The quest for European football’s biggest club prize continues next week as the quarterfinal round of the Champions League kicks off with a pair of games on Tuesday and then two more on Wednesday.
There are some absolutely dynamite matchups on the board with Liverpool hosting Porto, Manchester City visiting Tottenham (and their new stadium), Ajax entertaining Juventus and Barcelona traveling to the red half of Manchester to face United.
The eight teams left standing certainly represent some of the biggest clubs from their domestic leagues, with potentially a couple of surprises sprinkled in. Manchester City leads the [custom:bovada-link] futures board at +225 with Barcelona and Juventus next up at +325. A trio of Premier League clubs follow with Liverpool +400, Manchester United +1800 and Spurs +2500. Ajax (+3300) and Porto (+8000) round out the remaining field.
Let’s get right into the picks!
Liverpool vs Porto
Many were surprised that Porto got past Roma in the last round, but those people shouldn’t have been surprised at all. This is a team that can play the game, can defend with the best of them and has only lost one game in a pretty strong Champions League campaign.
Now, it goes without saying that a matchup with Liverpool is a tough one and a massive upgrade from teams they’ve played, which includes Schalke, Galatasaray, Lokomotiv Moscow and Roma. The Reds are the biggest chalk in the first-leg matchups at -325 with Porto +850 and the draw +400.
Porto has gotten results away from home in the Champions League with two wins, one draw and one loss, but their defending has left something to be desired on their travels, uncharacteristic of their domestic acumen. They’ll have some names out as well with Hétor Herrera and Pepe missing through yellow cards and potentially Alex Telles and Vincent Aboubakar through injury.
These two played in the Round of 16 one year ago and Liverpool had a fairly easy time. In the first leg, the Reds won 5-0 thanks to a Sadio Mané hat trick before a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield. I think this season’s matchup is a tougher one, but Liverpool should advance.
Ninja’s Bet: Liverpool 1st Half Moneyline (-130) (First Leg April 9)
Tottenham vs Manchester City
We have an all-La Liga battle in the Europa League with Valencia against Villarreal while in the Champions League it’s an all-Premier League clash with Tottenham and Manchester City in the quarterfinal.
Spurs have had a nightmare road to this stage of the tournament with arguably the toughest group (Barcelona, Inter, PSV) and then the Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16, who they somehow beat without conceding a goal. Now it’s tournament favorite Man City that stands in Totttenham’s way.
City manager Pep Guardiola has had a massive edge against Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino down the years as well. In 14 career matches, Pep has eight wins, four draws and just two defeats. Pochettino has 12 career matches against City, which has produced four wins, two draws and six losses.
What’s promising for Spurs, however, is that they’ve FINALLY moved into the new stadium and are coming off a dominant 2-0 performance against Crystal Palace on Wednesday in the unveiling of their shiny new home.
Will that carry over into this first-leg matchup?
Ninja’s Bet: OVER 1.0 1st Half (-160) (First Leg April 9)
Ajax vs Juventus
Dutch giants Ajax were the major story of the Round of 16 after outplaying Real Madrid for 90 minutes at the Bernabeu, oozing class and quality that the holders could only dream about. Of course, it doesn’t get any easier as now Ajax gets Juventus.
Juve had a tough time in the last round after Atletico Madrid severely outplayed them in Spain before slipping the shoe on the other foot in the reverse fixture. That match in Turin will go down as “The CR7 Game” after Cristiano Ronaldo slayed Diego Simeone and Atletico once more.
Juve is -400 to qualify from this one while Ajax is +275 but the first leg in Amsterdam makes this very, very interesting. What you’ll need to do before betting this one is keep an eye on the extensive injury list at Juventus: Ronaldo, Andrea Barzagli, Martin Caceres, Paulo Dybala, Mattia Perin, Douglas Costa, Sami Khedira, Leonardo Spinazzola and Juan Cuadrado are all carrying knocks, so keep an eye on that.
Regardless, this has the potential to be the tastiest matchup of the quarterfinals. Ajax was sublime against Madrid and on their day is the most watchable team in Europe.
Ninja’s Bet: Both Teams To Score (-130) (First Leg April 10)
Manchester United vs Barcelona
There is no doubt that the highest-profile matchup of the quarterfinals pits two of the biggest brands in world football against each other as Manchester United and Barcelona clash for the first time since 2011.
These two titans of the sport have their share of meetings down the years in Champions League, but it’s been a minute. Barca beat United 3-1 in the 2011 final and 2-0 in the 2009 final in the previous two meetings.
Barcelona struggled away to Villarreal midweek, posting a miraculous 4-4 draw behind a 90th-minute Messi goal and a 92nd-minute Suarez goal to share the points. With Atletico Madrid winning against Girona, Barca’s lead in La Liga is now eight. And what’s coming up this weekend before they travel to Manchester? That’s right. A date with Atletico Madrid that could make the title race very, very interesting.
United has dropped two of three in the league after squandering a 1-0 lead against Wolves before losing 2-1. Thing is, they don’t play again until the Champions League so they get some nice rest to prep.
Not a ton of injury concerns here with Ousmane Dembélé really the only miss of note (depending on how you feel about Alexis Sanchez) and even with that extended bit of rest entering the first leg, United could very well be in trouble here.
I genuinely don’t know what to bet here so I’m gonna stay away. Gun to my head would be Manchester United/Draw double chance at -125 but this could just as easily be Barca -0.5 at EVEN money.
Whatever you decide to bet, best of luck!
Ninja’s Bet: No Play (First Leg April 10)
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