Only one English team looks assured of a place in the quarter finals of the Champions League, so this week’s second-leg ties promise to be nail biting stuff for fans and punters alike. If you’re thinking of having a bet on any of the big games, you may like to consider opening an account with spread betting firm Sporting Index*. They are running a number of spread betting markets on each match and offer a choice of free bets** to new clients. We asked their Senior European Football Market Maker for his take on how things could pan out:
Chelsea v Barcelona (19.45 Tuesday, ITV1)
Chelsea were lucky to score in the first leg, but unlucky to get Drogba sent off. Up until the red card it was a pretty even contest and I expect more of the same at Stamford Bridge. Although there is a lot of bad blood between the sides, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of bookings. Most of the banter is between the managers and neither side is particularly physical. Chelsea will be marginal favourites due to home advantage, but I can see Barca grabbing a draw in normal time and going through on aggregate. If the tie goes to extra time however, I would back Chelsea. Barca have a small squad that is beginning to tire whereas the Blues have strength in depth and excelled in extra time recently against Liverpool.
Milan v Man Utd (19.45 Tuesday, ITV2)
Milan showed why they are favourites to win the trophy in the first leg. They have the best defence in the competition, and even without Schevchenko they are still a potent attacking force. United didn’t take their chances at Old Trafford and are unlikely to be given many opportunities at the San Siro. Van Nistelrooy should be back for United but there’s a question mark over his fitness. His scoring rate in European games is phenomenal, but Milan’s back four will be difficult to exploit. The Italian side are marginal favourites for this game and personally I will be backing them to progress to the quarters.
Arsenal v Bayern Munich (19.45 Wednesday, Sky Sports 2)
The Gunners let themselves down in the first leg and were fortunate to get a late goal, which gives them some hope. With Campbell injured and both goalkeepers prone to gaffes, I can’t see them keeping a clean sheet if Bayern find themselves needing a goal. As things stand Arsenal will need to score early, so there will be a lot of pressure on Henry and Bergkamp. Scoring two goals against a confident and experienced Bayern side is a tall order, keeping a clean sheet as well may be too much to ask. We’ve priced Arsenal up as marginal favourites for the match, but I think their efforts will ultimately be in vain.
Bayern Leverkusen v Liverpool (19.45 Wednesday, Sky Sports Extra)
Leverkusen’s late goal at Anfield has kept this tie alive, particularly when you consider how strong the Germans are at home. Like Arsenal they are a good attacking force but weak at the back, so I expect them to score and concede. A strong defensive performance will be the key for the Reds. Benitez has been in this situation before and knows what’s required. The return of Gerrard should both strengthen their defence and provide them with an added goal threat. Leverkusen are favourites to win the second leg, but with a two goal advantage Liverpool should progress.
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