The Champions League round of 16 first legs come to a close on Wednesday when the final two games will be played. There has already been a lot to consider from a betting perspective – and games between Schalke and Manchester City and Atletico Madrid and Juventus are sure to be full of talking points too.
Wednesday’s match ups feature some of the favorites in the competition and, once again, some of the very best players in the world.
After the drawn out group stage, the knock out rounds are where many fans feel the Champions League really comes alive and these two games are particularly intriguing – for a variety of reasons.
I’m going to be looking at both of Wednesday’s ties to see where the value is in the prices and markets – as well as previewing the games and making my betting picks.
Schalke vs Manchester City
Here are the latest odds, courtesy of Betway.
Schalke to Win
Manchester City to Win
This tie has drawn together the favorites to lift the Champions League trophy in June and the weakest team left in the competition according to the bookmakers – and that is certainly reflected in these prices.
Manchester City will be expected to win both legs but the odds are far too short to get any value on an away win wager. The draw holds a little interest but with the form that City are in it seems unlikely that they would come away from Germany without a victory.
Whenever you get odds of 9.00 for a home win they have to be tempting but this is a real long shot – and although Schalke must be a good side to have made it this far, them winning against Manchester City is not going to happen.
But before I make my pick for this game, let’s take a closer look at both teams.
In recent years Bayern Munich has dominated the Bundesliga and there has usually been a challenger that gets close in the early stages of the season before finishing a distant second at the end of the campaign. That was Schalke last year – and like many before them they have fallen away badly this season.
A clear out in the summer, followed by the arrival of big name players such as Mark Uth, has not helped the German side and they actually lost the five games of the season before turning things around slightly. They have still looked very unimpressive domestically and I feel that they will have a tough night ahead of them, coping with a Manchester City side that will sense blood.
But Schalke’s defense did do well in an admittedly weak Champions League group – only conceding four goals in six matches, finishing second to Porto. They only scored six in their six games however and I feel as though they need to turn that form around very quickly to have any chance against Pep Guardiola’s team.
Welsh teenager Rabbi Matondo has been brought into the squad in the January transfer window and would love to get a chance to run at his former teammates – but he may have to settle for a place on the bench unless things really go wrong for the home side.
City is on fire. Sergio Aguero, in particular, is in incredible form and will be eagerly looking forward to adding to his goal tally for the season against Schalke.
With Leroy Sane returning to the club where he started his career – and Kevin De Bruyne back to full fitness – I find it hard to see how Schalke will cope with Manchester City’s formidable attacking threat.
Lyon gave the English champions a scare in the first game of the group stage but City navigated the rest of their games fairly easily. Schalke may take some comfort in the fact that both Hoffenheim and Lyon were able to score against Manchester City but I think the away side has to be fancied here.
Pep Guardiola is determined to add another Champions League triumph to his glittering resume – after not being able to lead Bayern Munich to the big prize – and I think this draw virtually assures his side a place in the quarter finals.
My Pick and Prediction
I can’t see this game ending in anything but a Manchester City victory but the value bets have to be found elsewhere.
A draw and both teams to score has odds of 7.00 – but even that price is not long enough to interest me. I just don’t think Schalke will get a positive result. Betway is offering 2.80 for Manchester City to win and both teams to score but I’m not sure a team struggling for goals like Schalke will be able to suddenly be able to perform against possibly the best team in Europe.
But I do think that City may not go into this match all guns blazing so odds of 2.40 for total goals under 2.5 is my pick for this tie.
Pick: Total Goals Under 2.5 2.40
Atletico Madrid v Juventus
The other game of the night is the mouthwatering prospect of Diego Simeone’s defensive masters against the attacking prowess of Ronaldo and company. Here’s how Betway has this tie.
Atletico Madrid to Win
Juventus to Win
The bookmakers look like they are as uncertain as everyone else as to how this game will go. Atletico has to be fancied at home but if anyone can break down its defense it is Ronaldo – the Portugal captain has scored 22 goals in 31 games against the Madrid side.
The draw is the bet that stands out from these three choices though. The game itself will undoubtedly be very tight and I can’t see there being many goals, which would suit Juventus going back to Turin for the second leg.
But before I make my pick I want to take a closer look at both teams.
Atletico would dearly love to have the chance to lift their first ever Champions League trophy in their own stadium but has been dealt a tough draw in the form of the Italian champions.
The Spanish club finished runners up in their group behind a Borussia Dortmund side that they uncharacteristically lost 4-0 to at the start of the campaign. Atletico did perform better after that but that result does suggest that there is some degree of weakness not seen before in their defense.
Diego Simeone’s side limped out of this competition at the group stage last season so will want to enjoy an extended run this year. But the loan signing of Alvaro Morata doesn’t really inspire me with confidence, considering that I don’t think his style of football suits the Atletico team.
Atletico has recently allowed city rivals Real Madrid to overtake them in the race to be second behind Barcelona in La Liga and I feel that the air of defensive invincibility that has surrounded them in the past is fading. A draw would be a good result for them.
Ronaldo was brought to the Turin club with the explicit plan of winning the Champions League. Runners up twice in the past four years, the Italian giant would regard winning this competition as proof that they are not just a big fish in a small pond.
Once again Juventus is running away with its domestic league and now it has its sights set on continental glory. Defeat at home to Manchester United in the group stage will not have been part of the plan but even a draw would be a good result in Madrid and I fully expect the Italian side to go through to the next round.
My one concern would be the defensive injuries that will more than likely affect their line up at least for the first leg. But as long as Massimiliano Allegri can overcome that problem I think a positive result is very possible.
My Pick and Prediction
My immediate thought about a wager on this game would be Ronaldo to score at any time but Atletico’s defense will surely target Juventus’ star man and it could be up to others to get the result Allegri desires.
I don’t think that there will be many goals in this one but Betway’s offer of just 2.40 for total goals under 1.5 doesn’t feel like value to me. This game could well finish 1-0 to either side but with odds of 3.00 I’m going to go with the draw.
Pick: The Draw 3.00
Once these games have ended we will have a slightly better understanding of how the ties are looking – and which sides can be favored to make the quarter finals.
We have already had some very interesting results in the round of 16 first leg games and these two are surely going to carry on that form.
As always, let me know what you think about these picks and predictions.