The Champions League quarter-finals are upon us. Four Premier League clubs remain, along with one from Eredivisie, one from La Liga, one from Liga NOS and Serie A’s lone remaining representative, Juventus.
Manchester United are the Premier League club at the focus of this piece, hosting Barcelona on Wednesday night. Wednesday’s other Champions League contest sees Juventus travel north to face Ajax in Amsterdam.
AJAX vs Juventus
Ajax’s spectacular 4-1 win at the Bernabeu in the last 16 will go down in history. Real Madrid crumbled against a stunning Ajax performance, led by former Southampton man Dusan Tadic.
The win was part of very good run they are currently on, winning nine of their last 10 outings. The Eredivisie leaders chalked up their 100th league goal of the campaign on Saturday.
It feels strange to label a club that has won four European Cups as a plucky underdog story. Ajax have gone toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich, Benfica and Real Madrid this term, but they are real outsiders ahead of this tie, sitting at 13/4 to progress.
Juventus pulled off a dramatic turnaround of their own in the last round, beating Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the second leg.
Cristiano Ronaldo put his cape on and rescued his team’s European run. Max Allegri’s side are dismissing all domestic challengers with ease, leaving them 20 points clear atop Serie A.
Allegri is confident Ronaldo will be available for the first leg, having not played since the international break. If you fancy a first leg win for the Turin-based club, a Ronaldo wincast at 13/5 is very good value.
His numbers might not be quite as eye-popping as year’s past, but it’s hard to ignore his track record on the biggest stage.
This tie is a meeting of two contrasting clubs. Ajax’s squad has been built through player development and shrewd signings. Juventus splashed out on perhaps the world’s most famous athlete. Ajax are young, playing with freedom.
Juventus are wily and experienced, with a rock-solid defence and win-at-all-costs approach. It is a clash of footballing philosophies that will be in the shadow of the Old Trafford showdown.
Ajax are a force to be reckoned with and look a very good price at 5/2 to win. A clean sheet remains improbable, though, which will leave the tie wide open ahead of the second leg in northern Italy.
TIP: Ajax to win @ 5/2
PREDICTED SCORE: Ajax 2-1 Juventus (Priced at 10/1 with 888sport)
Manchester United vs BARCELONA
Manchester United pulled off an astonishing comeback in the last 16, winning against all odds in Paris to knock out PSG. Their reward for that is a quarter-final against a Barcelona side that are unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have hit poor form at the worst time. Three defeats in four has changed the feeling around the club after the early optimism under Solskjaer.
The one victory in that span, a 2-1 win against Watford, was fortuitous and could easily have been another loss. The defensive fragilities have come to the fore once again. Manchester United are out at 14/5 to win in 888sport’s sports betting.
Barcelona are plodding along at the top of La Liga. A 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid last time out has another title within touching distance.
There was a brief scare in the last 16 after drawing with Lyon in the first leg, but then Lionel Messi turned it on, notching two assists and two goals at the Camp Nou as Barcelona cruised into the last eight.
Messi once again leads Europe in goal contributions. He’s scored eight and assisted three in five Champions League starts.
The 6/1 price on the Argentinian magician to score at least twice on Wednesday night is an absolute bargain. With Luis Suarez’s assistance, Messi could tear this Manchester United defence apart.
United’s confidence has been hit hard lately. Even playing at their very best, this was going to be an almighty challenge.
Barcelona’s evens price to win at Old Trafford would have been questionable when the draw was made. Right now, though, it’s looking like a very good bet.
There are a few intriguing bets in 888sport’s player specials market. Messi to score and assist at 7/1 will tempt a few, while Nemanja Matic to be booked and lose the match at 5/1 looks a good price considering the challenge he will have defensively.
TIP: Barcelona to win @ Evens
PREDICTED SCORE: Man United 0-3 Barcelona (Priced at 15/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*