The Champions League returns this week, and there are some thrilling fixtures that gamblers will be able to place their wagers on. But, which teams should bettors be backing on their soccer predictions to reach the next round of the competition?
Manchester City vs Real Madrid
One of the fixtures that leaps off the page will see Manchester City looking to defend their narrow 2-1 advantage back at the Etihad against the recently crowned La Liga champions. City would have been disappointed to let go of their Premier League crown, but there is a sense that this is the trophy that they really wanted to win this season.
It did appear as though City’s Champions League hoodoo was going to continue earlier in the year as Real Madrid took a 1-0 lead in the first leg when Isco found the back of the net. However, City’s never say die attitude was on full display as they were able to turn the game on its head thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and a penalty from Kevin De Bruyne. Madrid’s chances of turning the tie around will also have been impacted by the late sending off for Sergio Ramos in the first leg.
However, it is difficult to completely write off Madrid ahead of the second leg, as they have won ten of their eleven previous matches. That run of form was pivotal in the Spanish giants reclaiming their La Liga title from Barcelona. Madrid haven’t been firing on all cylinders in the run-in, and the success was mainly down to them being relentless.
That victory in the first leg was the first time that City had ever beaten Real Madrid, as they had lost two of the previous four meetings. However, Madrid have never won at the Etihad, which means the selection for this game is for the draw.
Bayern Munich vs Chelsea
Chelsea have a huge challenge ahead against Bayern Munich, as they will be looking to overcome a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Stamford Bridge. The Blues were shell-shocked in that fixture, as Bayern produced a stunning away performance in the second period. The German champions were ruthless as they went into a commanding 3-0 lead after Serge Gnabry fired in a brace and Robert Lewandowski found the net with 15 minutes remaining.
Chelsea had no answer, and they now face a near-impossible task to get through to the quarterfinals. The Blues may be low on confidence after recently losing in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, as Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang scored a brace for the Gunners to wipe out Chelsea’s early lead. Frank Lampard’s debut season in charge at Stamford Bridge has at least saw the manager secure a place in the top-four for next season, but a piece of silverware would have been the cherry on the top of the cake.
Bayern are seen by many as the leading side to win the Champions League this season, and they have been in terrifying form since the play in Germany resumed. They won all nine games in the Bundesliga since the restart, and also ended the season by winning the DFB-Pokal following a 4-2 success over Bayer Leverkusen. The size of the challenge that Chelsea have on their hands is also shown by the fact that Bayern haven’t lost a game in any competition since early December, which means that they have been unbeaten in 26 games. Robert Lewandowski will be the man that the Blues have to look out for, as he has already scored 34 goals in all competitions.
This is a daunting challenge for Lampard’s team, and it is incredibly hard to bet against Bayern Munich getting another win.
Barcelona vs Napoli
Barcelona will be looking to end their five-year wait for Champions League success this season, but in order to do that, they must first get past a testing tie against Napoli. The tie couldn’t be much closer, with the two sides playing out a 1-1 draw in the first leg. Dries Mertens scored the opening goal in that game, before Antione Griezmann levelled the scored for the Catalonian club.
Due to the Champions League being played later in the year this season, there will be an ironic feeling of déjà vu as they two sides met in the pre-season La Liga Serie A Cup 12 months ago. The first leg was played on the 7th August, with Barcelona winning 2-1 before the Spanish side secured the honour by winning the second leg 4-0. However, Barcelona’s form since the restart in Spain has been inconsistent. They went on a run of three draws in four La Liga fixtures, which meant that their title chances were effectively over. Barcelona have been in great form in the Champions League throughout the season, as they are yet to lose.
Napoli have been in good form since the restart, as they recently won the Coppa Italia against Juventus. They are capable of beating the very best sides in world football when they are at their best, as they showed that by beating Liverpool in the first game of the group stages. They ended the season with an excellent 3-1 win over Lazio, which secured a seventh-placed finish for the Italian side.
This could be a potentially difficult second leg for the hosts, as Napoli have the tools to hurt Barcelona. However, the Catalonian side would still be the preference to get the win they need to progress.