With only 16 teams left in the competition, every Champions League night is special from here on in.
Wednesday sees some of the most exciting outsiders taking center stage.
Both Tottenham and Dortmund are shaking up their domestic leagues. Spurs are keeping the pressure firmly on Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the English Premier League, and Dortmund is looking like they could end Bayern Munich’s six-year reign domination of the Bundesliga in Germany.
The other tie of the night is just as intriguing, with a youthful Ajax side taking on the Champions League holders themselves – Real Madrid. The Spanish club is not looking as all-conquering as previous seasons but should never be written off in a competition they consider their own.
I’m going to take a look at the evening’s games from a betting perspective and try to find the odds and markets with the best value before making my picks.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
With the game almost upon us here are the latest odds from Betway.
Tottenham Hotspur to Win
Borussia Dortmund to Win
The bookmakers can’t seem to split these two sides with both clubs priced by Betway at 25.00 to lift the Champions League trophy in Madrid in June.
First impressions from the game odds is that 2.20 for a home win seems to be too short for any real interest.
I’ll be looking at the two sides in detail in a moment but I’m not convinced Spurs have the depth in their squad to make up for injuries – especially when it comes to keeping this Dortmund team quiet.
I think Dortmund definitely have the talent to come away from Wembley with a win but a draw would be a good enough result given their performances at home this season.
With a price of 3.50 for an even game I would say that was the value bet out of the three – with Spurs unlucky to be missing some of the big name players when they are needed most.
Getting even this far in the competition can be considered a success for Mauricio Pochettino’s side given the way they started the campaign. With just one point from their first three games – in a group that included Barcelona, Inter and PSV – many thought that this would be another year when Spurs failed to live up to potential.
But a good run of results culminating in an unlikely draw in the Camp Nou – coupled with Inter’s inability to beat an already eliminated PSV in the San Siro – saw Spurs through to the knock out rounds.
The good news is that Harry Kane could incredibly make some kind of appearance at Wembley. The ankle ligament injury that looked to see him on the sidelines until March has healed much faster than expected and now the talismanic striker could play some kind of a role against Dortmund.
The bad news is that Dele Alli should still be missing due to his hamstring strain so Tottenham will miss the link up play and attacking thrust that he brings. A lot depends on Kane’s availability and although Heung-min Son has deputized to an extent, Dortmund would be far happier if the England captain was unavailable.
Dortmund look like they are going to win the Bundesliga for the first time since 2012 and seem to be really enjoying capitalizing on Bayern Munich’s inconsistent form this season. They have only dropped two points at home all season and will believe that if they get any kind of result at Wembley they can finish the job off at the Westfalenstadion.
In the Champions League Dortmund coasted through what looked like a potentially tricky group, only conceding their first goal in their fourth game – by which time they had virtually qualified already.
If Jaden Sancho shakes off his slight illness in time he will be especially keen to show English fans what he has learnt since making the move to the Bundesliga – and why he is one of the continent’s hottest properties at the moment.
Spurs will also have to be wary of Paco Alcacer who made his loan move from Barcelona permanent in November. His 12 Bundesliga goals have helped Dortmund stay at the top of the table but a barren spell recently will hearten the Spurs defense.
One concern for the game against Spurs is Marco Reus who went off injured after scoring against Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal German Cup. Reus is hugely important and if he is to miss the game I think it would be a big loss for Dortmund going forward.
My Pick and Prediction
Much depends on the various injuries affecting both sides ahead of this game. If Harry Kane can make a shock return then Spurs will definitely have more firepower up front – although I would worry that they may be rushing him back too soon.
I think as talented as Marco Reus is, Dortmund can cope without him much better than Spurs can without their stars. The attacking verve of Jaden Sancho, along with the midfield presence of Mario Gotze and Axel Witsel could cause Spurs some real problems and achieve a positive result for the German side.
I am tempted by a Dortmund win at 3.10 but think that Lucien Favre will be more than happy with the draw and at odds of 3.50 I think that bet has much more value.
Pick: The Draw 3.50
Ajax vs. Real Madrid
The other game on Wednesday night is Ajax vs Real Madrid – here are the main odds for that tie.
Ajax to Win
It seems evident that bookmakers have decided that Real Madrid’s woeful early season form is well behind them as they are overwhelming favorites to get the win at the Amsterdam Arena. That seems a little overconfident to me and I definitely think those odds of 1.95 for an away win are far too short.
Ajax seems to be more of a project than a trophy winning side however. Its youthful squad has been very impressive in this season’s Champions League and have the capacity to give Madrid a scare – but could also crumble under the pressure.
At first glance the price for an Ajax win seems a little short to fully inspire confidence but let’s take a closer look at the two sides before I make my picks and prediction.
There seems to be a lot of fans and pundits willing Ajax to do well – and if they can knock out the champions then there will be a lot of happy sides left in the draw for the quarter finals.
Finishing second in last season’s Eredivisie has made for a very long Champions League campaign already but they looked good in their group matches, winning three and drawing three – two against Bayern Munich – to go through as runners up.
Although their domestic league is weaker than many others in Europe they have still managed to score over 70 goals in just 20 games so will be confident that they can find the net against Real Madrid and cause the Spanish club some problems at the back.
They were also recently thrashed 6-2 by close rivals Feyenoord, which suggests that they could be susceptible to the attacking talent of Karim Benzema and Brazilian wonder kid Vinicius Junior.
Without Ronaldo Real Madrid were looking anything but Champions League winners early on in the season but coach Santiago Solari has seemingly turned things around and things are looking much brighter at the Bernabeu now.
Gareth Bale has not taken over Ronaldo’s mantle in the way that some had hoped – but Benzema has definitely flourished in a more central role this season and Real Madrid look to be turning their season around just in time for another crack at the Champions League.
That being said, I feel that Real Madrid is not the force it once was. They miss the sheer presence of Ronaldo on nights like this and don’t instill the same fear in opponents that they did with the Portuguese master in their ranks.
Real Madrid navigated their group impressively – beating Roma convincingly home and away to go through as winners – and I think they will have too much experience at this level for Ajax over the two legs.
My Pick and Prediction
I’m looking forward to seeing how Ajax attempt to deal with Real Madrid in this tie and expect an exciting game with more than its fair share of goals.
I don’t think the visitors are quite back at their best and may find this game difficult – especially if Ajax get an early goal. Unfortunately the odds of just 2.25 for total goals over 3.5 just doesn’t hold much value so I’m going to go for the draw here.
Pick: The Draw 4.00
These two games should be great adverts for the Champions League with an enticing mix of youthful vitality and big names on show.
All four clubs could all go through to the next round and how they perform in these first leg match ups will be crucial to who makes the quarter final draw. Whatever happens I think we are in for a treat.
Let me know what you think of my picks and predictions in the comments section below.