Football betting analyst Mark O’Haire shares his thoughts on the first four Champions League Last 16 first leg fixtures this midweek.
No Standout Play As Spurs Host Leipzig
Tottenham’s tie with RB Leipzig is the tightest of all eight Champions League Last 16 showdowns (according to the To Qualify odds), and I’ve found Wednesday night’s first leg showdown in North London particularly difficult to pinpoint eye-catching value.
Leipzig have excelled during Julian Nagelsmann’s first campaign in charge, although doubts remain over the Germans’ ability to put together a 90-minute performance in the matches that matter. Die Rotten Bullen produced a passive first-half display against Bayern Munich in a recent Bundesliga match-up, before a hugely improved and encouraging effort thereafter.
There’s a lot to like about Leipzig’s attacking ability.
Dani Olmo joined the ranks in January, whilst Timo Werner, Christopher Nkunku and Youssef Poulsen are capable of causing Europe’s best defences headaches. However, RB’s backline stability is questionable, especially so with key absentees in the away dressing room on Wednesday night.
Regular centre-halves Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate are injured and star centre-back Dayot Upamecano is suspended; RB also recently sold defensive midfielder Diego Demme, and so bodies are few and far between. Nagelsmann is expected to shift Lukas Klostermann across alongside Marcel Halstenberg with Nordi Mukiele dropping into the three-man defence.
Despite the obvious issues in the Leipzig camp, Tottenham still make little appeal here.
Jose Mourinho’s men are an erratic group that have rarely impressed under the Special One’s tutorship. The hosts have won the Expected Goals (xG) battle in only three of their past 10 outings – two of which were against Norwich – and performance levels have been sketchy.
Goals are probably the most obvious angle of attack, although lines/prices are discouraging.
Die Rotten Bullen have scored in 26 of their 28 road trips since the beginning of 2019, scoring at least twice in 19, and three or more in 15. A huge 17 of Leipzig’s last 20 dating back into October have seen at least three goals, while 13 saw a minimum of four goals.
Spurs have allowed their opponents at least 10 shots in each of their past eight matches and so a vital away goal is entirely plausible in the capital.
Goals-based backers will also be happy to hear that seven of Tottenham’s 10 home encounters under Mourinho have produced at least three goals, suggesting a high-scoring clash could be on the cards.
San Siro Showdown To Feature Goals Galore
Atalanta’s match-up with Valencia promises plenty on Wednesday night and backing a goal-heavy game holds plenty of appeal.
Over 2.75 Goals can be snapped-up at 1.94 quotes and there’s a strong argument to suggest the line (and odds) should be a little steeper.
Since the Last 16 draw was made, the cash has come for Atalanta to take a first-leg advantage, as well as qualify for the quarter-finals.
I fully expect the Bergamo boys to justify the move, however, La Dea are just a little too skinny for Wednesday’s match-up considering this contest is taking place at their temporary San Siro home.
On their day, Atalanta are capable of going toe-to-toe with any team in Europe – no Serie A side generates more goalscoring opportunities than Gian Piero Gasperini’s group – and that’s a recipe that should pay dividends against a Valencia side that concedes sackfuls of chances, particularly when playing outside of their fortress Mestalla base.
Los Che were fortuitous winners at Chelsea and Ajax, steamrollered at Getafe a fortnight ago and lowly Mallorca even made mincemeat of Albert Celades’ charges in a recent road trip. Valencia are also without their two best centre-halves in Gabriel Paulista and Ezequiel Garay and could set-up with Eliaquim Mangala and Mouctar Diakhaby in the heart of defence here, a very concerning prospect against a high-pressing side.
Tactically, Atalanta hold a numerical advantage in central midfield and out wide, and they utilise the flanks more regularly than any other Italian side so I expect them to have plenty of joy against a narrow and flimsy Valencia outfit.
Nevertheless, the hosts’ adventurous approach can often lead to high-scoring shootouts with clean sheets few and far between.
La Dea have delivered Over 2.5 Goals in all bar one of their past 13 fixtures, and so a repeat looks most likely with Valencia firing only two blanks in 24 La Liga contests this term, as well as scoring in five of their six Champions League group games.
Tight Tussle Forecast For Madrid
Liverpool are firm favourites to continue their remarkable campaign by overcoming Atletico Madrid over two Last 16 legs.
The La Liga outfit are arguably at their lowest ebb since returning to Europe’s premier club competition under Diego Simeone and injuries have also robbed the Spaniards of a few key bodies for the opening tie at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Despite the air of gloom surrounding Los Colchoneros, Simeone’s side are rarely overawed and there’s a strong argument to suggest the Madrid men can keep Liverpool within reach before the return trip to Anfield. Atletico are unbeaten in 12 home knockout ties in this competition under the Argentine’s watch, shipping just two goals in that same sample.
Atleti will set-up in a narrow 4-4-2, essentially fielding four central midfielders in two low blocks, inviting pressure on, playing on the counter and looking to kill the game as best as possible. It’s a familiar tactic against Europe’s elite and Simeone will have seen how Napoli successfully stunted Liverpool twice in similar circumstances during the group-stages.
Defence has always been Los Colchoneros strong point and the hosts have continued to produce impressive backline performances. But grabbing goals has been a major concern and it’s difficult to see the Spaniards causing Liverpool too many problems in Madrid with Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk forming an impenetrable backline partnership for the Reds.
With that in mind, it makes sense to oppose goals in this clash of styles. Atletico have played Real Madrid (twice), Barcelona and Juventus in four fixtures since November, three of which ended in narrow 1-0 defeats with the other a goalless game, and so supporting a similar outcome on Tuesday night seems a sensible solution.
Under 2 Goals at 2.10 is the standout play – 22 of Atletico’s last 28 matches have featured fewer than three goals, while at the Wanda Metropolitano alone it’s 10 of 12 as they never conceded more than once in a single game. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s record-breakers have scored more than twice on a single occasion across their past 11 matches.
I’m also going to have a small interest in the Correct Score market with the 0-0 at 8.00 shot and the 1-0 Liverpool success trading at 7.00. Dutching the two results gives us a 3.75 play should either correct score land in the capital contest.
Goal Glut Anticipated In Germany
Dortmund’s date with PSG is a promising one although the layers are already anticipating a glut of goals in Germany with the line set at 3.5.
It’s a tall order for the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie, however, it’s difficult to oppose the prospect of a high-scoring contest.
Dortmund’s past eight outings have averaged 5.50 goals-per-game with eight of BVB’s last nine across all competitions delivering a minimum of four goals. Five of Die Schwarzgelben’s six showdowns since the winter break have covered the Over 4.5 Goals, whilst Dortmund’s 63-goal domestic goal tally is the joint-highest at this stage of a season in Bundesliga history.
PSG’s most recent five fixtures have produced a 5.80 goals-per-game average with Thomas Tuchel’s troops shipping seven goals in three Ligue 1 games since the start of February. Even so, Les Parisiens have notched in each of their past 30 Champions League outings, failing to score just once across all competitions since May 2018.
The visitors have seen Over 2.5 Goals land in 25 of their last 30 encounters in this competition, recording only five clean sheets in 17 away Champions League days since 2015/16. Those shutouts were recorded against Celtic, Anderlecht, Man Utd, Galatasaray and Club Brugge with 10 of the most recent 13 crossing the Over 3.5 Goals barrier.
It’s impossible to ignore the attacking talent on show on Tuesday with Erling Haaland, Jaydon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard spearheading Dortmund’s challenge and Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Maruo Icardi and Angel Di Maria in opposition, and so backing a goal-heavy game, despite the high line, is fair enough at the prices available.
- Over 2.75 Goals in Tottenham v RB Leipzig 2 units @ 1.86
- Over 2.75 Goals in Atalanta v Valencia 4 units @ 1.94
- Under 2 Goals in Atletico v Liverpool 4 units @ 2.10
- 0-0 correct score in Atletico v Liverpool 0.50 units @ 8.00
- 0-1 correct score in Atletico v Liverpool 0.50 units @ 7.00
- Over 3.5 Goals in Dortmund v PSG 2 units @ 2.10