The end of the Champions League Round-of-16 kick off this week and there are two matches where there’s still a lot to play for and two matches where the winner is seemingly decided, but hey, it’s March. We all know crazy things can happen in the world of sports during March.
And even if nothing crazy does happen, there’s still value to be found in the matches where the outcomes feel like a foregone conclusion. When it comes to gambling, a foregone conclusion is a solid investment!
All odds are via William Hill sportsbook.
Real Madrid vs. Atalanta, Tue. 3 p.m. (Paramount+/CBS Sports Network)
I had been teetering on both sides of the total in this matchup when breaking it down until the news came Monday morning that Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard has suffered another injury. That was the news that finally pushed me in a direction I’d already been leaning a bit.
If you remember the first leg, Atalanta’s attack was neutered early thanks to a red card. Still, despite being up a man for nearly the entire match, Real Madrid had a lot of difficulty breaking down Atalanta’s packed-in defense before finally plundering a goal late. I expect Tuesday’s match to look somewhat similar, but with the teams changing roles. Madrid isn’t going to park the bus entirely because a second goal would be huge, but they will definitely prioritize defending. Atalanta will have no choice but to go all out because they need to score at least two goals to advance.
I sense that we’ll know whether we’re going to win this bet by the 30-minute mark. If Atalanta scores early, this bet is toast. If not, we’re probably in the clear. The Pick: Under 2.5 (+105)
Manchester City vs. Borussia Monchengladbach, Tue. 3 p.m. (Paramount+)
So, here’s the thing about Manchester City. They never calls off the dogs. With City holding a 2-0 lead on aggregate and Monchengladbach needing at least three goals to advance, we could expect to see most teams in City’s situation content with parking the bus and chilling out for 90 minutes before moving on. That is not City’s style. They only play one song, and it’s a beautiful song. They’re going to control the game, and try to score goals. Repeatedly. If City relent in any fashion, it will be in the starting lineup, but I’m not even sure we’ll see a “B” squad.
Man City currently holds a 14-point lead in the Premier League. It doesn’t need to rest players for league matches. In fact, City sent out its version of a “B” team against Fulham on Saturday and won 3-0. I think Pep Guardiola was resting his key players for this match. A match against a Monchengladbach team six straight and is lost at the moment. City could score three goals, treating this game as a training session. The Pick: Manchester City Over 2.5 (+100)
Bayern Munich vs. Lazio, Wed. 3 p.m. (Paramount+)
I loved the Both Teams To Score play in the first leg of this match, and I love it again in the second. The circumstances dictate it. Bayern won the first leg 4-1, which means Lazio must go all out even to have a prayer of advancing. Bayern are Bayern, and Bayern being Bayern means they’re capable of scoring in their sleep against a Lazio team forced to push forward.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that Lazio had plenty of attacking success in the first leg. They only scored one goal but finished the match with a more than respectable 1.6 xG. And while they’ve won only once in three matches since, Lazio have an xG of 5.4 in those three matches. They’ve been a bit unlucky. Then there’s Bayern, who are still the best team in Germany but have been a bit leaky at the back all year long. Bayern have allowed fewer than 1.0 xG in only two of their last 13 matches. They give you chances. The Pick: Both Teams To Score (-150)
Chelsea vs. Atlético Madrid, Wed. 3 p.m. (Paramount+)
How do Chelsea fans feel about Thomas Tuchel as manager? I know they have to be happy with the results, as Chelsea are yet to lose under him. But that success has come at the price of entertainment because Chelsea matches have been very dull to watch. Tuchel’s first match at Chelsea was a scoreless draw against Wolverhampton, and he’s overseen two more since including against Leeds on Saturday. Chelsea have shut out opponents in 10 of the 12 matches Tuchel has overseen, including the 1-0 win over Atlético in the first leg. That’s fantastic, but at the same time, Chelsea have scored more than one goal in only four of those 12 matches.
I expect we’ll see a Chelsea team happy to control the ball and dictate play in this match. I also expect we’ll see a conservative Chelsea squad that doesn’t want to take too many chances, knowing that Atlético will be looking for an opportunity to counter quickly. That’s why I think we’ll see a very slow-building match that won’t include many chances early. I’ll be stunned if we see a goal scored in the first 30 minutes, so we’re going a bit off the beaten path with this pick. The Pick: Time of 1st Goal 31st Minute and Over (+105)