Following from our article last week, the second half of first leg ties in the knockout stage of the Champions League take place next week, with some of the matches appearing fairly predictable and a really “special” one. We look ahead to the games being played on Tuesday and Wednesday and offer betting suggestions.
Olympaikos v Bordeaux
As we mentioned briefly last week, Bordeaux represented fantastic value for the outright winner at 29/1 on the betting exchanges. The French team currently lead Ligue1 and, having the most impressive stats of any of the qualifiers from the group stage, we confidently predict that they will appear in the last 8. Olympiakos only managed to score 4 goals in their 6 qualifying games (Bordeaux scored 9, conceded 2) and this “goal-shyness” has followed them into their domestic league, where they only managed 29 in their first 20 league games.
Verdict Bordeaux win
VfB Stuttgart v Barcelona
This is another case of one of the less fancied teams in the competition hosting one of Europe’s strongest. Stuttgart crept in at the 11th hour from a rather weak group with their only home victory in qualification. Barcelona, in comparison, topped a group comprising of Inter Milan, Russian league leaders Rubin Kazan and Ukraine´s Dynamo Kiev, and currently have a clear advantage in Spain’s´ La Liga. Barcelona did the double over Stuttgart when they met in the group stages of the competition in 2007/08, and we see no reason why that should not happen again.
Verdict Barcelona win
CSKA Moscow v Sevilla
The dream lives on for CSKA Moscow, who have never reached this level of European competition before. Like Stuttgart, only an 11th hour victory saw them qualify for the knockout stages, but it is worth remembering that Moscow played in a much stronger group and were, at one stage, 3-1 up at Old Trafford. Sevilla have barely set the world alight this season domestically and although they were the first team to qualify from the group stages, it was more by default than by design. Expect a lot of goals and inasmuch as we would like to see the Russians progress, believe that the Spanish will not be returning to Andalusia empty handed.
Inter Milan v Chelsea
It is going to be a special night for the “special one”, as the tie of the round is played in the full glare of the media circus. Inter Milan qualified behind Barcelona in the group stage, but since December have opened up a respectable lead in Serie A. Chelsea’s current form is best described as inconsistent. Sometimes they play breathtaking football, and sometimes they just drift through a game. They will need to be at their very best to get past one of the form teams in Europe at present, and with a big question mark over their personnel in defence, we see the Italians gaining the upper hand in this leg.
Verdict Inter Milan win
Suggested betting strategy
Bordeaux to win 90 minutes 6/4
Barcelona to win 90 minutes 4/6
Moscow v Sevilla over 2.50 goals 5/4
Inter Milan to win 90 minutes 6/4
4 x 1 point win trebles
1 x 1 point win accumulator
Next week, we will take a look at the Premier League run-in. With only 10 games remaining until the end of the season, it is still a three horse race. Arsenal appear to have the easier task, as Chelsea have to travel to Old Trafford over the Easter weekend, and Manchester United still have to play at the City of Manchester Stadium where their city rivals are still aiming for the fourth Champions League position. There are plenty of “ifs and buts”, and many exciting moments to look forward to as the season draws to a close.