Mark O’Haire returns with a bet on each of this week’s Champions League ties.
The Renaissance Continues At Old Trafford
The tables have turned in this tie, just 10 weeks after the Champions League draw was made. What appeared as a foregone conclusion when originally paired, now looks anything but with Manchester United being cut from 3.4 To Qualify to almost even-money.
The fresh confidence injected since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has lifted Old Trafford and the Red Devils now appear firm and fair favourites to secure a first-leg advantage. Sure, United have been dealt a kind schedule in recent weeks – and were fortunate in victories at both Spurs and Leicester – but circumstances have fallen their way.
With PSG superstar Neymar already confirmed as an absentee for both legs, the French champions saw key marksman Edison Cavani taken off injured on Saturday. With the Uruguayan almost certain to miss out on Tuesday night, Thomas Tuchel’s troops will be without two of their feared three frontline threats.
Kylian Mbappe remains a wondrous talent and Julian Draxler has excelled under Tuchel’s tutelage, but question marks remain elsewhere. Firstly, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting could be thrust into the starting XI, whilst in recent weeks Marquinhos and Dani Alves have been plugging gaps across the midfield; the guests remain vulnerable in the centre of the park.
PSG were second-best on trips to Napoli and Liverpool in the group-stage and overrun by Lyon in their most recent Ligue 1 road trip. Looking purely at Champions League performances and the only teams of note that Les Parisians have beaten on their travels in five years are Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen.
It would, of course, be foolish to completely dismiss PSG, especially with goals expected to flow across the two legs.
However, I’d be happier opposing the French giants here, it’s just a shame the +0 start on the Asian Handicap line for Manchester United has contracted to sub 1.70 over the past 48 hours.
If you’re keen for an angle of attack, take Over 2.5 Goals at 1.77. All six of PSG’s group-stage games featured both sides scoring, whilst seven of 11 United encounters since Jose Mourinho moved on have produced at least three goals with Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Brighton and Burnley all getting on the scoresheet at Old Trafford.
Potential Cracker Expected In The Eternal City
Roma are beginning to find their feet after an inauspicious start to the season. The Giallorossi gave head coach Eusebio Di Francesco time to turn an ailing ship around and the results have been positive for the most part; the capital club have only lost twice since the group-phase concluded and are now within reach of Serie A’s top-four.
The hosts have always been strong operators at their Stadio Olimpico base and Roma have only twice been downed here in 2018/19 – one of which came against Real Madrid – so they should be confident they can do some damage against a beatable Porto side.
The Portuguese visitors topped a soft section to reach the Last 16 and head to Italy without their two leading strikers – Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar. The Dragoes have dropped points in consecutive weeks domestically and only salvaged a stalemate at Moreirense in stoppage-time on Friday night.
Boss Sergio Conceicao switched system from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, giving Soares the lead striker’s role and new signing Fernando coming off the bench when the chips were down. There’s obviously a concern in the Porto camp about how best to set-up in Rome, although the visitors do boast ability in the likes of Yacine Brahimi and Jesus Corona on the flanks.
Roma are interesting 2.14 shots here, although Over 2.5 Goals again appeals at 1.98. Over the past two campaigns, all bar four of 16 Last 16 first leg ties featured three or more goals, and the same selection has proven profitable in 10 of Roma’s last 13 fixtures, and 12 of 15 at the Stadio Olimpico all season.
The Serie A side have won nine of 15 on home soil, scoring at least twice on 12 occasions and notching three or more goals 10 times. Even so, Di Francesco’s charges have recorded only four shutouts and leaked twice or more in seven matches.
With Porto seeing both sides score in 12 of their past 16, and five of their six group-games, an enjoyable encounter is expected.
Dortmund Games Equal Goals
Tottenham deserve plenty of praise for keeping in-touch with Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League title race and there’s a real possibility for Spurs to reach a Champions League quarter-final berth when they take on Bundesliga table-toppers Borussia Dortmund.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men might be missing Harry Kane, but there’s still plenty of quality available in forward areas. Heung-Min Son has thrilled throughout the campaign, and the ability of Christian Eriksen, Eric Lamela and Lucas Moura shouldn’t be underestimated either.
Tottenham have a live chance in toppling BVB here, especially so if Marco Reus isn’t passed fit. Dortmund surrendered a three-goal lead against Hoffenheim and were dumped out of the DFB Pokal on penalties by Werder Bremen just seven days ago; there are defensive deficiencies in Die Schwarzgelben’s squad and Spurs are capable of exploiting them.
Lucien Favre’s visitors have kept only two shutouts in 11 Bundesliga games of late and continue to defy performance data, relying upon their clinical attacking quality. Nevertheless, the big Wembley pitch will aid Dortmund’s counter-attacking philosophy and so, without knowing updated team news, it’s again worth supporting goals here.
I’ve already mentioned the wonderful record for Over 2.5 Goals winners at this stage of the competition over the past two seasons and Dortmund have also been a goal-backers dream since Favre arrived in the summer.
Nine of Dortmund’s 12 outings since December have delivered Over 2.5 Goals, as 10 saw both sides scoring. Meanwhile, the away side have scored in all bar three games across all competitions, with their domestic duels averaging a hefty 3.67 goals-per-game.
Spurs aren’t shy of high-scoring showdowns and saw all bar one of their group-stage games feature BTTS, and it’s worth remembering these two played out two enjoyable and entertaining encounters last season that produced a pair of Over 2.5 Goals and BTTS profit-makers.
Real Madrid Just Short Of 2.0? Yes Please!
It’s very rare we’re presented with an opportunity to back Real Madrid just shy of even-money against opposition such as Ajax. Los Blancos may have been ridiculed for a disastrous opening stanza in 2018/19, but the defending champions appear to be coming to the boil at just the right time as they bid to secure a fourth successive Champions League crown.
Santiago Solari’s restored calm and order, Madrid boast a squad that’s injury-free, and recent performances have impressed when holding Barcelona to a Copa del Rey draw at the Camp Nou, as well as Saturday’s muscle-flexing success at neighbours Atletico Madrid.
Before Christmas, this clash could have been viewed as a potential banana skin but Ajax have imploded in 2019.
The Amsterdammers gave Bayern Munich two major scares in the group-stage and were perched just off the top of the Eredivisie at Christmas, although their good work has quickly unravelled since the winter break.
The Dutch outfit shipped four goals at home to Heerenveen were embarrassingly losing a lead three times on home soil and were cut to ribbons by bitter rivals Feyenoord in Der Klassiker immediately after. This weekend Ajax suffered a rotten 1-0 loss at Heracles and major questions are being asked of head coach Erik ten Hag.
Various young guns have signed pre-contract agreements to move away in the summer, and plenty of other Ajax starlets are being courted by bigger continental clubs; so, have their heads been turned?
Have the hosts lost their focus and concentration? Quite possibly.
I’m more than happy to support an away day victory here, especially so considering Real Madrid have been as short as they were as short as even-money to win at Roma already this term, which they duly did.
- Manchester United v PSG – Over 2.5 Goals (1.77) – 2pt win
- Roma v Porto – Over 2.5 Goals (1.98) – 2pt win
- Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund – Over 2.5 Goals (1.91) – 2pt win
- Real Madrid (1.93) – 4pt win
Mark joined your host Phil Kitromilides and Brodders to breakdown the Round of 16 First Leg action between United & PSG, Roma & Porto, Ajax & Real Madrid, and Spurs & Dortmund with betting analysis and selections.