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UCL: Last 16, Second leg - An Atalanta upset?

All four home teams hold away-goal leads, suggesting that picking the winners shouldn't be too tricky. At current odds, Man City are still favoured for the title, just ahead of champs Bayern Munich. Real Madrid and Chelsea are favourites - but might Atalanta cause on upset over the Spanish giants?

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The Last 16 - Second leg, Match week 2

When we wrote our preview of the first leg of this week’s matches, the odds on Bayern Munich to defend their title and win the 2020/21 Champions League sat at 3.96 - just a smidge behind Manchester City at 3.81. Those odds have since widened a little, although they are still pretty tight, at 3.12 compared to 4.21. As ever, all odds cited here are correct at the time of writing, but please do check the live site for the latest numbers.

Ahead of their recent derby loss to Manchester United, the Sky Blues notched up 21 consecutive wins in all competitions - so it’s little surprise that many bettors - and many bookmakers - expect them to become champions of Europe for the first time.

Away from the two favourites, the two other ties have clear favourites but are still intriguingly poised, particularly in the ‘behind closed doors’ era, where away victories have become far more common than in the past. Three of the four home teams last week made it into the last eight - will we see a clean sweep this time?

Manchester City vs Borussia Monchengladbach (2-0)

Even leaving aside the relative strength of the two teams, history is undoubtedly on Manchester City’s side here. Only once in the history of the European Cup and Champions League has a team recovered from a first-leg home defeat by at least two goals to qualify for the next round (if you’re wondering, it was Man Utd who lost 2-0 at home before rolling PSG 3-1 away in 2019) .

There was little in the first leg to suggest that the German side could spring an enormous shock here either. Gladbach had just three shots in total, their only effort on target coming in the final seconds of stoppage time.

City have conceded twice in each of their last two matches at the Etihad, which will give Marco Rose some hope, but it took a penalty on both occasions, so it’s still a big ask for the visitors to score the minimum two goals they’ll need. The home side’s qualification is seemingly so assured that they are already favourites to go further in the competition than Liverpool, even though the Reds have already made it to the quarter-finals. Incidentally, you can still get 1.95 on England in the Winning Nation market, over Germany next at 3.25.

Our suggestion to back Pep Guardiola’s side to win to nil paid off in the first leg, and it would be foolish not to expect the same outcome a second time. While the Citizens might score a few goals, they will be happy to see the match out with minimal fuss and without expending unnecessary energy chasing a big win, so it may be wise to avoid the Total Goals market.

Match result: Manchester City to win (1.23)
Both teams to score: No (1.74)
To win the competition: Manchester City (3.12), Borussia Monchengladbach (496)
First time winner: If you favour City to lift the title, the first time winner market is still offering better odds on Yes (1.95) than No (1.75).

Real Madrid v Atalanta BC (1-0)

The controversially awarded red card shown to Atalanta’s Remo Freuler in the 17th minute of the first leg meant that match was inevitably going to be a one-sided encounter. It also spoiled our notion of backing over 3 goals as Gian Piero Gasperini was understandably forced to have his side focus on keeping Real Madrid at bay.

And on the whole they did, with the visitors only creating a single clear-cut chance and relying on a beautiful long-range goal from left-back Ferland Mendy to settle the match.

Teams who lose 1-0 at home in a first leg rarely recover to qualify, but as we noted ahead of the first meeting, Atalanta are better away from home, and won at Liverpool and Ajax in the Group Stage.

Plus the likes of Alaves, Cadiz and Levante have all won at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in La Liga this season, as did Shahktar Donetsk in Group B - so one of Europe’s top counter-attacking sides unquestionably can.

It seems a big call to tip Atalanta here, but Real have lost three and drawn one of their previous four Champions League knockout games at home, and the boys from Bergamo came within minutes of eliminating Paris Saint-Germain from the competition last season.

Both teams should find the back of the net, and if the Italian team can do so at least once more than their hosts, they’ll knock the 13-time champions out of the competition.

Match result: Atalanta to win (3.39)
Both teams to score: Yes (1.65)
To win the competition: Real Madrid (13.3), Atalanta (50.5)
First time winner: If you agree that Atalanta will prevail, now could be the time to bet Yes (1.95) in the first time winner market as well, as the odds will shrink if Manchester City and PSG continue to progress as expected.

Bayern Munich v Lazio Roma (4-1)

There hadn’t been a single 4-1 away win in the first leg of a Champions League tie in the last 17 seasons, and then two came along at once… albeit Bayern Munich’s win in Rome being far less surprising than PSG’s demolition of Barcelona.

Unfortunately for Lazio, so much of what went wrong for them was self-inflicted. Two Opta-defined errors led to goals and Francesco Acerbi put through to his own net too. While they did score - to ensure both our recommended bets paid off - Lazio really have no realistic hope of qualifying for the last eight.

Had the deficit been narrower, there may have been an outside chance - Bayern have already conceded more home league goals in 2020/21 than they did in the whole of last season, and haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last nine home Bundesliga matches.

The visitors have only failed to score in two of their league matches and have netted every time in Europe this season, so they carry a decent threat - but we’ll have to simply repeat our tips from the first leg as Bayern’s experience and pedigree should see them qualify comfortably.

Match result: Bayern Munich to win (1.32)
Both teams to score: Yes (1.67)
To win the competition: Bayern Munich (4.21), Lazio (496)

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid (1-0)

When a sizeable chunk of the highlights from a match are made up of replays of a VAR check, you know it wasn’t a classic. So it was with the first leg of this tie, not that Chelsea will care as the officials were deciding that Olivier Giroud’s overhead kick goal counted, which put them in great shape to reach the quarter-finals.

Back in 2014, Atleti won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge to win a semi-final tie, but such carefree scoring away from home is certainly unusual for Diego Simeone’s side in the Champions League knock-out phase.

They did score three times at Anfield last season, but all in extra time when Liverpool fell apart while chasing the game. In the regulation 90 minutes, they’ve only scored more than once in one of their last 10 matches on the road at this level.

Of course, they’d take a 1-0 win and extra time (with the possibility of penalties) right now if they could. With Chelsea’s improved defensive solidity under new manager Thomas Tuchel - they’ve conceded just twice in his opening nine league matches - it’s probably the absolute best the visitors could realistically hope.

As the new look Blues aren’t scoring plenty of goals themselves, this has the feel of a low-scoring match that could peter out into a stalemate.

Match result: Draw (3.25)
Total goals: Under 2.25 (1.81)
To win the competition: Chelsea (11.8), Atletico Madrid (30.7)


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