If a certain brand of lager did cup draws, I’m sure they’d have created the exact same line-up we’re about to witness in the last eight of this season’s Champions League. Four evenly matched, exciting ties have been thrown up, and the football world can’t wait to gorge on them. Here’s Adrian Clarke with his thoughts on four potentially thrilling contests…
Juventus v Barcelona, April 11, 7.45pm KO
Barcelona must be pinching themselves they’re still in the hunt for Champions League glory after that totally bonkers comeback against PSG – but their reward wasn’t one they would have chosen.
Juventus, on a 21-match unbeaten streak in Europe on home turf, will present a formidable test.
The Old Lady are a tough enough nut to crack at the best of times, but Luis Enrique’s men have also experienced travel sickness. Loose at the back, they have been beaten away at Malaga last weekend, as well as at Deportivo, PSG, Athletic Bilbao, Man City and Celta Vigo this term.
The 8/5 on Juventus success doesn’t seem outlandish, especially now we know that key defensive midfielder Sergi Busquets is missing for the Spaniards.
One price that will attract fairytale lovers is ex-Barca hero Dani Alves to score anytime at 21/2, but personally I’d be more interested in backing Turin’s version of Lionel Messi, the diminutive but exciting Argentine, Paulo Dybala.
He’s sharp, loves a shot, and with all eyes on the main front man Gonzalo Higuain, he could sneak under the radar. For Dybala to score in a home win, there’s 19/5 on the table from Grosvenor Casinos.
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco, April 11, 7.45pm KO
Leaky at the back, lethal at the other end, this could be spectacular!
I’d suggest 0-0 stalemates are rarely offered as long as the 16/1 that I’m sure very few people will be touching for this quarter-final first leg between two ultra-offensive teams.
How will Dortmund respond to their 4-1 mauling by Bayern Munich at the weekend? That will shape the nature of this contest.
If they start nervously, Leonardo Jardim’s effervescent side will show no mercy. They boast a superb 18-5 first half goals record away from home in Ligue One, with an incredible 7-0 return in the opening 15 minutes of those road trips.
Fast-starting Monaco to hit the net between 0-15 minutes is 11/2.
Dortmund like performing on their own patch though; so even if the Frenchmen fly out of the blocks, they have the firepower to keep pace.
For me it would be no surprise to see this adventurous looking duel finish 2-2. (11/1)
Atletico Madrid v Leicester City, April 12, 7.45pm KO
Craig Shakespeare’s winning streak came to a tragic end at Everton on Sunday, and I can’t help but wonder it that 4-2 loss was an ill-timed momentum killer?
Resting five key men ahead of their visit to the Vicente Calderon was a sacrifice that may backfire. Turning form on and off like a tap isn’t easy at this level.
I’m also worried about how the Foxes will handle Antoine Griezmann.
With Wes Morgan ruled out we could see French defender Yohan Benalouane given another outing at centre-back, and he was worse than dreadful at the weekend.
Griezmann could destroy him. Therefore backing the Frenchman to bag the first goal at 11/4 is appealing, as is the 29/20 you can get on the hapless Benalouane picking up a yellow card at some point. If he keeps his place it could be a long evening.
It feels like every time I tip against the Premier League champions, they defy the odds with a brave performance, and at 12/1 they are an outrageous price. Writing them off has made plenty of us look like fools in the recent past.
I just don’t see them getting much change out of Diego Simeone’s men on Spanish soil. They are a tactically astute side that’s far more accustomed to these big European occasions.
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid, April 12, 7.45pm KO
No holder has successfully defended the Champions League, so Zinedine Zidane and co will approach this tie with slight trepidation. Los Blancos know if they aren’t at their best, they can forget about reaching the last four.
At 8/11 Bayern Munich are worthy favourites to claim a first leg advantage.
Revenge will also be in the air.
Three seasons ago Real Madrid demolished Bayern 4-0 in the second leg of a semi-final in Bavaria (their record home defeat in Europe) and many of those first teamers who tasted the bitterness that night are still around. You don’t want to make guys like Neuer, Muller, Lahm and Robben angry.
Couple that with the presence of ex-Real Madrid chief Carlo Ancelotti in the home dugout, and the hosts really do have all the motivation they need to turn in a stellar display.
Real Madrid are usually the kind of side that loves to turn up for the big occasion, but I have a strong fancy for Bayern to prevail.
Celebrating three or more goals is commonplace for them – they average 3.43 per home game in the Bundesliga – so with Real Madrid struggling for clean sheets, I see the 2/1 on Bayern to score at least three goals appealing.
Ancelotti is a smarter coach than Zidane in my opinion, and down the flank I envisage Arjen Robben giving the attack-minded Marcelo a tough time.
Robben to score in a Bayern victory is 51/20 on the Win Cast.