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The market has moved drastically on this one on the back of Barcelona’s positive recent form, and the news of Neymar’s injury that rules him out of the first leg.
All Ronald Koeman’s side needed to do to win Group G was to avoid a loss by a three-goal margin in their final match, but they were defeated 3-0 by Juventus, meaning the Catalan giants play PSG instead of Porto in the last 16.
Their domestic form has drastically improved since the group stages finished, but they remain a vulnerable defensive team, even at home (1.47 xGA per game at Camp Nou in La Liga).
At the time of writing, we just witnessed Sevilla beat them comprehensively in the Copa del Rey, showing they are still very much a work in progress.
PSG have seen a whole lot of change since topping their group in the UCL, with Thomas Tuchel – the man who guided them to their first Champions League Final since the 2011 takeover – dismissed and replaced by Mauricio Pochettino.
Unfamiliar to Les Parisiens is a title race in France, but that is exactly what they are in the middle of, meaning they can’t just coast domestically and get ready for European matches, as has generally been the case.
They have an extremely talented squad, and even without Neymar, have enough attacking talent to really hurt Barcelona over two legs. PSG, too, are still a work in progress under Pochettino, meaning I can understand why the market can’t split these two in the betting.
This is one of the closest ties according to the market, but the Infogol model makes PSG strong favourites in this tie, pricing the French champions closer to 4/6.
Let’s not forget how badly Barca were embarrassed by one of Europe’s elite in last season’s competition, and this season, they have lost three and drawn one of their four meetings with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla – three of Europe’s elite.
PSG are a strong value play at Evens, and I think they will have enough to progress over two legs past Lionel Messi and co.
RB Leipzig qualified ahead of Liverpool’s arch rivals Manchester United in Group H of the Champions League, though based on expected goals, they were fortunate to finish above the Red Devils.
Nonetheless, last year’s semi-finalists have improved greatly since the group stage closed, comfortably sitting second in the Bundesliga while boasting the third-best defensive process from across Europe’s top five leagues (0.88 xGA per game).
Liverpool haven’t been at full strength at all this season, missing key players throughout, though that didn’t stop them topping Group D, though performances didn’t exactly back up their success.
They finished the group stage with an expected goal difference (xGD) of +0.1, which was tied second with Ajax, far inferior to Atalanta’s +3.6.
The Reds conceded just three goals from chances equating to 9.4 xGA, with their goal living a charmed life, and defensively they have remained as vulnerable domestically.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are a potentially a team to oppose here, and that certainly would have been put up as a bet had the first leg of the tie remained in Germany.
Instead, RB Leipzig must play their ‘home leg’ in Budapest, negating the albeit-diminishing home field advantage they would usually have. The model makes the Germans price closer to 11/5 to qualify, so do represent value, but there are better bets to be had in this market.
This tie is not the most glamorous, but it pits a team bang in form against a floundering side with no direction.
Sevilla are the former of those two, losing just one of their last 11 in La Liga while also beating Barcelona 2-0 at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan most recently in the Copa del Rey.
They cruised through a kind Group E to get to this stage and boast a defensive process that sits in the top 15 across clubs in Europe’s top five leagues (1.07 xGA per game), with Julen Lopetegui’s charges extremely well drilled.
While they have lost Lucas Ocampos, likely for both legs, Monchi worked his magic in January to bring in Atalanta’s wantaway star, Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez.
Papu Gomez was a key creator for the Italian side as they progressed to the quarter finals of last season’s competition and should pick up the creative mantle at Sevilla to help drive their attack.
Dortmund are in limbo currently, limping to the end of the season with an interim coach after sacking Lucien Favre, despite BVB topping Group F with some impressive displays.
The interim coach Edin Terzić has overseen a poor run of results that has seen them slip out of the top four and with no hope of winning the title, and while they have some extremely talented players, they have no set way of playing, unlike the well-oiled machine that is Sevilla.
I find it hugely surprising to see Dortmund as the favourites to win this tie, and the Infogol model agrees, making the Spaniards and Europa League champions 4/5 favourites to progress.
This is a huge value play given you can back Sevilla at 5/4 to make it to the quarter finals, and it’s a play I’m massively behind.
Porto were very impressive in Group C, as while Manchester City finished top of the group unbeaten, the Portuguese side made light work of both Olympiakos and Marseille.
They conceded just three goals in six group games, and those three came in their opener at the Etihad, so went five straight without conceding. They deserve to be respected.
Juventus pipped Barcelona to top spot in Group G, sensationally winning 3-0 in Spain to ensure a kinder draw, though their group wasn’t much of a test.
Andrea Pirlo’s debut season as a manager started shakily, but has started to pick up momentum as Juve appear to be hitting form, winning six of seven in the league since the winter break, while also reaching the Coppa Italia final.
The Old Lady, like Porto, are a very strong defensive side, but unlike Porto, they possess the Champions League all-time leading goalscorer who shows no sign of slowing down.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the current top scorer in Serie A with 16 and has four goals to his name in his favourite competition – the UCL. He will be leading Juve’s charge, though they are too short to back in the ‘to qualify’ market here, with the model making them 2/5.
Atletico Madrid are runaway La Liga leaders this season, possessing a five-point lead over Real Madrid with two games in hand.
Unsurprisingly they have been solid defensively this season, but they are being ultra-clinical in attack, something that couldn’t be said over the last two or three campaigns (42 goals, 32.5 xGF in La Liga).
They did just enough to qualify from Group A, but were far from impressive, though Diego Simeone’s side are in a much better place now.
Chelsea qualified with ease from their group, but domestic results took a turn for the worst over the winter, leading to Frank Lampard being sacked. Thomas Tuchel has replaced the Chelsea legend, and his tenure has started well.
It is fair to say that the Blues are yet to face a stiff test since the German took over, but the signs are that they are tightening up defensively. Chelsea are struggling to create chances though, which is huge concern heading into this tie.
Although the first leg is to be played in Bucharest instead of Madrid, I don’t think that will affect Atleti, as they set up in the same manner whether they play at home, away or even on the moon.
It is going to be a real war of attrition between two strong defensive sides, so few goals are likely over the two legs, but the model makes the Spaniards favourites to progress – in contrast to the market.
Infogol makes Atleti closer to 6/10 to win the tie, making the 11/10 available on the Exchange a whopping value bet I really like the look of.
Lazio are unbeaten in the Champions League this season, qualifying from Group F with a W2, D4 record and a good underlying process (1.88 xGF, 1.27 xGA per game).
They are in great form domestically, and their style of play is well-suited to European football, with Le Aquile possessing one of the best counter attacks on the continent.
Simone Inzaghi will be leaning on that counter attack in this tie against the reigning champions, but it is likely they will be too weak defensively to cause a major upset.
Bayern Munich again made lightwork of qualifying from their group, winning five of an unbeaten six, qualifying after gameweek four meaning they could rest and rotate.
Hansi Flick’s side recently won their sixth trophy in seven months when bring the Club World Cup back to Germany, and the all-conquering Bavarians are the team to beat again in the UCL.
They are yet to hit the dizzy heights of last season, but Bayern are still a monstrous juggernaut with numerous match winners and sensational xG process (2.21 xGF, 1.21 xGA per game in Bundesliga).
Bayern are Infogol’s shortest favourite across the last 16 ties, but despite Lazio representing a shade of value, I don’t see the Italians being capable of causing an upset.
This has the potential to be a real cracker of a tie. I see this as the up and coming, ambitious youngster taking on the experienced, been there and done it, elder statesman.
Atalanta, being the up and comers, demonstrated during the group stage that they can play in a more conservative manner, allowing an average of just 1.08 xGA per game.
They didn’t lose much in attack either, averaging 1.70 xGF per game, and their process continues to be strong in domestic competitions. Last season’s quarter finalists are more than capable of causing an upset here, with some scintillating attacking players in their ranks.
Real Madrid, the elder statesman, eventually topped a tight Group B, and rightly so according to expected goals, with their +5.4 xGD comfortably the best process of the bunch.
They have been hit-and-miss domestically since though, throwing in some good performances with some poor ones, often looking bereft of ideas in attack.
This will be a real test over two legs for the club that has won the most Champions League titles in history, but it is worth bearing in mind that they have exited the competition at this stage in the last two seasons.
The Infogol model makes Real Madrid favourites, but only narrowly, with there being plenty of value in getting Atalanta on side in the ‘to qualify’ market.
We make the Italians 11/10 to progress past the Spanish giants, so the 15/8 on offer should be snapped up.
Borussia Mönchengladbach qualified ahead of last season Europa League finalists Shakhtar and Inter Milan to get to this stage, but they were fortunate to do so according to xG.
They finished with an xGD of -1.1, far inferior to Inter Milan’s +3.3, and the only team they beat in the group stage was Shakhtar home and away, losing head-to-head against Real Madrid and Inter.
This is another huge step up, as Manchester City are on a scintillating run of form, breaking yet more records under Pep Guardiola.
City made mincemeat of an easy group, winning five of six while conceding just once and allowing an average of just 0.28 xGA per game. Yes, that does say 0.28 xGA per game!
That level of defensive dominance has been carried across all competitions following a slow start to the campaign, with City boasting the best defensive process in Europe since November.
Gladbach do pose a counter attacking threat, but City have shown that they can deal with such threats with relative ease since some masterful tinkering from Pep Guardiola.
The Citizens are the shortest favourites on the market in the ‘to qualify’ market, and I’m not opposing them. A routine two-legged win awaits for City.
Odds correct at 1230 GMT (15/02/21)
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