Can Monaco Spin Up A 3rd Win In England?
Last week’s Champions League action threw up more than it’s fair share of storylines, so brace yourselves for more of the same as the rest of Europe’s finest do battle in the remaining last 16 ties.
Here’s our football expert Adrian Clarke with a rundown of what to expect…
Manchester City v Monaco
Winners at Arsenal in 2015, winners at Spurs in 2016 – are Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco good enough to make it a hat trick of Premier League away scalps at the Etihad on Tuesday night?
I think they are.
You can grab 19/4 on a victory for the Ligue One leaders, and that looks a heck of a price for a side that’s scored 76 goals in 26 domestic games this term AND loves playing in England. If you’re not quite brave enough to go all in on them, the 27/20 on Monaco or the Draw is a compromise gamble.
While Manchester City start as understandable favourites – especially after handsome home wins against Borussia Moenchengladbach and Barcelona – I just can’t have them down as certs.
There are defensive frailties that could easily be exposed by Portuguese manager Jardim, who is an astute tactician, happy to adjust his approach game by game. I think he’ll go 4-4-2 and ask his players to press high whenever they can.
Who are the danger men? Attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva is a quality young player to watch (he’s on offer at 17/4 to score anytime) and if you fancy a rejuvenated Radamel Falcao to strike gold, 13/5 is the price.
Guardiola has never failed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, so that is an outstanding record well worth considering. He knows what he’s doing.
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid
These clubs met in the last 16 two years ago, and there’s only one word to sum up that tie – TIGHT. Each triumphed 1-0 on home turf before Diego Simeone’s men prevailed on penalties at the Vicente Calderon.
My hunch is we’ll witness a continuation of that type of contest, and the bookies seem to agree. The odds on 0 to 2 goals being scored in the first leg are a measly 1/2.
If there is a breakthrough it’s hard to look past leading scorer Javier Hernandez as the most likely goal muncher. The man they call ‘Chicharito’ has netted five times in his last three starts, including a pair of braces, so he’ll be buzzing.
The ex-Man United marksman is well priced at 51/10 to open the scoring.
For the visitors, will Atletico Madrid’s Kevin Gameiro be rewarded for his incredible five-minute hat trick as a sub at Sporting Gijon last weekend? I’d say he should be! He’s a 53/10 gamble.
As two-time finalists it’s the Spanish side who are strongly fancied to progress, but playing a less abrasive brand of football this season, they are visibly not as stubborn as they used to be.
So with Leverkusen unbeaten in eight Champions League matches at home, my eye’s drawn towards a close-fought 1-1 draw. You’ll get 11/2 on that happening.
Sevilla v Leicester City
No one fancies the Foxes, and rightly so. Looking shadows of their title-winning selves, this step up in Champions League class has the feel of a disaster waiting to happen. Just like Arsenal in Munich, it could get messy.
Claudio Ranieri has called on his players to be ‘soldiers and gladiators,’ but in recent weeks they haven’t had the stomach for any kind of fight. Would I go into the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán trenches with Wes Morgan and Rob Huth on Wednesday night? Not a chance.
The Over 2.5 goals market for Sevilla is sure to prove very popular, and I’d certainly be taking that on at 8/5.
If Leicester City can produce a moment of magic, free kick and penalty taker Riyad Mahrez is probably the most likely source. He’s saved his best displays for the Champions League this term, scoring four times. At 11/2 to plunder a goal, the Algerian is worth considering.
I must say that Jorge Sampaoli’s free flowing side are unappealing at 41/100 to take the win, but there is far more value in the handicaps market. For example, Sevilla to claim victory with a 1-0 start to Leicester looks unbelievable value at 51/50. I’d even be seduced by a 2-0 head start with Sevilla still taking a first leg lead. That’s a 13/5 punt.
If you’re a patriotic Premier League team backer, stand down for this encounter.
Porto v Juventus
Max Allegri’s side has been in ominous form leading into the business end of the Champions League, winning their last seven matches on the spin.
The Old Lady also happen to be away day specialists.
Beating Dinamo Zagreb, Lyon and Sevilla on their travels was an impressive group stage feat, and in each of their last three Serie A trips, Juventus have ran out 2-0 winners, with main man Gonzalo Higuain scoring every time.
Nuno’s Porto are in decent shape too, and must not be written. They have won their last six contests, and have a number of exciting young players that will worry the Italian giants.
Twenty-year-old Diego Jota has scored in the last two outings and academy graduate Andre Silva, 21, has been a revelation all season, netting 21 times in all competitions – four in the Champions League.
Personally, I wouldn’t get too fancy with this encounter. You can get odds against on all three types of result, and because of their serene away form and Porto’s weak domestic division, I’d be leaning towards the classier Juventus at 11/9. The Italian giants rarely mess up at this stage of the tournament.
Image: Wikimedia (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))