Qualifying for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals may prove beyond Arsenal but one thinks that the Gunners are a decent bet to beat Monaco in the second leg of their tie.
Arsenal dished up its worst performance of the season in the UEFA Champions League last-16 first leg in London, losing 1-3 in a naive display that was even worse than its effort when going down 2-3 at Stoke in the English Premier League. The concession of a third away goal deep in stoppage time was an unforgivably stupid act and one that leaves it with not so much a mountain but an entire mountain range to climb if it wants to make the UEFA Champions League last eight.
The state of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie is awful for Arsenal but it does mean that the second leg in Monte Carlo sets up nicely for a bet on the Gunners, who are available at odds of +138 with Betfred and Totesport.
Monaco knows that it will qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals provided that it does not concede at least three Arsenal goals during normal time of Tuesday’s match. Monaco is one of the most defensively minded teams left in the UEFA Champions League so one expects it to sit on its lead and focus it attention on limiting Arsenal to zero, one or two goals. One can see Monaco defending deep from the opening whistle and not changing its tactics even if Arsenal gets the first goal. If anything, Monaco may go even more into its shell if Arsenal opens the scoring. To cut a long story short, one cannot see Monaco committing many players forward – even on counter attacks – unless Arsenal races into a 2-0 lead and, if that situation was reached, the Gunners would be short odds to win the game.
UEFA Champions League history is against Arsenal reaching the last eight: no team in the modern era has progressed having gone into a second leg of a knockout tie needing to score at least two away goals to avoid elimination. So stop short of backing Arsenal to eliminate Monaco and settle for a bet on the Gunners posting a victory on the continent.
Leverkusen is deservedly the favourite to be the side that qualifies from its UEFA Champions League last-16 tie versus Atletico Madrid that reaches its conclusion on Tuesday. One fancies Leverkusen’s chance of scoring a goal in Madrid and forcing Atletico to score at least three normal-time goals to keep alive its dream of making back-to-back finals.
Since the turn of the year Leverkusen has played 10 matches across all competitions and it has scored a normal-time goal in eight of them. Leverkusen’s form nosedived in the latter part of 2014 but it appears to be back in good shape and its all-out pressing and attacking may pay dividends against an Atletico Madrid side that must line up without two members of its spine, defender Diego Godin and midfielder Tiago Mendes. Away goals are worth their wait in goal in UEFA tournaments and Atletico may pay the price for not hitting the back of the net in its 0-1 loss in Leverkusen three weeks ago. Back Leverkusen at odds of -125 with several bookmakers, including Bet365 and Coral, to oust Atletico and go past the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since it made the 2002 final.
Finally, whereas Monaco is likely to be passive as Arsenal attempts to score a bagful of UEFA Champions League away goals on Tuesday, one cannot see Barcelona sitting back and allowing Manchester City to have everything its own way on Wednesday. Manchester City must score at least two goals in Barcelona to stand any chance of reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and that means leaving open the back door for Lionel Messi and friends to pull down its pants.
Barcelona beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Camp Nou in almost identical circumstances 12 months ago and one cannot go past Barca for a home win in what should be an entertaining UEFA Champions League clash, an option that Betfred and Totesport are offering at odds of -227 . To put it bluntly, Manchester City does not the wherewithal to stop Barcelona scoring.
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