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UEFA Champions League Preview

The Round of 16 1st leg produced plenty of goals, let’s hope for more of the same in the 2nd leg.
The Round of 16 1st leg produced plenty of goals, let’s hope for more of the same in the 2nd leg.
The second leg of the UEFA Champions League matches get underway with Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain both commanding a four-goal lead over Arsenal and Barcelona respectively. Never in the history of the Champions League has a four-goal lead been turned around in the second leg – which doesn’t bode well for the Gunners and Barca. Elsewhere, current champions, Real Madrid, will look to hold on to their 3-1 lead over Napoli and perhaps add an away goal to the mix. Borussia Dortmund have a small mountain to climb after losing their first leg clash against Benfica by a 1-0 scoreline. The first set of Round of 16 matches produced plenty of goals. Let’s hope for more of the same in the second leg.

Tuesday 7 March

7/4 Napoli | Draw 51/20 | Real Madrid 27/20 (21:45)

Napoli will be aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time in the club’s history. However, they’ll need to overcome their 3-1 deficit in the first leg if they are to get to the next round. What will give the Naples fans some belief is their all-important away goal which was struck by Lorenzo Insigne. Real Madrid will be confident they can win their seventh consecutive Round of 16 match. Goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro earned an emphatic victory for Los Blancos. Napoli suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Atalanta last weekend, while Madrid came from two goals down to beat Villarreal 3-2 away from home. Zinedine Zidane’s side have looked deadly going forward since the return of Welsh superstar, Gareth Bale. However, it’s not only Bale that can hurt you going forward, the likes of Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Alvaro Morata off the bench can cause the Naples tons of problems. Napoli also welcomed back the return of Arkadiusz Milik from injury from who has three goals this campaign. Getting the 22-year old Polish striker on form will be Napoli’s best chance of overcoming their first leg defeat. A 2-0 win will be enough for Napoli, but realistically speaking, that’s never happening. They do have the firepower to get the first goal, though – like they did in the reverse tie. Back the Naples to Score First at even money.

19/10 Arsenal | 51/20 | Bayern Munich 5/4 (21:45)

Arsenal will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009/10. In order to achieve that, the Gunners have to make the impossible possible. Arsene Wenger’s side lost 5-1 in the first leg at the Allianz Arena. Coming back from a four-goal deficit has never been done in the tournament, so the Gunners fans can all but accept the fact that their beloved team is out of the UEFA Champions League. Bayern Munich thumped Hamburg 8-0 last weekend, sending an unwanted message to Arsenal. Arjen Robben rolled back the years in the first leg and gave the Bavarians the lead with a well-taken strike from outside of the box. Thiago Alcantara and Robert Lewandowski also made it a nightmare for the Gunners with Thomas Muller rounding off the scoring late in the game. Arsenal beat Bayern in this fixture last season, winning 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium. I wouldn’t rule out an Arsenal victory here, but by four goals? No chance at all. Bayern are guaranteed a couple of goals also so we could see some more fireworks in this tie. Over 3.5 Goals is the tip at 12/10.

Wednesday 8 March

7/20 Dortmund | 39/10 | Benfica 7/1 (21:45)

It came to my surprise the last time these sides met when Dortmund failed to break through Benfica’s rock-solid defence. Dortmund, who were they highest scorers in the group stage of the tournament, kept on knocking on the door of the Portuguese giants but were denied access, resulting in a 1-0 defeat. Dortmund will be looking to reach the last eight for the third time in a decade, while the Eagles will be hoping to get there for the third time in six seasons. The first leg was the perfect example of attack, attack, attack up against a Benfica bus that was parked in their own half for most of the game. Kostas Mitroglou netted the game’s only goal before Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a penalty for Dortmund – which could prove costly if Benfica get an away goal. Dortmund have not lost at the Westfalenstadion this season and will be hoping to turn their 1-0 deficit around. Back Thomas Tuchel’s side to emerge victorious by a (-1) Handicap at 9/10.

5/10 Barcelona | 7/2 | Paris Saint-Germain 9/2 (21:45)

As mentioned before, a deficit of four goals has never been turned around in the UEFA Champions League. However, if you had to pick one team capable of doing so, it’s Barcelona. PSG blew Luis Enrique’s Barcelona future in the air when they hammered the Catalans 4-0 at the Parc des Princes. Barca were crushed to pieces, but have stepped up their game since then, recently beating Spanish title-rivals, Atletico Madrid, 2-1 away from home. PSG didn’t take their foot off the gas either and humbled Marseille by a 5-1 scoreline away from home last weekend. Edinson Cavani has been in scintillating form, scoring 35 goals in 34 games across all competitions for the Parisians. PSG are likely to keep their first-choice starting line-up for the clash, but it might not be enough to stop Barca this time around. Barca will be aiming to reach the last eight for a record 10th successive season, but that seems highly unlikely now, given the task at hand. I expect Barca to win this one, but it might not be enough to get them to the next round. Enrique’s men on the (-1) Handicap is the tip at 23/20.

QUAD @ 17/1
Napoli To Score 1st 1/1
Arsenal vs Bayern Over 3.5 Goals 12/10
Dortmund Win (-1) Handicap 9/10
Barcelona Win (-1) Handicap 23/20

Written by Jesse Nagel