As the Champions League resumes after its winter hiatus, Tuesday sees the beginning of the last 16 begin, with arguably the competition’s most stellar line up across all eight ties.
Once more staggered over four weeks and two legs, first, the opening nights of the knockouts sees Premier League champions elect Manchester City face an intriguing trip to high-flying Sporting Clube de Portugal. As Pep Guardiola’s men gallop towards defending their league crown, the European Cup is still the one trophy that eludes the Citizens, but their progress towards the quarter-finals will be met by Amorim’s impressive Lisbon outfit. Flush with talent across the pitch, bookies are still pricing City as short as 1/3 with PaddyPower and William Hill but the Portuguese side are better than their odds suggest. That is not to say Sporting are likely to pick up a win or even a draw, however, their attacking threat is rich and for the hosts to score over 1.5 goals, UniBet’s 21/5 looks very favourable – having shortened from 5s.
Tuesday’s other clash is a real heavyweight affair as Paris Saint-Germain host Real Madrid. As Lionel Messi faces his former Los Blancos foes for the first time away from Barcelona, the French side have still not yet shown any consistent improvement since the Argentine’s arrival in the French capital. Real however, like last term, have improved by the week after an uncertain period, with the welcome arms of the revamped Bernabeu no small factor. This looks prime territory for a Messi-Karim Benzema scorer double at 9/2 with SkyBet, but the result looks more difficult to call. If pushed though, just maybe the Spanish side could take an advantage back to Madrid in three weeks’ time and if that is your poison, VBet’s 41/14 is the best value on offer.
Over in Italy, Inter host former six-time European Cup winners Liverpool in yet another glamour tie. With the Reds having won the last six games in all comps, Jurgen Klopp’s men finished Group B with a 100% record and are looking a force to win another CL pot. The Nerazzurri meanwhile, have hit something of a rocky patch after dropping points in the last two games in Serie A, losing the biggest Milan derby in recent memory earlier this month. Earlier this season, the Scudetto winners might have been a stronger team to back at San Siro, but given their current slip, a Liverpool win at 11/10 widely is still good market value.
Perhaps the most fascinating game of the opening week of the knockouts takes place in Austria, as RB Salzburg play their first Champions League last 16 tie against 2020 winners Bayern Munich. Currently second favourites to claim ‘Ol Big Ears’, Julian Nagelsmann’s men are again looking like runaway winners of the German crown but were stunned on the road at Bochum last weekend in a remarkable 4-2 defeat. So, is there value in some form of upset here? Most certainly. Having lost two of the last five in the league, Bayern are not the great impenetrable force they once were and Salzburg have the attack that can frighten Die Roten. Romping home to the Austrian Bundesliga themselves, Matthias Jaissle has built an attack of two of the most menacing forwards in Noah Okafor and Karim Adeyemi, now accompanied by Brendan Aaronson at number 10.
With due caution in mind, this really does look a tantalising clash, and potentially for Salzburg. The odds are stacked against the Austrian champions certainly in the eyes of the bookies, but that may not reflect the true story. Available at a stonking 7/1 with UniBet, it is the draw that looks the most enticing at 9/2 across the board. Salzburg Draw no Bet at 11/2 with 10Bet also looks very decent value, meaning if the hosts at least draw, your stake will be returned. The anytime scorer market, equally, is one to peruse and as we mentioned, Aaronson is one to watch. At a weighty 25/2 to merely find the net, SBK’s value could leave you grinning from ear to ear.