The Champions League quarter-final second legs take place this week. Teams have little time to recover and plan, having played the first leg matches last week.
Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Ajax faced one another on Wednesday in Manchester and Amsterdam. The ties head to Barcelona and Turin on Tuesday to decide who will make the last four of Europe’s premier competition.
BARCELONA vs Manchester United
The first leg of this tie was hard to watch. Barcelona were far from their best, Manchester United worked hard and defended well, but they still fell to defeat after a moment of Lionel Messi magic put it on a plate for Luis Suarez at the back post.
United are out at 13/2 to go through. Solskjaer’s side are in a rut, losing four of their last six, and have not kept a clean sheet since a 0-0 draw with Liverpool on 24th February.
Victory over West Ham at the weekend was a necessity in the Premier League top four race, but the Red Devils needed two Paul Pogba penalties to secure all three points after a less than impressive performance.
The sensational second leg comeback against PSG in the last round will give United hope. This is a much more challenging task, however. United went into the PSG second leg in fine form, feeling on top of the world in the early Solskjaer days.
Barcelona have Messi and his accomplice Suarez, and it’s hard to see United shutting them out. For the United optimists, Barcelona to fail to score is 8/1.
Ernesto Valverde rotated his team at the weekend, keeping his first XI fresh for the second leg.
Barcelona dropped points against Huesca but remain strong favourites for La Liga and have a well-rested team unlike United. The hosts are Evens to win on the -1 handicap.
Sergio Busquets will return to the team after sitting out at the weekend. The Spanish international had a difficult game at Old Trafford and was lucky not to be sent off before being substituted. He’s a good price to be a shown a yellow card on Tuesday night.
With United having to chase the game from the first whistle, Barcelona will have space. Valverde’s side have scored four or more on seven separate occasions at the Camp Nou this term. It could be another emphatic win here.
TIP: Barcelona to win (-2) @ 13/5
PREDICTED SCORE: Barcelona 4-1 Manchester United (Priced at 15/1 with 888sport)
JUVENTUS vs Ajax
Ajax put in another superb Champions League performance in the first leg. The match finished 1-1, however, putting Juventus in the box seat ahead of Tuesday’s clash in northern Italy.
A 6-2 thrashing of Excelsior on Saturday will have built yet more confidence in an exceptional season for the Eredivisie side.
Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech were dangerous throughout last week’s match, though it was a stunning David Neres goal that brought Ajax level after Cristiano Ronaldo gave Juve the lead.
Tadic has excelled this season, contributing 27 goals and 14 assists. The former Southampton man is one of the value sports betting options this week.
Juventus were happy without the ball in Amsterdam. Max Allegri’s side were a textbook example of a deep defence.
The Italian giants gave up plenty of shots, but Ajax never manufactured a clear cut opportunity. The back line was solid and it felt, for much of the match at least, that they were in control.
Having named a heavily rotated side with Serie A all but sewn up, Juventus suffered defeat to SPAL at the weekend. With this veteran group and playing at home in the second leg, the loss is unlikely to impact their midweek performance.
Ronaldo continues to deliver in the knockout rounds of the Champions League – he’s scored 64 knockout round goals in this competition and is a good bet to score in a Juventus win.
Juventus have only failed to win three home matches this season, drawing two and losing one.
The game plan will be similar to the first leg; absorb pressure, counter and create enough for Ronaldo to do his thing. The 7/5 price on Ajax to fail to score is well worth considering.
Ajax defied the odds against Real Madrid in the last 16. They have repeatedly shown they can compete with Europe’s elite. This, against a wily Juventus, might just be a step too far.
TIP: Juventus to win @ 7/10
PREDICTED SCORE: Juventus 2-0 Ajax (Priced at 7/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*