After the possibility of having five English clubs in the last eight of this year’s Champions League, the quota was reduced to just two after Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United’s hopes all hit the buffers.
And so it was sod’s law when the quarter-final draw was made today that Manchester City and Liverpool would be drawn together.
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will lock horns on two more occasions this season, with the first leg being played at Anfield on Wednesday April 4th and the return fixture at the City of Manchester Stadium following six days later.
The rest of the draw came up trumps too, with an intriguing clash between Juventus and Real Madrid the sort of game that even the most optimistic sit on the fence for.
And you would expect that Barcelona and Bayern Munich will complete a star-studded semi-final line-up too, given that they have been paired with Roma and Sevilla respectively.
As is the case these days, the outright betting market has reacted in rapid fashion, with Barcelona and Bayern shortening in price quite considerably and Manchester City and Real Madrid lengthening somewhat.
Here’s a list of the current Champions League outright betting odds:
- Barcelona (5/2)
- Manchester City (7/2)
- Bayern Munich (4/1)
- Real Madrid (9/2)
- Juventus (12/1)
- Liverpool (14/1)
- Sevilla (66/1)
- Roma (80/1)
So where does the smart money lie?
Liverpool vs Manchester City
As a neutral, if you were to pick two English teams you want to see go at it over two legs then the majority would surely have opted for this dashing pair.
Outstanding attacking play, occasional lapses in defence….the scene is set for a fascinating 180 minutes between the best two attacking forces in the land.
The fact that the Premier League ties between them his term have ended 5-0 in City’s favour and 4-3 to Liverpool will do little to dampen enthusiasm, and there will be plenty of punters following in the goals-based markets in anticipation of an end-to-end thriller.
Perhaps the knowledge that the second leg will be played in Manchester just gives City the edge, and the bookmakers certainly believe so having made them 8/15 favourites to progress. The fact that Guardiola’s side have only failed to find the net twice this term – against Crystal Palace and Wigan, bizarrely – suggests they will find a away goal or two at Anfield; at which point they will become very difficult to beat indeed.
Even a repeat of the 3-4 thriller at Anfield earlier on in the campaign wouldn’t be a disaster for City, while from Liverpool’s perspective they surely need to take a lead to Manchester and hope to nick a goal or two on the break in the second leg.
Either way, this is set to be an enthralling battle in the north of England.
Juventus vs Real Madrid
It is a fair assumption to make that Real Madrid have been far from their best this term, but they have certainly improved of late and with players like Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad you know the Galacticos will rise to the big occasion.
Juventus, in stark contrast, have gone about their business in quiet and composed fashion, as they always tend to do. They top the Serie A table by four points, and remarkably have conceded in just one of their last fifteen league encounters.
The Italians cruised through their Champions League group, and when required they found an extra gear in the last 16: defeating Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley in a rare home defeat for the Londoners.
Both of these teams have a wealth of experience at the business end of this competition, and neither will be overawed by the occasion.
Perhaps the key differentiator is Real’s 5-2 aggregate win over PSG in the last 16. They played like champions during those 180 minutes, and once again players like Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos showed how well they tend to raise their game for the big occasion.
Barcelona vs Roma
Given Barcelona’s serene progress this term, they will be a heavy favourite to see off their Italian opponents here.
They remain unbeaten in the Champions League and La Liga this term, and if that sounds like they haven’t put a front wrong then that’s because they haven’t. Some 27 wins in 36 starts is indicative of a team at the peak of their powers. They may be without Neymar these days, but those left behind – including Lionel Messi – are taking their game to new heights.
So what chance do Roma have? If this game had been in the first half of the season then they would have an outside shot, but right now they are struggling a tad for form. They’ve won just five of their last dozen Serie A matches, and just about edged past Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 of this competition.
Roma will be plucky at home, but you suspect that Barcelona’s brilliance at the Nou Camp will prove decisive.
Sevilla vs Bayern Munich
Sevilla continue to defy the odds in the Champions League, despite a pretty ordinary La Liga campaign thus far.
The Spaniards sit fifth in their domestic table but have lost 11/28, and their notoriously poor away form continues to haunt them.
That said, they got a huge result against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and really they have nothing to fear here.
The difference between Jose Mourinho’s side and Bayern is that the Germans won’t sit back in the away leg like meek little lambs. They will attack with relish in Spain, knowing that an away goal will all but secure their passage into the last eight given how strong they are at their Allianz Arena home.