Champions League: Finding Value Ahead of the Quarterfinals
And then there were eight. The Champions League quarterfinals are set in stone and we’ve got a mix of familiar faces and a couple of surprise sides still standing in Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
The first legs of the Champions League quarterfinal matches take place on April 3rd and 4th with the return legs scheduled for April 10th and 11th.
Let’s get to it.
The new favorites following the quarterfinal draw, leapfrogging Manchester City, the bookies clearly expect Barcelona to make light work of Roma in their upcoming fixture.
You could make a case that La Liga’s leaders have been far from their best for much of this European campaign, despite bookending their fixtures thus far with two impressive 3-0 wins over Juventus and Chelsea. In the six games between those two wins, however, they drew against each of those two sides on the road and were held to a draw by Greek outfit Olympiacos.
Barca’s struggles in front of goal on their travels should be taken into account when assessing their chances of going the distance. With just two goals across four away matches in the Champions League this season, they’ll face a defense that has kept clean sheets in all four of their home matches in the tournament thus far. The Spaniards should do enough at Camp Nou to reach the final four, but the Catalans need to improve in front of goal — especially Luis Suarez, who has yet to score in this year’s competition — to go further.
Manchester City +350
It didn’t have a huge bearing on their chances according to the bookmakers, but Manchester City’s draw against Liverpool has seen them fall below Barcelona in the odds. It’s the draw that, in all likelihood, neither set of fans or the managers would have wanted.
City have tasted defeat to their Premier League rivals already this year after all, and while a 4-3 scoreline seems respectable away at Anfield, in truth the Reds blitzed their esteemed opponents back in January. Three goals in nine second half minutes saw Liverpool take a commanding lead and it’s that propensity to fall apart at the back that will worry Pep Guardiola in this fixture.
The Manchester City boss has been on the end of heavy defeats in the latter stages of the Champions League in the past and Jurgen Klopp’s charges are one of the sides left in the competition that could have too much for them in attack in an isolated game.
Bayern Munich +400
The fans of Bundesliga champions Bayern will have been rubbing their hands with glee at the draw last week, not only because they face outsiders Sevilla but also because they will host the second leg.
The Germans will be wary of underestimating the La Liga outfit after Los Rojiblancos’ win at Old Trafford over Manchester United, but there’s no reason to believe that Bayern will employ the same tactics that Jose Mourinho did in the Round of 16. Simply put, the Bavarians have too much firepower for their quarterfinal opponents and unlike United they won’t be afraid to use it. Throw in the fact that Bayern have been there and done that so often and their price is among the most tempting.
Real Madrid +450
In a repeat of last year’s final, Real Madrid will be aiming to blow Juventus away once more but are unlikely to have it all their own way this time around. Zinedine Zidane’s men haven’t been anywhere near as consistent this season as they were last, but they do have one thing going in their favor.
Cristiano Ronaldo has started the calendar year in unrecognizable form compared to the figures he was posting in the first half of the season, and his sheer desire — for individual acclaim as much as collective — always drives his team on in the latter stages of the Champions League.
With the second leg in Madrid the reigning champions will be confident of a remarkable eighth consecutive semi-final spot.
While it’s not the draw they would have wanted, the chance to exact avenge for their poor showing in the final against Real Madrid last season will certainly be an added incentive for Juve. They’ll have hoped to learn lessons from the defeat last year but if the Serie A favorites want to progress, they need to make home-field advantage count in the first leg.
When these sides last met, Juve’s defensive resolve let them down but one man that will be determined to put that right is goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who is still seeking a Champions League winners medal before he hangs up his gloves.
If it’s a positive omen you are after for Juventus, aiming to prevent Madrid from reaching the final four for the first time since 2010, the last player to knock them out prior to that phase was Lyon’s Miralem Pjanic – who is now on the books at Juventus.
On the face of it the draw against Manchester City certainly wasn’t a kind one for Liverpool, but there are some genuine positives to take, not least the fact that they are one of four clubs that have a win over City this season.
The fact that the runaway Premier League leaders will leave spaces for Liverpool’s electrifying front three to exploit should play into the Reds’ hands. In fact, knockout football in general should suit the Merseyside outfit, having proven capable of blowing sides out of the water on numerous occasions in the competition already.
In all likelihood Liverpool will need a decent lead to take into the second leg at the Etihad Stadium, but stranger things have happened.
While they have done very well to make it this far, it should be said that Sevilla have had a pretty easy ride and they’ve still not navigated it smoothly. The Spaniards only picked up two wins in a group that included Maribor and Spartak Moscow — the latter of whom thumped them, 5-1 — before dispatching Manchester United in the first knockout round.
While much credit should go the the La Liga club, their opponents in the previous round were abject over two legs to say the least. That won’t be the case against Bayern, who will be able to keep things relatively tight in the first leg in Seville before they go for the jugular in Munich.
While they are rightly considered rank underdogs up against Barcelona, Roma are — at equal money — a better value play than Sevilla, not least because they play in Rome in the second leg. As mentioned, the Serie A side are capable of frustrating strong opposition on home soil, so they will travel to Camp Nou with the objective of keeping things as tight as possible.
Back on track this month after a mid-season wobble, Roma have players that are able to hurt teams on the break, as well as the luxury of playing it long into Edin Dzeko (pictured above) when necessary. They shouldn’t be underestimated. The Italians came out on top the last time these sides met in the knockout stages, though the fact that Patrick Kluivert was Barcelona’s only scorer over two legs tells you how long ago that was!
All odds current as of 3/20 via oddschecker.com