The second set of Champions League second round first leg matches take place on February 19 & 20, and while Manchester City’s trip to Schalke is a bit of a dud the other three matches should be fascinating contests, and offer some great bitcoin betting value. Check out the first set of fixtures here.
Lyon are one of the most exciting young teams in Europe right now, their speed on the counter meaning we could see this inconsistent Barcelona side crash out before the quarter-final stage. Liverpool versus Bayern Munich is the standout fixture, and one the hosts should win at Anfield, while Atletico v Juventus sees Cristiano Ronaldo return to Madrid for the first time since leaving Real in the summer.
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
Bayern’s rocky 2018/19 season had appeared to stabilise before their 3-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on February 2, a game that gives Liverpool renewed confidence for this one. Anfield is a fortress on big Champions League nights, and indeed their high-pressing football should unsettle Bayern, leading to a narrow victory for the hosts.
Bayern’s problems are many, but chief among them is the age of this team; the majority of their most established stars, including Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, and Thomas Muller are 29 or older. This helps to explain why Peter Bosz’s Leverkusen – whose piercing, high tempo counter-attacks are relatively Klopp-esque – were able to condemn Bayern to their fourth league defeat of the season.
Even more ominous for Niko Kovac, his side have failed to win every single big game they’ve played this season, including a 3-2 defeat to Dortmund, a 3-3 draw with Ajax, and a 3-0 defeat to second place Borussia Monchengladbach. If Liverpool are at their swashbuckling best, they will win.
Back Liverpool to win at 1.96
Lyon v Barcelona
Lyon are on an exciting run in Ligue Un and have just shown their resilience and tactical strength in a 2-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain. That game in particular highlights how difficult this one will be for Barcelona, who are highly unlikely to score freely – making a low-scoring game the best betting option.
There is so much speed in the Lyon attack that Barca’s continually flaky defence may find themselves in trouble. Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore, and Moussa Dembele can certainly counter-attack behind the slow, ageing legs of Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen. Consequently Barca are unlikely to push too hard for a big win in Lyon, with Lionel Messi potentially enduring a quiet game.
Man City similarly struggled against Lyon, losing 2-1 at the Etihad thanks to those fast breaks and some stubborn defensive work. Barcelona, prone to needlessly dropping points this season, could be in for a slog here.
Back under 3.25 goals at 1.84
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Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Diego Simeone’s side appear to have lost some of their resilience in the 2018/19 season, winning just over half their La Liga matches and qualifying for the second round of the Champions League despite losing 4-0 to Borussia Dortmund in Germany. However, on home soil Atletico should be able to dig their heels in, limiting a Juventus side led by Cristiano Ronaldo, a man Atletico know all about.
Ronaldo has scored 22 goals in 31 games against Atletico, and yet only won 15 of those matches. The deep-lying, rigid structure of Simeone’s defence certainly limits Ronaldo’s effectiveness, with the Portuguese only finding the net in two of his last seven league games against Atleti. This is an important statistic, since Juve’s front line is unlikely to get past such a mean defence unless Ronaldo is at his best.
Atletico’s 2-0 victory over Dortmund at the Wanda earlier this season, in which the hosts held 32% possession, is evidence they remain a powerful force at home. What’s more, they have won 12 and drawn two of their 14 homes games this season in the league and Champions League combined. A first leg victory, or at least a clean sheet, is to be anticipated.
Back under 2.0 goals at 1.98
Schalke v Man City
Undoubtedly the worst team left in the competition, Schalke – who sit 12th in the Bundesliga with 22 points from 20 games – will be cannon fodder for a Manchester City side likely to feel relieved to get away from the pressure of a title race. They tend to steamroller smaller opponents in Europe, such as the 6-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stages of this season’s Champions League.
Kevin de Bruyne is only just beginning to get back to full fitness but should be in his groove by the time he returns to Germany, where he first made his name at Wolfsburg; the Belgian should be capable of piercing holes in a side that hasn’t kept a clean sheet since mid-December. Expect a thoroughly professional performance from the Premier League side that gives them breathing space to relax in the second leg.
Back Man City to win with a -1.25 handicap at 1.83