UEFA Champions League round of 16 pt. 1

The first wave of the UEFA Champions League second round matches for the 2018/19 season sees English clubs take part in the two biggest matches. Thanks to their resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United’s game against Paris Saint-Germain is suddenly an exciting prospect (even without the injured Neymar), and 24 hours later Tottenham Hotspur take on Borussia Dortmund in what could be the silkiest, slickest tie of the round. So, plenty of opportunities for betting with bitcoin in Europe's foremost soccer tournament.

Here’s our preview of all four of next week’s matches. You can check out the previews for the second set of fixtures here.

Man Utd v PSG

When the draw was first made PSG would have been delighted to land Jose Mourinho’s side, but facing Man Utd in their current guise is a much tougher scenario for Thomas Tuchel’s team. The worry with PSG is that their domestic campaign is too easy, which makes it difficult to raise the tempo for big occasions such as these; in the group stages they were thoroughly outplayed by Liverpool at Anfield in September, losing 3-2, and they drew twice with Napoli.

Then again, at Old Trafford Man Utd will expect to dominate with free-flowing attacking football, which should mean lots of space on the counter-attack for Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani. Solskjaer’s desire to revive the Fergie days should allow Tuchel’s team to sit in a hunched 4-4-2 and then break at speed, when ordinarily such negativity would be heavily criticised by the Parisian fans. This simplified approach will be easier for PSG to handle.

What’s more, Neymar’s absence through a foot injury helps the away side. Without the Brazilian to egotistically pull PSG into a free-form shape, Tuchel’s team can play with genuine structure and discipline. United have slowed down of late, too, struggling for fluency against Burnley and Leicester City. The PSG defensive blockade can be successful.

Back PSG to win at 2.62

Roma v Porto

This could be the sort of wild, engaging Champions League tie that will change direction multiple times. Roma are clearly the superior team and yet their form in Serie A is patchy, while defeats to Real Madrid and Viktoria Plzn in the group stages show they are far from certain to progress here.

Porto’s near perfect season (they have won 22 and drawn three of their last 25 games in all competitions) means they will be the more confident side, which is why the safest bet is to back plenty of goals. Porto have failed to score in only three games this season, while eight of Roma’s last 12 games have seen four or more goals.

Tactically, two open teams will likely clash to create an end-to-end contest – particularly on Roma’s left. Their star player Stephan El Shaarawy is dangerous from the left flank, but he could leave space behind him for right-back Eder Militao – in superb form – to bomb forward. Their head-to-head could be crucial.

Back over 2.5 goals at 1.88

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Ajax v Real Madrid

Real Madrid have finally clicked into gear after a dreadful domestic campaign, winning three consecutive La Liga games that began with a resounding 2-0 win over Sevilla in which Real were their old scintillating selves. That is bad news for Ajax, who did well to qualify ahead of under-performing Benfica but cannot be expected to progress any further.

Vinicius Junior has risen to the fore in recent weeks, while Luka Modric has notably recovered form and Karim Benzema has scored three times in his last three games. There is a fluency to the Real attack that should prove too much for Ajax. The Dutch side rarely have to get out of second gear, and being so used to a dominant possession style will likely struggle when forced to play predominantly without the ball.

Winning the individual battles and using their wealth of experience against such a young Ajax team, Real Madrid won’t have any trouble comfortably dispatching of the hosts on Wednesday.

Back Real to win at 1.98

Tottenham v Dortmund

This is going to be fun. Tottenham’s attack has been limited by the absence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and yet both players are most crucial to Spurs when they are facing deep-lying opponents. For the visit of Dortmund, Mauricio Pochettino will probably instruct his team to hold their shape and spring forward on the break, as they have done successfully in the Champions League against Real Madrid, Juventus, and Inter Milan over the last year.

Consequently the pace of Heung-Min Son and the distribution of Christian Eriken should be powerful weapons against Dortmund, who will no doubt dominate possession (they average 57% in the Bundesliga). This tactical pattern could lead to a stretched contest in which the hard pressing of both sides leads to a chaotic affair with plenty of goals.

Marco Reus has looked a man reborn in a new number ten role, which is bound to cause problems given Spurs’ weakness in defensive midfield, while Jadon Sancho versus Ben Davies is a battle that favours the visiting side. Dortmund will surely score at least once, and under the floodlights at Wembley Spurs will bring their attacking A-game.

Back over 2.75 goals at 1.91

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Posted on 2019-02-05

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