UEFA Champions League Preview

The first set of the second leg fixtures are upon us, with teams going all out for Europe’s most elite competition. Wolfsburg are in pole position to reach their first ever Champions League quarter-final spot after earning themselves three away goals at Gent. Real Madrid sit comfortably in the driving seat, winning their first leg against Roma 2-0 away from home. Zinedine Zidane will hope to avoid an upset in his first Champions League game in charge at the Bernabeu Stadium as Madrid boss. Andre Villas-Boas will renew his rivalry with Benfica as they hope to overhaul their 1-0 first leg defeat in Lisbon. The clash of the week will see Chelsea host PSG in a do-or-die encounter. PSG will hope to win their first ever Champions League, but have to get past a resilient Chelsea side under Guus Hiddink. Loads of exciting matchups to look forward to, with some enticing odds on offer. Let’s make some money together.

Tuesday 8 March

11/20 Wolfsburg | Draw 31/10 | Gent 9/2 (21:45)

Wolfsburg looked to have put the tie to bed in the first leg as they cruised into a three-goal lead in Belgium only for Gent to score twice in the final 10 minutes, ending the game at 3-2. Going into the tie, Wolfsburg were always going to be favourites despite the fact that this is the first time in the clubs history that they are at this stage of the competition. The Wolves are well placed to continue their first Champions League knockout rounds campaign into the quarter-finals, although a late fightback in the first leg has given Gent hope of prolonging their debut campaign as well. Julian Draxler was the star of the first leg, scoring two wonderfully worked goals, coming from superb teamwork. Worrying the defence with his dazzling skill and pace, Draxler makes it almost impossible to mark him at times. However, Wolfsburg have been dealt a massive blow after defender Naldo could miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder. It was the club captain who helped his side reach the knockout stages earlier in the competition, scoring on the final matchday of the group stage against Manchester United. But Dieter Hecking's men will look to their home form as a positive. They won all three home fixtures so far in the Champions League and are favourites to continue that run. Despite a late comeback for the Belgian champions, Gent face an uphill challenge, knowing they have to win by two goals or more – unless they manage to find the back of the net three times. However, the Buffalos will be confident against German opposition, winning away from home on their last two occasions. Hein Vanhaezebrouck has every right to feel his side could go further in the competition, up against a Wolfsburg team that have been disappointing in their domestic league following the sale of Kevin De Bruyne. For Gent, Laurent Depoitre will be the target man up front. The Belgian has attracted plenty of interest from English Premier League clubs, while Danijel Milicevic and Sven Kums are the key men in midfield. Wolfsburg have been victorious in all three of their UEFA competition ties in which they won the away first leg. A record that is likely to continue? I think so. A straightforward Wolfsburg win at 11/20 will do for me.

9/20 Real Madrid | 7/2 | Roma 5/1 (21:45)

Real Madrid host Roma in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie in pole position to reach the quarter-finals for the sixth season in a row. The Galacticos have been knocked out by Italian opposition for the last eight times. A record that Zinedine Zidane will hope to break in charge of his first home game at Real Madrid in the Champions League. Zizou won the competition as a player for Los Blancos – scoring the winning goal in the final – hoping now, to do it as a manager in his first year. Madrid thrashed Malmo 8-0 in their last home fixture in the competition – the joint-biggest victory in 24 years of the Champions League. Overall, they scored 13 goals and conceded none in three straight home victories in the group stage. Roma are looking to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2008. Many people would question how Roma got to the knockout stages in the first place, winning just one group match. One threat that Roma have up their sleeves is the brain of Luciano Spaletti. The Italian manager re-joined the Giallorossi as head coach and has helped them to rediscover their form and raise their confidence, lifting the heads of the Giallorossi faithful. In fact, it was Spaletti’s side who last knocked out Real Madrid the last time these sides met. Roma have scored seven goals in three away matches in this seasons Champions League, but conceded 13 – six of them in a 6-1 defeat against Los Blancos’ arch-rivals Barcelona. The Giallorossi last won away from home in the Champions League when they beat FC Basel 3-2 in 2010. Real Madrid will still be without Gareth Bale for this tie, leaving Roma right back Maicon relieved, after the Brazilian was ripped to shreds the last time the players met. Despite a few missing players in Real Madrid’s squad, they still have the quality to trounce any team on their day. With that being said, a victory for Madrid + Over 2.5 Goals at 9/10 is well worth a punt.

Wednesday 9 March

1/1 Zenit | 23/10 | Benfica 11/4 (19:00)

Zenit face Benfica in the early kick-off on Wednesday night, entering the tie 1-0 down thanks to a stoppage time goal by Jonas. The Brazilian striker, signed from Valencia in 2014, is a candidate for the Golden Shoe award. His confidence will be high coming into this match after scoring 26 goals in 24 league games for Benfica this season. Form like that could worry any opposition and will put an extra nervousness in the eyes of Zenit’s defence. However, the Sky Blues possess a Brazilian wizard of their own – Hulk. The powerful forward is fast with a wicked left foot, able to bulldoze his way past the best of defences. Despite the two key Brazilians on showcase for their sides, the pair prove to be far from “one-man teams”. Benfica have the likes of Nicolas Gaitan and Renato Sanches, who was most recently linked with the likes of PSG and Manchester United. Andre Villas-Boas' side, who are seeking a first ever appearance in the quarter-finals, will look to use former Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel against them. The Belgian international is one of the best players in his position and will play a key role in hope of knocking out his former employers. Two more positives for Zenit, is that they have never lost to Portuguese opposition at home in seven attempts – winning five – as well as Hulk’s goal-scoring record, netting five goals in 12 appearances against Benfica while at Porto between 2008 and 2012. With the form of Jonas up front for the Eagles, I can certainly see Benfica scoring, but failing to progress to the next round. This one is for the brave, take Zenit to Win + Both Teams To Score at 34/10. A great value bet well worth a punt! 

16/10 Chelsea | 9/4 | Paris Saint-Germain 31/20 (21:45)

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UCL Picks
Wolfsburg WIN 11/20
Real Madrid WIN + OVER 2.5 GOALS 9/10
Zenit WIN + BTTS 34/10
Chelsea WIN 16/10 

Written by Jesse Nagel