UCL: The Man City hurdle
Can Man City finally fulfil their potential and clear the quarters? The two most-favoured teams should follow form, while Porto looks for another upset, this time over Chelsea. Real Madrid vs Liverpool is tough to call - we'll side with the Spaniards at home.
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Quarter-final first-leg action
With the help of football journalist Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed), who has provided the Cloudbet Blog with UCL coverage this season, we take a look at the four quarter-final first-leg matches, with the hope of finding value in Cloudbet odds. So make sure to return to the Blog for sharp advice, and to Cloudbet's leading crypto sportsbook for all you need to bet with bitcoin on the UCL.
The Champions League is heating up - we are down to the last eight, and the majority of them will harbour realistic hopes of going all the way.
Recent history of the competition suggests that the clubs who play away from home first have a slight advantage. Since 2003/04 - when the UCL adopted its current format - 59% of teams who played the second leg at home have gone through to the semi-finals.
More tellingly, of the away sides that have managed a draw in the first leg, 13 out of 18 have gone on to qualify, and that improves to a full 15 from 15 if they win.
Of course, the relevance of these historical advantages is called into question in the era of football played behind closed doors. It’s much harder, for example, to see Liverpool adding to their catalogue of famous European nights at Anfield if the legendary ground is deserted.
Nonetheless, we have four intriguing ties ahead of us, and the home teams will certainly be looking to lay down a marker ahead of the second leg next week. Odds quoted are correct at the time of writing, but please check the live site for the latest numbers.
Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund
Perhaps the most interesting of the four ties, is this finally the year that Pep Guardiola’s iteration of Manchester City reach the last four and live up to their status as tournament favourites?
The odds show they’re expected to advance, and rightly so, but we have been here before. To varying degrees City were expected to get past Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Lyon in the last four seasons, but the Citizens came up short each time.
And Dortmund undoubtedly have the ability to cause an upset, most obviously through the favourite to top the top goalscorer market, Erling Haaland, who has already netted 33 times across all competitions in 2020/21.
Thanks in no small part to Haaland, Edin Terzic’s side have scored more Bundesliga goals than their xG statistics suggest they should have, but they have also conceded more than expected at the back. The same was true of their tie with Sevilla in the previous round too.
Dortmund conceded four goals away to Borussia Monchengladbach in January, against a team City swept aside with minimal fuss in the last round. Plus how can you not back a team that have won 26 of their last 27 matches.
The Premier League champions-elect also have no injuries, and were able to rest Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and John Stones at Leicester on Saturday.
Expect the home side to win, but with an away goal for the German team to keep things interesting ahead of the second leg.
Match result: Manchester City to win (1.39)
Both teams to score: Yes (1.75). The Over/Under for total goals is set at 3.
To win the competition: Manchester City (3.11), Borussia Dortmund (25.9)
First time winner: If you like City for the title, odds in the first time winner market have improved from what was on offer ahead of the second leg of the last round. A Yes is now priced at 2.42 versus a No at 1.50 - from 1.95/1.75, respectively.
Real Madrid v Liverpool
From the most interesting tie to the most difficult to call. The other three matches have clear favourites, but according to the odds this could really go either way on the day.
Current Cloudbet odds have the home side at 2.73 for the win, and Liverpool at 2.59, and those have widened a little from being even closer to 2.50 on both sides - a draw is at 3.48.
Liverpool’s confusing recent record doesn’t make this any easier to predict either. Jurgen Klopp’s team went 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield to set a new club record, then promptly lost six in a row. They also went into the international break having won six of their last seven matches not played on home turf, suggesting this fixture may suit them.
However, many of those positive results were secured against teams looking to play an open game, and it’s hard to see Real Madrid being so naïve (though the absence of Sergio Ramos through injury won’t help in this respect).
And as well as the Reds’ patched up defence has done lately, how will Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips fare against the wily Karim Benzema and the pacey Vinícius Júnior?
On average there is one Champions League quarter-final tie per season in which both legs are won by the home team, and this feels like a strong candidate for 2020/21. Real’s defence possesses the joint-best ‘post-shot xG per shot on target’ average in Europe’s big five leagues, which in layman’s terms means they are very tough to create good chances against.
The home side should have enough to win, though only after conceding. Liverpool looked back to their attacking best at Arsenal on Saturday and are likely to pose Madrid plenty of problems.
Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain
A repeat of last season’s final, this of the four matches offers the best chance for finding value - the Bundesliga leaders are favoured, but possibly at longer odds than they should be. Bayern are at 1.92 to win; PSG at 3.71. The defending champs also remain second-favourites for the title. A strong Paris Saint Germain side losing to Lille on Saturday perhaps strengthens their case too.
Maybe the previous round provides the main reason why. PSG won’t find Bayern anywhere near as compliant as Barcelona were at Camp Nou, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side will have a field day if PSG are as porous as they were in the second leg of that tie.
Had Lionel Messi scored that first-half penalty in France the game could definitely have got interesting. Barcelona had 21 shots, with 10 on target, in that match.
However, a hugely significant factor that will work in PSG’s favour is the loss of Robert Lewandowski, out with a knee injury for at least a month. The No.9 has 35 Bundesliga goals to his name this season, and five more in the UCL.
With only five home clean sheets in the league and Europe this season, it seems unlikely that Bayern will be able to keep PSG at bay entirely, but they should have enough of an edge to win the match. They’re also likely to be buoyed by their weekend victory over RB Leipzig, their nearest challengers in domestic competition.
Both of these sides have only kept two shutouts from their eight Champions League games in 2020/21, so it’s safe to expect goals.
Match result: Bayern Munich to win
Both teams to score: Yes (1.48) - the Over/Under for total goals has been set at 3 goals.
To win the competition: Bayern Munich (4.49), PSG (7.99).
FC Porto v Chelsea
FC Porto stunned Juventus in the previous round, and will approach this tie believing they can do the same to Chelsea. However, the Londoners are heavily favoured according to the odds, although the Asian handicap has been set at only 0.5 goals.
It’s unlikely that the Blues will be as generous at the back as Juve were though - especially after leaking five domestically over the weekend to West Bromwich Albion. In Porto’s away-goals triumph in the previous round, their Italian opponents gifted them goals through a defensive error, a penalty, and also conceded from a free-kick of the sort that should never have gone in.
The Portuguese side have only generated 10.2 expected goals in their eight European games this season, and they’re up against a revitalised Chelsea team (albeit with a weekend blip) who have only allowed roughly 0.5 xG per match since Thomas Tuchel was appointed.
They may have conceded five times to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, but they played for an hour with 10 men following Thiago Silva’s dismissal, and despite the score line the Baggies still only accumulated 1.3 expected goals. It’s very hard to see how Porto are going to score the goals they need.
If there’s anything to give Sergio Conceicao hope, it’s that the Blues haven’t been scoring many goals themselves. If you exclude spot kicks and own goals for the sake of argument, they’ve only netted at least twice in four of their matches under Tuchel.
But this feels like it will follow a similar pattern to Chelsea’s tussle with Atletico Madrid in the previous round. Expect the Blues to win to nil in Portugal, making the return leg a relative formality.
Match result: Chelsea to win (1.88)
Both teams to score: No - although the Over/Under on total goals is at 2.25 goals.
To win the competition: Porto (35.9), Chelsea (5.49).
Looking beyond the quarter- and semi-finals, Cloudbet is also offering a market on each team reaching the final - if then failing to go all the way. City are favoured, followed by Chelsea, Bayern, Liverpool, Real, PSG, Dortmund and Porto.
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