Champions League Tips – 15th & 16th March
We are back with the Champions League Round of 16 second leg ties this Tuesday and Wednesday as we complete this round of the draw and learn which four teams will progress from these games to join Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the competition.
Two more Premier League sides, Manchester United and Chelsea are in action this week with Chelsea taking a 2-0 lead to northern France to take on Lille, while Manchester United face Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford with their tie delicately poised at 1-1 after the first leg.
The other games this week see Juventus hosting Villarreal with the tie also level at 1-1 following the draw between the two in Spain. Ajax also face Benfica all-square after the teams fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light.
What was notable in the last round of Champions League games was how many unexpected results there were. Sure, I had Bayern to win and both teams to score, but I didn’t expect a 7-1 win for the Germans.
Similarly, I don’t think too many punters had Liverpool to lose at home to Inter after winning the first leg 2-0 in Italy, or Manchester City to be held to a 0-0 goalless draw by Sporting Lisbon at home, after they thrashed the Portuguese side 5-0 in the first leg.
So there certainly seems to be the possibility for some unexpected results in the Champions League second leg games, so that is something I will bear in mind with this set of tips.
Here’s my selections for this week’s matches and remember to check back Thursday for my Europa League tips as that competition also completes its Round of 16.
Champions League Tips: Tuesday 15th March
History shows that Ajax have tended to get the better of Benfica in matches between the two and the 2-2 draw in the first leg away from home would make you think that the Dutch side should be favourites heading into the home leg this week.
Certainly, the bookmakers seem to think so with most offering odds of 6-1 on a Benfica victory on the night, while Ajax are the odds-on favourites to land the win. In truth, given their form in the Champions League this season, you can certainly see why the bookmakers have them as the clear frontrunners to progress here.
However, something tells me we may have a few twists and turns in this game and that it may not be quite as smooth sailing as many are predicting. Ajax score lots of goals, but also concede them too, and that seems to be the case more at home than on the road.
So yes, I am going to back Ajax to land the win here, but I do feel that Benfica are good enough to score a goal or even too in reply. As such, I think Ajax to win and both teams to score looks a solid option here.
I’ll be honest, of all the games this week in the Champions League, this one has given me the most headaches and I’ll explain why. When I go through the stats for teams, I can usually find some kind of pattern to help me pick a result, but with these two teams, there is so much contradiction in their stats and performances that finding anything is almost impossible.
Sure, both teams are huge European giants, both have fallen below the standards they would set themselves but both, on their day, can beat any side in Europe. Both have superstar players that can win a game in an instant, but both have also found consistent form very tricky to come by, both domestically and at times, in Europe too.
Atletico were beaten home and away by Liverpool, United lost to Young Boys, but have beaten Spanish opposition in Villarreal in the Group Stages both home and away. Does that tip the balance in their favour with the second leg being at home? Possibly, but that United defence just makes me think Atletico will get chances on the counter here.
So, after considering most parameters, I think the most sensible bet here is for the draw. I can see United scoring, but not too many and I also feel Atletico may grab a goal, so I think extra time and maybe even penalties may be needed to decide who goes through.
UCL Tips: Wednesday 16th March
The list of potential absentees in this game through injury is a long one and features some star names. Federico Chiesa, Weston McKinnie (both Juventus) and Alberto Moreno (Villarreal) are confirmed out, while the likes of Dybala, Zakaria, Bonucci and Chielli for Juventus and Pena, Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer of Villarreal are all doubts.
My gut feeling is that most of these players rated as doubts will be able to feature, even if it is as a substitute and if that is the case, I think the balance of this tie swings strongly in favour of the Italian side, especially with home advantage.
Juventus are very tough to beat at home, although Barcelona managed it in the 2020 Champions League earning a 2-0 win, but that came after a 3-0 defeat in the first leg at the Nou Camp. I can’t see this Villarreal side being able to match that.
Dusan Vlahovic has been outstanding for Juve since his move from Fiorentina and I think that he is a very good choice here to grab a goal for Juventus in this game. So I think backing him to score any time is a good chance to double your money.
Lille have a lot to do in this second leg, as coming back from a 2-0 deficit against a side as organised as Chelsea is going to be a tough ask for any team. Especially one that has beaten you on every occasion that you have faced them in the past.
So Chelsea should be confident of getting the result they need to go through here, despite all the craziness that has enveloped the club since Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government in this past week.
Thomas Tuchel’s team have responded well in difficult circumstances for the club and the advantage that they hold from the first leg means that they can sit back, defend tight and hit Lille on the counter attack, which I think will suit the players that they can pick for this game.
As such, I am. pretty confident Chelsea will go through with another win behind them here. I am just not sure if Lille will trouble the scoresheet, so I am not going to get too cute with my prediction here and play it a little safer.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.