal down will have some key players returning from injury and have the confidence of a 4-0 home win against FC Porto in the group stages last year. Arsenal should reward supporters taking the 4/6 for them to progress.
Verdict – Arsenal to qualify
Fiorentina (1) v Bayern Munich (2)
Fiorentina came off worse in a hugely controversial first leg that saw star player Massimo Gobi sent off for the Italians, and an “offside” goal scored in the 89th minute by Munich frontman Miroslav Klose. If Fiorentina can get back on level terms at an early stage of the game, the 2/1 odds on them to qualify look extremely good value.
Verdict – Fiorentina to qualfy
Manchester United (3) v AC Milan (2)
By their own admission, Manchester United were fortunate to still be in this tie at half time in Milan, but a superb second half performance from Wayne Rooney sees them take an advantage back to Old Trafford. All eyes will be on David Beckham on his return to Manchester, and the stage could be set for an upset (AC Milan 3 – 0 Man Utd from 2007). Although the head says Manchester United will qualify, the 13/2 available on AC Milan is very tempting.
Verdict – Manchester United to qualify
Real Madrid (0) v Lyon (1)
Real Madrid were very disappointing in their first leg match, and can consider themselves fortunate that they return to the Bernabéu just one goal in arrears. Considering Madrids home form (P12 W12 F41 A8), this is one of those games that you automatically think should go the way of the Spanish team, but Madrid have defender Marcelo and Xavi Alonso both absent through suspension, and if Lyon can steal a goal – Madrid have to score three. Lyon have only failed to score once in their last 10 games and the 6/5 odds on their qualification look fair indeed.
Verdict – Lyon to qualify
Stats supplied by www.statto.com
Current odds available on www.oddschecker.com