James Horncastle assesses this week’s four Champions League games and while he can see Arsenal scoring in France he doesn’t hold much hope for Manchester City against a rampant Lionel Messi…
Monaco v Arsenal
Live on ITV, Tuesday, March 17 19:45
Arsenal can’t possibly be as naive as they were at the Emirates when Arsene Wenger committed tactical hara-kiri, playing a top heavy 4-1-5. His team defended calamitously and Olivier Giroud missed a whole host of presentable chances on a night that leaves their Champions League hopes seriously compromised. Only 1.8% of teams have gone through after losing the first leg at home 3-1 since 1970-71 and there have been 164 such cases. No wonder the exchange has Arsenal @ 8.07/1 to qualify.
Monaco have grown in confidence since and why not. The injured – notably in defence – are back, strengthening a rearguard that has kept 25 clean sheets in all competitions this season and has conceded only twice in the Champions League. They’re becoming more precocious going forward as well. Since their visit to London, they’ve scored six in their last two league games. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Monaco haven’t lost at the Stade Louis II since September.
But Arsenal need to score and they possess the firepower to do so, and should in hindsight have got more than one when they met last month. Back both teams to score @ 1.84/5
‘Yes’ in Both teams to Score? market @ 1.84/5
Atletico v Leverkusen
Live on Sky Sports 1, Tuesday, March 17 19:45
Roger Schmidt’s full throttle fussball is going full speed ahead. Leverkusen couldn’t really be heading to Madrid in better form. Five straight wins. Five consecutive clean sheets and they’re scoring goals, lots of goals. Four were rifled past struggling Stuttgart on Saturday and while Atleti will be harder to breach at the Calderon, their opponents have faltered of late.
Without a win in four, Diego Simeone’s side have slipped off the podium in La Liga. The weekend’s stalemate with Espanyol was their third straight draw and they’re not helping themselves either. Ill discipline is costing Atleti. Their players have been shown three red cards in their last six games. Tiago and, crucially, Diego Godin will be missing through suspension on Tuesday. Which makes a draw or an away win worth having on our side.
Lay Atletico Madrid @ 1.758/11
Barcelona v Man City
Live on Sky Sports 5, Wednesday, March 18 19:45
Lionel Messi went top of the scoring charts in Spain for the first time this season on Saturday night. His double against Eibar, which included a diving header, amounted to his 31st and 32nd of the campaign in La Liga. Twenty in all competitions have come since the turn of the year. Three of his six hat-tricks have arrived in 2015. No sooner has Ronaldo collected a third Ballon d’Or than Messi is once again setting the early pace to wrest it back from him and add a fifth to his mantlepiece.
In this sort of form and with City flailing, you’d expect Messi to profit and look to stay in the groove ahead of the Clasico. Back him to score two or more goals on the Sportsbook at 18/517/1.
Messi to score two or more @ 18/517/1 on the Sportsbook
Borussia Dortmund v Juventus
Live on Sky Sports 1, Wednesday, March 18 19:45
The road to Berlin passes through Dortmund. That was the case for World Cup winners Gigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and il Maestro Andrea Pirlo back in 2006 and so it is again in the Champions League this season with Juventus. The Old Lady was on top in the first leg, her only regret being not making more of her counter attacks and Giorgio Chiellini’s Madonna-like slip that allowed Marco Reus to score an away goal in an otherwise encouraging 2-1 win.
Morale is high among the Bianconeri and while they’re sweating on Pirlo’s fitness, there’s a sense that it’s now or never for this group. The veterans will be a year older and Paul Pogba might not be in Turin next season. Fourteen points clear in Serie A and set for a fourth straight Scudetto, it’s time for this team to realise its potential in Europe.
If you believe in destiny, as Buffon, Barzagli and Pirlo do, why not back Juventus to be a surprise finalist @ 7.413/2.
Juventus to reach the final @ 7.413/2