George Pitts previews Wednesday's Champions League round of 16 first legs...
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Schalke 04 v Man City (VELTINS-Arena, 2000 GMT, BT Sport 2)
Schalke find themselves in the last 16 of the Champions League after finishing second in Group D, probably the weakest group in this season's competition.
They finished behind Porto and well clear of Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow but it will take something special to beat Man City on Wednesday evening.
They are 14th in the Bundesliga and the 11/1 best price on them to win just shows the task in hand.
City may have slipped up against Lyon in the earlier stages of the competition, but they are the favourites to lift the trophy in May and, with form of 12 wins from 13 in all competitions, you would expect Pep Guardiola's side to see out the job.
With the odds massively in favour of the visitors, a really appealing price is the 13/10 available for City to be leading after 30 minutes.
The Citizens have scored inside the opening half an hour in three of their six games in the Champions League this term, while in the Premier League they have scored 27 goals in total in the same period in as many games so far this term.
Guardiola's side often burst out of the blocks and they can soon put this tie to bed with an impressive assault of a Schalke side which conceded four goals in two games against Porto.
Another attractive market to consider is bookings, with Fernandinho at 13/5 to be shown a card. The Brazilian midfielder is key to this City side - a huge miss when he is absent as it was proved for their back-to-back defeats over Christmas.
We saw last week how Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos got himself into the book in order to avoid a suspension at the latter stages of the competition and Fernandinho could surely do the same. The 31-year-old is one caution away from suspension and taking a hit now could be the best option for City.
Their midfield linchpin has seven cautions to his name in total this season and averages just under 3 fouls per game in this competition, so do not be surprised to see him pull off a cynical foul such as tripping an opponent on the counter. At nearly 3/1 it is worth a small play.
Score prediction: Schalke 0-3 Man City (Sky Bet odds: 7/1)
- Schalke and Manchester City are facing each other in a third different European competition after the Cup Winners Cup (1969/70 semi-final) and UEFA Cup (2008/09 group stages).
- In April 1970, Manchester City beat Schalke 5-2 on aggregate in the Cup Winners Cup semi-final – they would later win their first and so far only European trophy with a 2-1 victory in the final against Górnik Zabrze.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last seven Champions League games against German opponents (W6 D1) since a 0-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in September 2014 - current Man City boss Pep Guardiola was in charge of Bayern that day.
- Schalke have been knocked out in the round of 16 in each of their last three Champions League appearances – 2010/11 was the last time they made it past that stage, reaching the semi-finals.
- Schalke are unbeaten in their last nine European home games (W6 D3) – they last went longer without a home defeat between July 2003 and November 2004 (11 games). They are looking to win three consecutive home Champions League games for the first time since April 2011, when they reached the semi-final of the competition.
- Schalke scored six goals in this season’s group stages, the lowest tally amongst the 16 clubs left in the competition, with five of those six goals coming after half-time. However, only Borussia Dortmund (5) kept more clean sheets than Schalke (4).
- Manchester City have lost five of their eight Champions League knockout games away from home, winning two (Dynamo Kiev in February 2016, Basel in February 2018) and drawing one.
- No Schalke player scored more than one goal or delivered more than one assist in this season’s Champions League group stages.
- No player delivered more assists than Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez in the Champions League group stages this season (4, level with Kylian Mbappé and Memphis Depay).
- Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has won the Champions League on two occasions as a manager (2009 & 2011, both with Barcelona); a third trophy would equal Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley’s record. He’s also reached the semi-finals in seven of his nine previous seasons as manager but hasn’t made the final since 2011.
Atletico Madrid v Juventus (Wanda Metropolitano, 2000 GMT, BT Sport 3)
Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid have become synonymous with disciplined, hard-fought defensive displays in the Champions League and you can expect that again for their first leg clash at the Wanda Metropolitano.
They have kept a clean sheet in their last three matches in the competition, as they finished runners up in Group A behind Borussia Dortmund on just goal difference.
Their last home match in a last 16 clash was 0-0 against Bayer Leverkusen en route to the semi-finals in 2016/17, while in 2015/16 they also drew 0-0 against PSV at this stage as they reached the final.
Simeone's defensive set-up, especially at home, makes it hard for any team and they will be ready for the threat of Juventus. Backing under 2.5 total goals in the game is odds-on, but a great shout at 8/15 and a slightly safer option than backing a draw at 2/1.
Score prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-1 Juventus (Sky Bet odds: 9/2)
Best bet: Under 2.5 total goals at 8/15
- Atlético Madrid have met Juventus seven times previously in European competition, although five of those matches were played in the Fairs Cup in the 1960s. In fact, Juventus’ last victory against Atlético Madrid dates back to June 1965 in a Fairs Cup semi-final second-leg replay (3-1).
- Atlético Madrid and Juventus’ only previous Champions League encounter was in the 2014/15 group stages. Only one goal was scored in the two matches, an Arda Turan winner for Atlético at their home stadium of Vicente Calderón.
- Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League against Italian opposition under manager Diego Simeone (W4 D2). In those six games, they have only conceded one goal, by Kaká in a 4-1 win against AC Milan in March 2014.
- Atlético Madrid have reached the Champions League knockout stages in five of their six campaigns under manager Diego Simeone. The only exception was last season when they finished third in their Champions League group and went on to win the Europa League.
- Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 home games in the Champions League knockout stages (W7 D5). In fact, they’ve only conceded one goal in their last 10 matches at home in the knockout phase, an Isco strike for Real Madrid in May 2017.
- Only Atlético Madrid (6) have conceded fewer shots on target from inside their own box than Juventus (9) in this season’s Champions League.
- Juventus have won four of their last five away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D1). Their last defeat dates back to March 2016 in the last 16 second leg against Bayern Munich.
- Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted a goal in each of his six Champions League games at the Wanda Metropolitano (6 goals, 3 assists). This season, he’s been directly involved in six of Atlético Madrid’s nine Champions League goals (67%), with four goals and two assists – that’s the highest ratio among the 16 teams left in the competition.
- Paulo Dybala has scored six goals in his last seven Champions League appearances, that’s more than in his previous 24 appearances in the competition with Juventus (5 goals). All 11 of his goals in the competition have come with his left foot.
- Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only one goal in his last eight Champions League games; he’d found the net 11 times in his eight previous games. He has failed to score in four of his last five UCL games against Atlético Madrid.
- Massimiliano Allegri has reached the knockout stages in each of his nine campaigns as manager in the Champions League. He was a beaten finalist in two of the last four seasons with Juventus.