European football midweek preview – Champions League & more11th Feb 2018 |
Juventus v Tottenham (Champions League)
The Champions League resumes this week, with 16 teams still standing as the competition enters its knockout stage. Serie A side Juventus have reached the final of Europe’s foremost club tournament in two of the last three seasons and will have designs on participating in the showpiece event once more, albeit while hoping for a different outcome after losing to Barcelona in 2015 and Real Madrid in 2017. Spurs are relative novices at this level but will take confidence from their performance in the group phase, when Mauricio Pochettino’s men finished at the summit of their segment ahead of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. This should be a tight first leg between two teams who boast strong defences, so under 2.5 goals looks like a sensible selection.
Basel v Manchester City (Champions League)
Manchester City effectively wrapped up the Premier League title a while back, so attendance at the Etihad Stadium has started to turn towards the Champions League. The Citizens have never reached the final of this competition before and are among the favourites to go all the way this term, with Basel unlikely to cause them too many problems on Tuesday night. Indeed, this should be a reasonably comfortable evening for Pep Guardiola’s charges, and the odds of 5/4 available on an away win to nil certainly looks tempting.
Porto v Liverpool (Champions League)
Liverpool is not among the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season, but they are arguably the dark horse who has the biggest chance of glory. While there are still plenty of question marks over the solidity of Jurgen Klopp’s defence, there is no doubting their attacking potency; a front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah is capable of causing any opposition backline problems, and it is they who should settle this tie with Porto in the Reds’ favour. In terms of the first leg, I like the look of 6/5 on Salah to score anytime.
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League)
The standout tie of the last 16 pits holders Real Madrid against PSG, whose world-record summer signing of Neymar was made with the Champions League in mind. Zinedine Zidane’s side has stuttered throughout the domestic campaign but still possess more than enough quality to be crowned kings of Europe for the third year in a row, while PSG currently has their strongest squad in the club’s history. Both teams to score looks like the best option at 2/5 – not a huge price on its own, but one which could be worth adding to a midweek accumulator.
Ostersund v Arsenal (Europa League)
Ostersund has achieved miracles in advancing to the knockout rounds of the Europa League, but their adventure will surely come to an end in the last 32. Arsenal fell further behind in the race for the top four when they lost to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, so their best chance of qualifying for next season’s edition of the Champions League is by winning the continent’s junior competition. Taking up odds of 21/4 on the Gunners to lift the trophy could be a sound investment.
Napoli v RB Leipzig (Europa League)
These two sides will be disappointed to be in the Europa League knockout stage rather than the Champions League equivalent, but both are among the strongest teams in the former tournament. Napoli is clearly prioritising Serie A this season, though, so it could be worth backing RB Leipzig to triumph in Thursday’s first meeting at the Stadio San Paolo at a price of 14/5.