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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is to Paris Saint-Germain what Lionel Messi is to Barcelona and, therefore, one wants to oppose PSG in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg because the Swedish superstar is out through suspension.
Paris Saint-Germain overcame Ibrahimovic’s 31st-minute red card at Stamford Bridge to eliminate Chelsea on away goals after extra time but PSG’s double whammy is that they have to take on Barcelona, arguably Europe’s top team since it leads the Spanish Primera Division, minus their main man.
Such is Barcelona’s firepower that, realistically, the only way to beat it is to fight fire with fire because shutting out Messi and friends for three hours is highly unlikely to happen. Barcelona will see terrific value in scoring an away goal or two at the Parc des Princes so one is sure that the visiting side will play positively. Can Paris Saint-Germain keep pace with Barcelona without Ibrahimovic up front? One has one’s doubts. Ibrahimovic has scored 10 goals for Paris Saint-Germain in its five matches across all competitions since it qualified for the UEFA Champions League last eight.
Normally one would be reticent to back Barcelona away from home against a decent opponent but it does look entitled to be trading at odds of -110 with Betfred and Totesport for UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg glory on the road. Barcelona has failed to score in just five of its 47 games across all competitions – take a bow, Malaga, for keeping two clean sheets – and one thinks that Barca will have too much ammunition for Paris Saint-Germain to match.
Ibrahimovic will not be the only significant absentee for Paris Saint-Germain – Serge Aurier and Marco Verratti are banned as well, while David Luiz and Thiago Motti are not fit. Barcelona right back Dani Alves is suspended but the attack-minded defender is not irreplaceable and, besides, Barca are not known for their defensive fortitude anyway.
Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have met four times in the last two UEFA Champions League competitions, with both teams scoring every game and the ledger standing at one win apiece and two draws. One is confident that Barcelona will edge in front of Paris Saint-Germain with an away victory and take a massive step towards the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
Porto has had a charmed run to the UEFA Champions League last eight but its luck ran out when it came out of the hat with German Bundesliga champion-elect Bayern Munchen, with the first leg taking place in Portugal on Wednesday. Bayern Munchen is set to be without a few of its regular starters but its depth chart is impressive and its probable starting line-up should be able to take care of its opponent.
After all, Porto is not without troubles of its own because Ivan Marcano is banned and Jackson Martinez, the Portuguese Primeira Liga second-placed side’s most dangerous attacker, is under an injury cloud. And then there is the collateral form line with Shakhtar Donetsk that suggests that Bayern Munchen is head and shoulders above Porto. Shakhtar Donetsk drew 1-1 and 2-2 with Porto during the UEFA Champions League group stage, whereas Bayern Munchen smashed the Ukrainian Premier League title holder 7-0 on aggregate in the first round of the knockout stage. Yes, Shakhtar Donetsk played most of the second leg with 10 men but Bayern Munchen was one man light for one-third of the first leg. Also, Porto required two Martinex goals in the 89th and 90th minutes – the second from the penalty spot – to draw in Ukraine.
Bayern Munchen is available at odds of -120 with Boylesports and WilliamHill to beat Porto in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg – the omens favour Pep Guardiola’s team because the sides have met twice at this stage of the tournament previously and both times it has been the German Bundesliga outfit that has progressed.
Finally, Atletico Madrid versus Real Madrid may not be the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg bloodbath that many people are predicting. Five Atletico Madrid players and three Real Madrid players are one booking away from a ban and the referee, Milorad Mazic, has shown only three red cards in his 25 post-2014 FIFA World Cup appointments.
Bookmakers are slow to chalk up card markets but one should be interested in decent odds, if they appear, about Mazic not sending off either an Atletico Madrid player or a Real Madrid player in the tie of the UEFA Champions League round.*
*This market has still not been added 90 minutes before kick off, so it looks unlikely at this stage.
A Madrid v Real Madrid – No red card
14th April 19:45 GMT
Where to Bet: TBC
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