Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in fine fettle: Champions League last 16
Of the sixteen teams left in this season’s Champion’s League only seven have previously hoisted aloft the impressive trophy so – statistically at least – it bodes well for a newbie to step up and join the elite.
What skews the odds back to the tiresomely familiar however is that among those former champions lurk the monopolising trio of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and the ever-dominant Bayern.
Bayern Munich 11/4
Real Madrid 11/4
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Between them these behemoths have won the most prestigious club accolade of them all a mind-boggling 19 times and with all in fine fettle it is difficult to see far past them when envisioning the fireworks and bastardised Zadok the Priest blaring out in Berlin on May 27th.
All three artfully negotiated tricky aways in their first leg ties with Madrid all-but securing safe passage to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win at Schalke. Cristiano Ronaldo and co will be seething following their shock reverse to Athletic Bilbao at the weekend but with the Germans now forced to go gung-ho a slick, polished dismissal at the Bernabéu is expected.
Barcelona, meanwhile, took full advantage of Manuel Pellegrini’s adventurous midfield two at the Etihad and though Manchester City will have gained hope from Lionel Messi’s bizarre last-minute penalty miss the need for a clean sheet surely makes it mission impossible for the Blues. After some initial hum and crackle Barcelona’s magical front three have finally tuned onto the same wavelength thus forging a Harlem Globetrotters’ level of exhibition greatness that we all feared was inevitable. A 6-1 trouncing of Rayo Vallecano on Sunday was all the more ominous with the ease in which it was administered and all the more impressive as it marked the sixth consecutive season the other-worldly Messi has bagged 40+ goals. Joe Hart and a City defence that has struggled for cohesiveness have our best regards.
Lastly there is Bayern Munich who showed typical reserves of fortitude and nous to come away from Shakhtar Donetsk with a goalless stalemate. The Ukrainians looked rusty from their winter break and resorted to dragging the visitors down to tetchy attrition. Such tactics won’t wash at the Allianz Arena and despite the absence of orchestrator-in-chief Xabi Alonso through suspension the Germans predictably start as clear favourites. Arch poacher Robert Lewandowski’s four strikes in the previous four games makes him a good shout for first goal-scorer but in truth Bayern’s array of attacking talent means the breakthrough could come from anywhere.
So it is difficult to see far past this trio of behemoths but let’s try not least because the remaining five fixtures throw up some intriguing propositions.
Perhaps the most finely poised clash in this last 16 round can be found in Dortmund where Jürgen Klopp’s revitalised troops look to overcome a goal deficit to Juventus. The black and yellows face an unenviable task of breaking down a mean Juve rearguard with Buffon, Chiellini, and Bonucci pulling down the shutters across Serie A and Europe. But with a priceless away goal attained in Turin under their belt, and a guaranteed high-voltage atmosphere electrifying Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund have every chance to cap their recent turnaround with a famous victory.
Let’s not forget at this point that it is not solely progress to the quarters that is at stake this week and next; a bounty of coefficient points are up for grabs while a prize of just shy of four million Euros for reaching the last eight is not to be sniffed at either.
With that in mind Monaco – who realistically have little hope for ultimate glory – will not be cutting a Cuban for Berbatov just yet despite a healthy 3-1 advantage procured from the Emirates while Basel and Bayer Leverkusen can expect 90 minutes apiece of examining bombast from Porto and Atletico Madrid respectively.
Two clubs that presumably aren’t too fussed with the riches on offer are Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain and in a repeat of last season’s quarter-final pairing – where the English side narrowly triumphed – Mourinho’s men take on Zlatan the Magnificent and ten of his team-mates in a fascinating duel at the Bridge.
Chelsea remain unbeaten in Europe so far this season but the significance of their away goal obtained in the 1-1 draw at the Parc De Princes last month presents Jose with an awkward dilemma: Do they stick or do they twist? The former is the Special One’s speciality but is an awfully dangerous strategy to enforce considering Ibrahimovic has struck 68 times in 85 appearances for the French champions.
It’s an astonishing hit-rate to make Messi feel positively wasteful.
Betting Instinct tip – Bayern, Real and Barcelona to all win their second legs is 2.07 with Intertops.eu