The UEFA Champions League emerges from its hibernation with four last-16 first-leg matches and, with regards to punting, the most appealing game is Roma versus Real Madrid in which one fancies that both teams will get on the scoresheet.
Odds of -149 are available about both Roma and Real Madrid scoring in their UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday, odds that one thinks are remarkably generous in view of the for-and-against statistics of the two sides.
Roma is Italian Serie A’s second highest scorer and no other top-six team has conceded more goals. Both sides have scored in 17 of Roma’s 25 Italian Serie A games, while both teams have rustled the onion bag in five of its six UEFA Champions League matches. Roma may be a notch below Italian Serie A leader Juventus but the Yellow and Reds have scored in all bar one of their 12 divisional home games and, before they fluffed their lines versus BATE in the final round of UEFA Champions League Group E matches, they had scored and not lost to either Barcelona or Leverkusen in Italy.
Real Madrid is the Spanish Primera Division’s highest scorer but its defensive record is the worst of the top four sides and it is trailing Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the title race because of its poor results against the elite – the Meringues have accrued just one point from their four games versus Barca, Atletico, Villarreal and Sevilla. Both teams have scored in 13 of Real Madrid’s 24 Spanish Primera Division matches, which is a surprisingly high percentage given the number of uncompetitive games in that league.
Bookmakers have chalked up Real Madrid at odds on to win its UEFA Champions League match at Roma and, while one does not like to back away sides at that kind of price in this event, one finds it difficult to disagree with their assessment. However, with Roma finding some form at long last – four wins on the spin – one thinks that odds compilers have underestimated the likelihood of both the Yellow and Reds and their illustrious opponents each celebrating a goal.
Wolfsburg looks like a classic false favourite for its UEFA Champions League game at Gent on Wednesday and, therefore, one suggests supporting the Buffalos at odds of -175 with Ladbrokes not to lose on home soil.
Saturday’s 2-0 German Bundesliga home defeat of Ingolstadt was Wolfsburg’s first divisional victory in eight matches dating back to November, key forward Bas Dost is injured, Nicklas Bendtner is out of form and the Wolves failed to land Basel star Breel Embolo before the transfer window closed. Wolfsburg’s German Bundesliga away record reads terribly for a UEFA Champions League road favourite, with the Wolves sitting at 1-3-6 and a division-low six goals scored. In terms of points per game, Wolfsburg’s German Bundesliga away record is the worst in the competition.
Only one side has lowered Gent’s colours in 21 home matches across all tournaments and the Buffalos have strung together seven home wins in a row. Gent is not the classiest team in the UEFA Champions League last 16 but the Buffalos are over their true odds not to lose at home to a Wolfsburg side that has slid down the German Bundesliga ladder this season.
Finally, Zenit’s lack of competitive action and its lengthy list of absentees means that one is willing to back Benfica at odds of +116 with Marathonbet to win Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League game in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon.
Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, defender Igor Smolnikov and midfielder Viktor Fayzulin are definitely out for Zenit and another midfielder, Aleksandr Ryazantsev, is doubtful. Zenit coach Andrew Villas-Boas has had a challenging few months, trying to bed in three new signings without the benefit of meaningful matches. Zenit lost each of its last three away games before going on its enforced break and, at the prices, one is willing to take a punt on Benfica bouncing back from its recent 1-2 Portuguese Primeira Liga home loss to Porto.
Roma v Real Madrid BTTS
17th February 19:45 GMT
Gent to win/draw v Wolfsburg
17th February 19:45 GMT
Benfica to beat Zenit
16th February 19:45 GMT