It is a big week this week across Europe as while the Cricket World Cup rages down under and the Six Nations is played out, football fans will be delighted to hear that the Champions League returns this week with four out of the eight Round of 16 games taking place this week, with the remaining four following on next.
In this article, we’ll take a look at each of the eight games briefly, giving you who we think our tips are for who will progress to the next round and why, together with any bets that we like the look of for each game.
Of course, all of this means great excitement for UK sports punters. If you want to get in on the action, we recommend giving Bet365 a try. Right now new signups will get $100 free Bet 365 Sports bets – so why not?
Paris St Germain v Chelsea
These two sides met in the quarterfinals last season with Chelsea progressing thanks to away goals. PSG won 3-1 in the first leg, but Chelsea struck back to win 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to earn a place in the quarterfinals.
This time around, they meet a round earlier and once again this looks like being a close encounter. The bookies have Chelsea the 4/9 favourites to progress overall, but PSG are strong at home, especially in Europe.
However, given they have injury worries regarding several key players, the return to the Chelsea team of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa plus Chelsea’s brutish form of late especially at home, the English side are strong favourite to progress over the two legs and at 4/9 with Bet365 to make the next round, that is a solid price.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich
It is absolutely no surprise that Josep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side are the 1/16 odds on favourites to qualify from this tie. Shakhtar Donetsk have done well to qualify for the knockout phase and in Luiz Adriano have the tournament’s highest goalscorer with 9 goals, but playing in Lviv, due to the unrest near Donetsk, does put them at a significant disadvantage.
Munich go into this game on the back of an 8-0 mauling of SV Hamburg at the weekend with all their key players in attack grabbing goals. Shakhtar have never beaten a German side in four attempts in the Champions League (drawing two and losing two) but these two sides have not yet met in the competition.
That said, there’s no real prospect of anything other than Bayern Munich progressing here.
Schalke 04 v Real Madrid
If the previous game was pretty much a given that one team would qualify then the same could be said for the clash between Schalke 04 and the current Champions League holders, Real Madrid.
The two sides met at the same point last season and Madrid emerged victorious winning 9-2 on aggregate, including a 6-1 win in Schalke in the first leg. Roberto Di Matteo will certainly have his Schalke side on alert to avoid a repeat of that showing in the first leg on Wednesday night.
However, while I expect Schalke to be considerably more competitive, Real Madrid are just far too strong in every department and while Carlo Ancelotti’s men are not impregnable, Schalke don’t have the class or organisation to cause a big upset here. Madrid are 1/12 to go through for a good reason.
FC Basel v FC Porto
This is the first ever meeting between FC Basel and FC Porto in the Champions League and of all the clashes, this is arguably the most open of the first week of games.
FC Porto are the 4/9 favourites to progress, but FC Basel are a dangerous side, as Liverpool know to their cost, and they are certainly good enough to cause FC Porto a few problems, especially in their home leg this week.
However, FC Porto do have a squad that is packed with a lot more class that the Swiss side and over the two legs, I feel Porto will have just too much firepower for Basel to cope with.
Therefore, I am taking the 4/9 available with Bet365 on FC Porto making the next round, though I don’t think it will be quite as easy as the bookies are making out.
Juventus v Borussia Dortmund
An intriguing matchup pits Serie A champions Juventus, who have struggled to get past this stage in recent years, against Borussia Dortmund, who boast a fine Champions League record in recent seasons but who have suffered a miserable season in the Bundesliga thus far.
Of all the games at this stage of the competition, this is arguably the most difficult to predict. Juventus may dominate Serie A but their form in the Champions League knockout stages has been very poor in recent times. Dortmund’s league form is poor (though improved of late) but they remain a strong Champions League side.
The bookies have Juventus as the slight odds on favourites to progress here, but I feel with the second leg in Dortmund, the German side just have the edge. It will be close but I am taking Dortmund to reach the next phase at even money with Bet365.
Manchester City v Barcelona
Certainly the biggest game of the knockout phase and according to the bookies, the English Champions chances are not good against the team that has proven to be their nemesis in the competition in recent times.
City were eliminated by Barcelona last season and although City are a very dangerous side, Barcelona’s attack has the potential to tear City’s defence to shreds, especially at the Nou Camp.
If City can take a lead to Barcelona and put in a performance like they did against Roma in the group stages, then they could conceivably win this tie.
However it is hard to back against Barcelona over two legs here so I am taking the 4/11 available on the Catalans to make it into the next stage of the Champions League.
Arsenal v AS Monaco
Arsenal got the better of things for the English sides in their draw against AS Roma but they’d be unwise to take the French side too lightly. After several years in the doldrums, Monaco are looking back to being a genuine force in French football once again, thanks to generous financial backers.
That said, this is a game that Arsenal are unlikely to fear too much. Arsene Wenger, himself a former Monaco manager, will be hoping his star men like Sanchez, Ozil and Cazorla will have too much class for an individually talented Monaco side that hasn’t yet proven itself at the top level of European football.
Arsenal should take a decent lead of at least two goals to the principality for the second leg and I fancy them to score away from home, that will need Monaco needing four to win, hence I am taking the 4/11 with Bet365 on Arsenal here.
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid
The final game of the Round of 16 sees last year’s runners up Atletico Madrid head to Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen. The Bookies have Diego Simeone’s men as the 1/3 favourites to qualify and given their recent form, it is hard to argue against that.
Leverkusen are not a bad side, but a bit like Schalke 04, they are just not the same level as their Spanish counterparts.
Expect Leverkusen to push Atletico hard in the first leg, but I think in the end Madrid’s extra class will tell over both legs and see them through with relative ease. As such, the 1/3 on Atletico progressing looks a solid bet here.