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If last week’s Champions League contests are a gauge, take a deep breath and strap yourselves in for more excitement overload. The remaining last 16 ties are completed this week and it’s going to be lively.
Who’ll make it through to the business end? Our resident football expert Adrian Clarke looks into his crystal ball…
Leicester City v Sevilla – Tuesday 14th March, KO 7:45pm
There looked a cavernous gulf in class between these two sides when Leicester City scrambled a fortuitous 2-1 first leg loss in Spain, but momentum has shifted.
Jorge Sampaoli’s scintillating Sevilla have run into a sticky patch, drawing two winnable La Liga contests in a row, while the previously floundering Foxes are now flying under interim manager Craig Shakespeare.
Three weeks ago most of us would have dropped a shoulder to swerve the 27/10 you can get on the Premier League champions reaching the last eight. Not so now. The tie suddenly looks beautifully poised.
The impending Hollywood movie needs a happy ending. Could this be it?
My issue with that storyline is the term ‘clean sheet’.
Leicester haven’t managed it in their last 12 outings, and against an attack-minded, European-savvy side like Sevilla ,I just don’t see it happening.
The Rojiblancos have won three Europa League crowns in a row by negotiating a stream of tricky away matches – and in a devilishly difficult Champions League group they didn’t concede a goal on their travels.
The Spaniards are a superior side, and I expect them to show it.
Juventus v FC Porto – Tuesday 14th March, KO 7:45pm
Defeat avoidance will send The Old Lady through to the quarter finals, and worryingly for Porto fans that’s a feat the Italian champions have achieved in their last 20 European home games.
The 2-0 aggregate lead looks safe as houses.
I thought marauding Juve left back Alex Sandro was outstanding in the first leg against his former club, and although he’s a long shot at 11/1 to score, he could be worth a tickle at that price. The Brazilian’s a quality player that will pile forward at will.
The savvier money might be on Mario Mandzukic instead. He often plays second fiddle to star turns Higuain and Dybala, but whenever the Croatian darts in from the left he looks dangerous in the air, and on the deck. He’s rated a 51/10 chance to open the scoring.
Is there any glimmer of hope for the visitors?
Well, on their last trip to Italy Nuno Espirito Santo’s men did run away as 3-0 victors against Roma in the qualifying round, but at 60/1 a repeat against Serie A’s finest appears pretty unlikely!
Max Allegri’s Juventus are wise guys. They shouldn’t really give the Portuguese raiders a sniff.
A home win without conceding a goal (8/5) is the gamble I’d have most confidence in ahead of kick off.
Monaco v Manchester City – Wednesday 15th March, KO 7:45pm
Monaco have built a reputation for slaying English giants. They’ve won four of their five two-legged Champions League ties against Premier League opposition, and showed more than enough class at the Etihad to suggest they’re not out of it at 3-5 down.
Forget the 2-0 win (at 16/1) for Leonardo Jardim’s men are not exactly watertight at the back, but is a 3-1 or 4-2 success a possibility? Absolutely. You can get prices of 15/1 and 32/1 on those respective outcomes that would send City out.
Wonder kid Kylian Mbappe, 18, looks a gem of a player.
He’s bagged eight goals in his last seven appearances, and with Monaco not likely to sit back and hope for the best, their young Frenchman has to be given consideration at 17/10 to net another against Manchester City. He’ll get chances.
The first leg was a carnival of attacking brilliance – so don’t make plans for Wednesday evening. This is a clash that’s well worth staying in for.
While I wouldn’t be brave enough to predict another eight-goal thriller, the 51/50 on Over 3.5 goals has the look of a must-pick gamble.
At 1/6 to go through, I see Pep Guardiola’s men as far too short but this is a manager that’s never failed to make it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. He knows how to get the job done.
With that in mind, my own choice would be a 2-2 draw at 9/1.
Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen – Wednesday 15th March, KO 7:45pm
New Leverkusen boss Tayfun Korkut says his team ‘will not be beaten’ at the Vicente Calderon, but that’s the fate suffered by 28 of Atletico Madrid’s last 33 European opponents.
The Spaniards are also on a seven-match unbeaten run at home to German clubs, dating back to 1996/97.
You won’t get rich by backing Diego Simeone’s side, but 13/20 is likely to pay out.
Excellent at set pieces I always think defender Diego Godin is a value pick for the first goal at 15/1, but with Antoine Griezmann playing some lovely stuff at the moment, my own choice is for the French striker to score in an Atletico win. That’s a 17/10 shout.
It’s hard to make a case for Bayer Leverkusen. The cream usually rises to the top at this stage, and last season’s finalists are by far the better team.
You can catch all the Champions League goals and follow your football bets at any of the 53 local Grosvenor Casinos in the UK.
Image credits: Flickr (Creative Commons – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))