Champions League Tips: 16th & 17th February
After a hiatus over December and January, the Champions League is back this week.
We’ve got the first set of four games in the Round of 16 first leg ties.
The action kicks off on Tuesday with two huge games. Barcelona face Paris St Germain at the Nou Camp with both sides not having their usual dominant domestic season and perhaps, both having renewed focus on what the Champions League could offer them by the way of silverware this season.
You could also say that for Liverpool too who are also in action on Tuesday as the Reds dismal recent form has seen them fall well off the pace in the Premier League and means their game against Red Bull Leipzig, who reached the semifinals of this competition last season, has taken on added importance.
Then on Wednesday we have two more key games as Italian aces Juventus head to Portugal to take on FC Porto and German side Dortmund, who have lost eight times in the Bundesliga already this season, travel south to Spain to face a Sevilla side in great form.
Champions League Tips: Tuesday 16th February
The last time these two teams met in this competition, PSG won the home leg 4-0 but then lost 6-1 in the Nou Camp to a last-minute goal to exit the competition in sensational circumstances. I don’t think though we are in for quite the same fireworks in this game as we got in that.
Neither side has been quite as strong domestically this season as they have been in previous years and the drop off in quality for Barcelona has been quite marked. Koeman has not won everyone over since taking over as manager and the Messi situation rumbles on in the background somewhat ominously.
PSG have lost several games domestically too, which is a rarity, but they have been solid in the Champions League. They will likely be without the injured Neymar though, which is a big blow, but I still feel they have enough quality to get the job done here over the two legs.
As such, I think this game will be a tight and closely fought one and as is tradition in these games, I am expecting both teams to score and the final score to be either 1-1 or 2-2, which will set up an intriguing second leg in Paris in three weeks’ time.
Football Tips: Wednesday 17th February
FC Porto are one of the more regular teams to appear in the knockout phase of the Champions League but it is fair to say that since they won it back in 2004, they haven’t really made much of an impact at this stage of the competition.
Juventus were my pick to win this competition this season and I see no reason to back against them here. They may have been hauled in by the two Milan sides in Serie A this season, but they remain a huge threat and with the experience in their squad, I think this is likely this squad of players last chance to win this trophy.
They do have Cristiano Ronaldo, the leading goalscorer in this competition’s history, leading the line and he will prove to be a massive threat to FC Porto. The Portuguese side don’t, I feel, offer a huge amount by way of an attacking threat themselves.
There won’t be many goals here I feel but if any are scored, I think that they are most likely to go the way of the visitors to give them a nice lead to defend in the second leg in Turin.
On paper you would assume that this would be a very close game between two well matched teams with perhaps the German side being the favourites. But a closer look at the form of both sides reveals that it is Sevilla who are in much the better form heading into this game.
Not only that, but the Spanish team are also very well organised. They have an exceptionally strong and experienced spine of the team, with two very good central defenders in Gomes and Kounde, plus Rakitic in midfield and dangerous, pacy and intelligent attackers.
Of course, Dortmund have their own superstars in attack in the likes of Haaland, Sancho, Reyna and Reus, but there is no doubt that the Germans have fallen well below the standard that they would have hoped to set this season and the team does look lacking a little confidence.
I don’t think that is a recipe for a big result in Spain, so I am going to back the home side to land a win here to take into the second leg in Germany.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.