George Pitts casts his eye over Wednesday's first legs...
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Manchester United v Barcelona (2000 BST)
- Old Trafford, BT Sport 2
As was the case in the previous round, the odds are stacked against Manchester United for their Champions League clash with Barcelona and they will be hoping for another famous European night on Wednesday.
After a poor first-leg performance at Old Trafford, few could have seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side coming back in the fashion they did against PSG in the round of 16. A Romelu Lukaku double combined with Marcus Rashford's late penalty in the French capital helped seal a 3-2 aggregate win, which largely contributed to the Norwegian getting the manager's job on a permanent basis.
With injuries easing, the Red Devils have a stronger squad than they did against the Parisians and that will be a key reason behind the fact they have been well backed in the Asian markets, which is usually a good indicator of which way a match will go.
Solskjaer will know exactly what to expect from Lionel Messi and co., who are unbeaten in their last 16 in all competitions, but stopping them could be another thing.
Given the magnitude of the clash, it could be a cagey affair in the opening stages, with United looking to keep it tight, contain the visitors and attack on the break with the pace and direct approach of Rashford, who United are hopeful is fit to feature.
With this in mind, the 13/10 available on a half-time draw could be a good option for value, while a Man United-draw double chance at just below evens is a nice price for the home side.
The preference though, with a magnitude of this game that is so tough to call, is to avoid the results bets and look at the player markets.
Solskjaer also hopes Nemanja Matic can feature despite missing training on Tuesday and the interesting price is on the Serbian to make three or more tackles in the game catches the eye.
The midfielder is a vital part of United's midfield in breaking up play and he is set for a busy one with the threat of Barca's front six. The 30-year-old has made at least two tackles in five of six Champions League matches this season, in addition to making a total of six fouls.
What is more interesting is that in United's home matches against Euro giants PSG and Juventus, Matic made a total of seven tackles and there is a good chance that there is more of the same here with the likes of Messi, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal all looking to get the better of the hosts in a congested midfield.
If United are able to get a positive result from this first leg, Matic could be vital and, at a 11/10 to make three or more tackles, it is worth a small play if he is named in the starting XI.
Score prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Barcelona (Sky Bet odds: 6/1)
- This is the first Champions League meeting between Barcelona and Manchester United since the 2011 final, which Barcelona won 3-1 at Wembley.
- Manchester United have never lost a home European match against Barcelona (W2 D2 L0), with this is the first meeting between the sides at Old Trafford since the second leg of the 2007-08 Champions League semi-final, a 1-0 win for the Red Devils.
- This is Barcelona’s 17th Champions League quarter-final appearance, a joint-record with Bayern Munich; they have qualified for an 12th successive season, a competition record.
- Manchester United have won two of their last 11 Champions League knockout ties (W2 D3 L6), failing to win either of their quarter-final games in the 2013-14 season under David Moyes against Bayern Munich.
- Barcelona have progressed from 79% of their Champions League knockout ties when playing the first leg away from home (23 of 29), compared to just 33% when playing the first leg at home (4 of 12).
- Since Chelsea eliminated Barcelona in the 2011-12 semi-final, English teams have been eliminated in 10 of their last 11 Champions League knockout ties against Spanish sides – the exception was Leicester City against Sevilla in the last 16 in 2016-17.
- Man Utd striker Romelu Lukaku scored with both of his shots against PSG in their 3-1 win in the Last 16 – he had failed to score with any of his previous eight shots in the Champions League this season; the Belgian has scored with his last three shots in the Champions League knockout stages.
- Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored 22 Champions League goals in 30 appearances against English teams – more than any other player in the history of the competition.
- Lionel Messi has failed to score in any of his last 11 Champions League quarter-final appearances for Barcelona; since netting against PSG in April 2013, the Argentinian forward has attempted 49 shots without success at this stage of the competition.
- Manchester United have lost two home Champions League matches so far this season, losing to Juventus and PSG – they’ve only lost three in one season once previously, doing so during the 1996-97 campaign, with current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer featuring in all three defeats.
Ajax v Juventus (2000 BST)
- Johan Cruyff Arena, BT Sport 3
Ajax are one of the surprise packages of this season's Champions League and the tough games keep coming as they host Juventus.
The Dutch giants stole the headlines in the last 16 as they shocked Real Madrid, turning around a 2-1 scoreline to win 4-1 at the Bernabeu against the 13-time winners (5-3 on aggregate).
Now they welcome another European giant in Serie A leaders Juventus and Erik ten Hag's men can have nothing to fear at this stage.
Another positive for them is the fact Cristiano Ronaldo may not start, with the Portuguese forward returning from a four-match absence. Granted, all of Juve's last four losses in all competitions have all come away from home, but it is crunch time and their quality should see them through over two legs.
The Dutch side have been impressive under Ten Hag, losing just once in all competitions until the end of January, and they are currently on a run of winning nine out of their last 10. Considering their season started at the end of July in qualifying for the competition, they have been more than impressive.
The atmosphere promises to be electric in Amsterdam and the hosts will look to frustrate Juve, who themselves have won seven of their last eight in all competitions.
A Juve player one match away from suspension is Blaise Matuidi, a midfielder who made as many as five fouls in their recent home game with Empoli. He has picked up two cautions so far and a card here would be better than in the second leg, which would see him miss out on their semi-final first leg, should they make it. The yellow card count does, though, get wiped after the quarter-final stage, a rule introduced in 2014 to make it harder for players to be suspended for the final.
If the visitors are met with hostility, rash challenges could follow and a price of 9/2 for Matuidi to be carded is worth considering.
It should be much closer than many fans, who do not necessarily know of Ajax's resurgence, expect on paper, but the hosts can at least get on the score sheet and the preference is to back a home goalscorer.
Dusan Tadic is the third-highest top goalscorer in the competition with six (and three assists) and should be deployed in a central position here. With his record and ability in mind, 12/5 on a home goalscorer looks extremely generous and worthy of backing.
The former Southampton man has 28 goals in all competitions this season and averages nearly two shots per game in Europe so, if and when Ajax get chances, he is likely to be in the thick of it.
Score prediction: Ajax 1-2 Juventus (Sky Bet odds: Price Boosted to 9/1)
- Ajax and Juventus will be facing for the ninth time in the European Cup/Champions League and for the first time since November 2004. The Dutch side have not beaten the Italians in the competition since winning the 1973 European Cup final in Belgrade (1-0).
- Juventus are unbeaten in each of their last nine European matches against Ajax (W5 D4), including a draw in the 1996 Champions League final before going on to lift the trophy thanks to a penalty shootout victory.
- Ajax will host Juventus in a Champions League encounter for the first time since September 2004 in the group stages, falling to a 0-1 defeat thanks to a Pavel Nedvěd strike for the Italians.
- Ajax knocked out defending champions Real Madrid in the last round; indeed, the last side to knockout the current holders of the Champions League was Atletico Madrid (v Barcelona) during the quarter finals of the 2015/16 edition of the competition, going on to lose in the final against Real Madrid.
- Juventus have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the third successive campaign, their best such run in the competition since doing so in four successive seasons between 1996 and 1999.
- Ajax are the first Dutch side to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League since PSV did so back in 2006/07. Indeed, Ajax find themselves at this stage for the first time since 2002/03, when they were eliminated by Italian side AC Milan.
- Ajax (24y 202d) have had a younger starting XI on average in the Champions League this season than any other side left in the competition.
- Only Lionel Messi (11) has had a direct hand in more goals in this season’s Champions League than Ajax’s Dusan Tadic (nine – six goals, three assists).
- Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his last four Champions League matches against Ajax, including a hat-trick for Real Madid on his last visit to the Johan Cruijff Arena back in October 2012.
- Only against Bayern Munich (nine) and his current side Juventus (10) has Cristiano Ronaldo scored more Champions League goals than he has against Ajax (seven).
Odds correct at 1500 BST on 09/04/19