Champions League Quarter-Finals: 1st Leg Tips
Our columnists tip up their best bets for the first legs of the Champions League quarter-finals
It’s the quarter-finals of one of sport’s greatest competitions – the Champions League. Who’s going to come out on top in the first leg?
Can Manchester United pull off another upset and beat Barcelona? Will Tottenham’s new stadium spur them on to topple Manchester City? Could Ajax continue to impress as the tournament’s surprise outfit and kill off another European giant? What about Porto getting payback on Liverpool for last year’s thrashing?
Plenty to discuss, lots of value to be shared – so let’s waste no time and get stuck straight into it.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City (Tuesday, 8pm)
If this was a normal Premier League tie our tip would nine times out of ten be a Manchester City (9/10) win. However, this is the Champions League and there’s a number of reasons why we can see Tottenham (16/5) putting a huge dent in their opponents’ quad hopes.
Fatigue seems to be affecting the City squad who, although on paper look solid as ever, have been a little below bar in recent outings. The results look great but the performances, especially last time out against Brighton in the semi-final of the FA Cup, are lacking slightly.
This is a real test and to say Pochettino and co will be up for it is an understatement. Their recent league form has been very disappointing but this represents their first big European night – where Spurs seem to show up this season – in their brand new stadium and a real chance of moving one step closer to an incredible feat.
We’re expecting an electric atmosphere, both teams to score (8/11) and Spurs to defy the odds and get a result.
Liverpool vs Porto (Tuesday, 8pm)
It was light work for Liverpool (2/7) when they met Porto (11/1) in the round of 16 stage of this competition last year, recording an aggregate score of 5-0. All five of those goals were scored in the first leg, where the tie was essentially ended.
It seems highly unlikely it will be like this this time, though. Porto have been in respectable form lately, winning five and drawing one of their last six competitive matches. That being said, their opponents are in even better form than that.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have certainly improved since last year and they’re on one hell of a run, failing to lose any of their last 14 competitive games. There’s little value in backing a straight win so we fancy the Reds to be leading at the break.
Ajax vs Juventus (Wednesday, 8pm)
Most definitely the toughest tie of the round to predict sees Ajax (12/5) host Juventus (11/8) on Wednesday night.
The home side made it to the quarter-finals by defeating Real Madrid, who have won the competition for the last three years, in emphatic fashion. It was a shock that essentially put Ajax back on the map as a force on the European stage.
However, they face arguably a sterner test here, with a Juventus side, rallied by five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, in devastating form as ever. I wouldn’t like to pick a side to win this but there’s surely going to be goals here, from both sides.
Manchester United vs Barcelona (Wednesday, 8pm)
Before Ole Gunnar Soslkjaer’s return to Old Trafford, when Manchester United (14/5) drew PSG in the Champions League Round of 16, very few thought the Reds would still be in the competition at the quarter-final stage. However, they are, and now face the even tougher task of overcoming Barcelona (21/20).
The Reds have been in pretty poor form of late and it would be more than fair to argue that this tie comes at a bad time. They’ve lost three out of four since that memorable 3-1 victory in Paris and even when beating Watford, didn’t look particularly great.
Barca on the other hand are flying, with none other than Lionel Messi in blistering form – he’s as short as 5/6 to score anytime. Ernesto Valverde’s side haven’t lost since January and at a very attractive price of 21/20, it’s hard to see past them getting a result here.