The draw for the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League last-16 knockout stage is complete and English football fans will be relatively happy with how things have turned out. Fans of the two Manchester clubs and five-time winners Liverpool were relieved to avoid the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the first knockout round but Tottenham and Chelsea weren’t quite as fortunate.
Antonio Conte’s side, a 25/1 shot to win the competition in our Champions League betting odds, will have to get past Barcelona whilst Tottenham’s reward for finishing above Real and Borussia Dortmund in the group stages is a double header with Juventus.
Read below for my thoughts on the draw and a few tips ahead of what could be a memorable tournament.
Juventus vs TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Juventus have won the Italian title in each of the last six years but Massimiliano Allegri’s side are struggling to pull away at the top of Serie A. Italy’s premiere division is more competitive now than it has been for well over a decade and the added distraction of a genuine title race may have a negative effect on Allegri’s men.
Spurs have shown exactly what they are made of in recent months and Mauricio Pochettino will be demanding more of the same from his side here. Juventus are one of Europe’s elite clubs but Tottenham have the quality to prevail – especially over two legs. For me, the 6/5 is generous considering Spurs’ exploits in this season’s competition.
TIP: Tottenham to go through @ 6/5
FC Basel vs MANCHESTER CITY
Basel secured a much-needed win over Manchester United on home soil in the group stages but expecting a repeat here may be foolish. Basel simply cannot compete with United’s “noisy neighbours” on a player by player basis and the visitors are well priced at 2/5 to win the first leg.
Can anyone compete with Pep Guardiola’s men on current form? You’d be hard pressed to find another club capable of going toe to toe with City and coming out on top. The Blues extended their winning run to 14 Premier League games on Sunday – a new record in the top flight. City will be confident of gaining a lead ahead of the second leg in Manchester.
TIP: Man City to win the first leg @ 2/5
FC Porto vs LIVERPOOL
Porto have been rampant so far this season, avoiding defeat in their last 14 league games. In the Champions League, they have been rock solid and fully deserved to reach the knockout stages. Sadly, this could be there their run comes to an end though – Liverpool should be too strong over the course of 180 minutes of football.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are frail defensively, but Liverpool are devastatingly good at the other end. In Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Mohamed Salah, the Reds are blessed with one of the strongest units in world football. There are usually goals whenever Klopp's side are in action and 11/10 for over 1.5 Liverpool goals is a solid price.
TIP: Over 1.5 Liverpool goals in first leg @ 11/10
Sevilla vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Sevilla have been dominant in the Europa League in years gone by but a lack of experience in the Champions League could haunt the Spanish side. In La Liga, Sevilla have slipped down the ladder but their efforts against Liverpool in Europe should not go unnoticed. It would be foolish for United to dismiss their opponents in what could be an exciting double header - although most fans will be quietly confident.
Jose Mourinho’s men are 11 points behind in the title race and the Red Devils may turn their attention to European glory instead. A tie with Sevilla offers a genuine opportunity to reach the quarter finals and United have the quality to go deep into the competition. Take the 4/9 on offer for the Red Devils to advance – Mourinho won’t let United fall short here.
TIP: Man United to go through @ 4/9
Shakhtar Donetsk vs AS Roma
A fairly even affair. Shakhtar, the only team to defeat Manchester City this season, are not without potential but consistency still haunts the Ukrainian side. Capable of giving anybody a difficult evening, Shakhtar will be hoping that the football gods are looking down on them during this double header.
For Roma, it is all about building momentum. Most football fans expected Roma to struggle this year but Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are playing some exceptional stuff right now and it would take a brave man to back against the Italians in this one. 4/9 for Roma to advance is a decent price when all things are considered.
TIP: Roma to go through @ 4/9
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid have won this competition in three of the last four years and another triumph beckons if Zinedine Zidane’s men hit top form in the second half of the campaign. The La Liga outfit must improve though, Real haven’t been anywhere near their brilliant best and they cannot afford to carry any passengers in a fixture of this magnitude.
Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain are also right up there in the race for European glory. The French giants have been getting closer and closer but you could claim that they are now better equipped to challenge than they’ve ever been. I fancy Real (5/4) to snatch a win on home soil but PSG could end up advancing to the next round.
TIP: Real Madrid to win the first leg @ 5/4
CHELSEA vs FC Barcelona
The defending Premier League champions slipped up against West Ham United in their most recent top-flight encounter and Antonio Conte’s men are in real need of a confidence boost ahead of the busy festive period. With two months until the first leg, Chelsea have plenty of time to turn their hit-and-miss form around.
No Neymar? No problem. Barcelona are still Barcelona and you know that the Spanish giants are going to be competitive at the business end of the campaign. Currently five points clear in the La Liga title race, Barcelona cannot afford to take their eye off the ball and focus will be key. Chelsea can pick up a positive result at home but may crash out over two legs.
TIP: Chelsea to win OR draw the first leg @ 16/25
Bayern Munich vs Besiktas
Last but not least, we have Bayern. The Bavarians are always there or thereabouts in most betting markets and it will come as no surprise to see Munich feature prominently ahead of the knockout stages. Besiktas may offer stern resistance at first but it is difficult to see past Bayern on home soil in the opening fixture.
Should Besiktas pick up a positive result at the Allianz Arena, the Turkish side may be quietly confident of knocking the Bavarians out. Of the eight fixtures, Bayern are probably the most assured of reaching the next round – Besiktas are no slouches though. Be wary of a major shock here, the visitors have the quality to cause problems for Bayern.
TIP: Bayern to win the first leg @ 2/11
Our eight-fold accumulator is priced at 60/1 at the time of writing – click here for more Champions League betting markets and the latest odds…
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*