There was much ridicule across social media when Juventus unveiled their new badge earlier this season, with as many memes mocking the Turin club’s updated image as there were criticising Max Allegri’s side’s 2-1 reverse at Fiorentina just days prior to the launch of much maligned design.
Three months on and there are plenty of pundits lauding the current Serie A leaders rather than lampooning their off field marketing strategy, after a stunning 3-0 success over Barcelona in the Champions League that had tacticians swooning and traders running for cover.
The layers haven’t been slow in cutting Juve to win Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1996, with Grosvenor Sport quoting just 3/1 – second only to favourites Real Madrid (19/10), who took advantage of Bayern Munich’s profligacy and frustration to win in Bavaria.
Behind the two market leaders are 9/2 shots Atletico Madrid, twice runners up in the last three years, and Monaco – arguably the most exciting side in competition this campaign – at 8/1 and both should qualify.
Only twice before in the history of the Champions League in any knockout stage has a team lost the first leg at home but gone through to the next of round the competition, a statistic which would seem to rule out both Bayern (10/1) and Borussia Dortmund (25/1).
Barcelona, meanwhile, surely can’t repeat their heroics of the previous round when they overcame Paris Saint German despite losing the first leg 4-0 – the layers don’t think so offering 15/1 about Luis Enrique’s side in the outright market.
Lastly, there’s Leicester, the rank outsiders at 50/1, who are looking to become the first debutantes to make the last four.
Those that lost the first leg will all struggle to reach the semi-finals, and with Zinedine Zidane’s men taking the biggest percentage out of the book. There is plenty to like about the the Old Lady, whatever you think about their badge.
Leicester City v Atletico Madrid | 18 April 19:45
Leicester’s 100% home record in the Champions League will be put to the test at the King Power Stadium against Atletico Madrid, who the layers rate as 2/15 to qualify for the semi-finals after their 1-0 home win in the Spanish capital last week.
Craig Shakespeare was bullish about his side’s chances of progression, stating in Monday’s press conference that the bookmakers had ‘got it wrong before’.
A statistic that will offer more encouragement to the Foxes manger is the fact that 41% of teams losing the first leg away 1-0 in the history of UEFA club competition have done enough to qualify – which works out at 6/4.
So, at 17/4, are the English champions any value? The problem for Leicester fans and backers is their opponents. Diego Simeone’s team are extremely difficult to break down and are exceptional at playing on the break.
With Kevin Gameiro (19/4 to grab the opener) returning, Atleti have a full squad to choose from, that includes the irrepressible Antoine Griezmann (7/2 to notch first). The same cannot be said of the home side who have Robert Huth suspended and Wes Morgan far from fully fit. It could be a frustrating night for Foxes fans with the visitors taken to win to nil at 11/5 the best bet.
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich | 18 April 19:45
Bayern Munich can’t afford to play as open as they did in the first leg against Real Madrid when they head to the Spanish capital for the return.
Last week, they allowed 12 shots on target for the first time since data for Champions League was collated (2003/04).
Since lifting the trophy in 2013, five of the Bundesliga club’s six European defeats have come at the hands of Spanish sides and, as they hope to turn around a first leg 2-1 defeat, it’s seems likely that they will suffer again.
Arturo Vidal’s penalty miss and Javi Martinez’s red card summed up a disjointed performance that lacked focus and discipline. Only Manuel Neuer’s terrific keeping kept Bayern in the tie and, given Real Madrid have scored at least once in their last 54 fixtures in all competitions (a Spanish record), it seems inconceivable that he won’t be picking the ball out of the back of the net.
Cristiano Ronaldo, after notching his 100th Champions League goal in the first leg, is the favourite to grab the opener at 7/2, and with Robert Lewandowski (39/10) set to return from injury, this could be a night for star strikers. The best bet could easily involve that pair, with a punt on both over 2.5 goals at 21/50 and over 3.5 goals at 53/50.
Monaco v Borussia Dortmund | 19 April 19:45
Borussia Dortmund’s slow start and hesitancy in the first leg against Monaco was understandable given what happened to the team 24 hours earlier, but they are by no means out of the competition and aren’t the worst bet at 32/25 to beat the Ligue Un leaders in the return.
There’s been 100 occasions previously in UEFA club competition of instances of a team losing the first leg at home 3-2 – and on only three occasions have they managed to progress.
It’s no wonder, then, that Thomas Tuchel’s side are 5/2 To make the last four (with Monaco 3/10). Breaking down Leonardo Jardim’s side’s success though should give Dortmund backers some encouragement, with two of their goals fortunate – the opener that ricocheted off Kylian Mbappe’s thigh and the Sven Bender own goal.
A morale boosting 3-1 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend has sharpened their form and with Monaco incredibly porous at the back – no team through to the last eight have conceded more goals (15) – the German team are not without hope. The strategy here is to back both teams to score (1/3) and over 2.5 goals (4/11) with a more speculative bet on 2-2 as the correct score (9/1).
Barcelona v Juventus | 19 April 19:45
The most authoritative result and performance from last week’s first legs was undoubtedly Juventus’ 3-0 crushing of Barcelona. And while Luis Enrique’s side defied odds of 9/1 to knock Paris Saint German out of the competition after losing the opening leg away 4-0, you get the feeling the Turin side will have too much tactical nous to capitulate as Unai Emery’s side did.
Barca are 17/4 to qualify but Juve can boast six clean sheets in eight Champions League matches with Gianluigi Buffon currently on a run of 441 minutes without conceding.
Barca have won their last 15 home European games, scoring 50 goals in the process and have netted at least three goals (priced at 11/8 for this fixture) in seven of the last eight. But Max Allegri’s team have conceded only once away from home on the continent this term and have proved adept at breaching defenses on their travels, being shut out only once in all competitions this campaign.
Barca could win in 90 minutes (13/25), but it might not be enough to see them through. Back a win for the Catalan club with both teams scoring at 5/9, with Paulo Dybala, who has just penned a new contract, worth an interest to find the net at any time (5/2).