The stakes couldn’t be higher as we reach the final round of Champions League last-16 second legs – one false move could cost a team their place in Europe’s premier club competition.
Two English clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea, face Spanish opposition as they aim to join Liverpool and Manchester City in the quarter-finals – and our tipster has run through the best bets to look out for this week.
Manchester United v Sevilla
Manchester United’s game-plan in the first leg against Sevilla was clear – keep it tight, and don’t concede.
Jose Mourinho would therefore have been delighted with a 0-0 draw in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – though there may be a few Red Devils rueing their failure to nick an away goal.
United come into the second leg as favourites to progress – especially given their impressive Old Trafford form.
They have lost just once at home all season, winning 17 of their 20 games.
Sevilla have European pedigree, having won the Europa League three times in the last four years – but their away form leaves a lot to be desired.
Incredibly, they went an entire league season in 2015/16 without winning on the road, and haven’t won any of their last five Champions League away games.
They are 27/5 to claim victory in 90 minutes on Tuesday night.
Getting an away goal may mean a draw would be enough, however – and the teams to be level after 90 minutes is 16/5.
I don’t think that’ll happen, however – especially if David de Gea is in the inspired form that saw him pull off some incredible saves in the first leg.
I think Mourinho and United should have enough to close this one out – and suggest backing them to win to nil at 8/5.
Barcelona v Chelsea
One of football’s most curious stats came to an end at Stamford Bridge in the first leg between Chelsea and Barcelona – Lionel Messi ended a run of eight matches without a goal against the Blues.
Messi’s second-half strike will have been a sickener for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, whose game plan had worked perfectly until then – and was just an individual mistake from Andreas Christensen away from giving the Blues a crucial first leg lead.
Barcelona are sitting pretty at the top of La Liga, and after only reaching the quarter-finals last season, will be going all out to bring the Champions League back.
Messi was one of the players rested at the weekend as Barca beat Malaga 2-0, with the Spaniards 2/5 to claim victory in 90 minutes on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s last visit to the Nou Camp saw Fernando Torres score a famous last-minute goal, as the Blues qualified for the 2012 final via a 2-2 draw. It’s 15/4 for the scores to be level after 90 minutes again here.
Despite the attacking talents on display, there’s usually little to split these teams. Barcelona should probably progress, but knowing how Chelsea dig in at the Nou Camp, I think it will only be by one goal.
I suggest backing a draw (with a handicap of a 0-1 start) at 13/5.
Willian hit both posts in the first leg before eventually scoring – and has been in fine form recently. He’s 5/1 to score anytime, and as big as 15/1 to net the first goal on Wednesday, something that might be worth a flutter.