I think we can all agree that the best way to spend Valentine’s Day is in front of the Champions League last 16. Okay, maybe not quite everyone will agree with us on this one, but let’s run with it anyway.
We have missed the world’s best club competition so very dearly. It doesn’t get better than that goosebump-causing music. And right here we are going to talk about Wednesday’s matches, featuring four truly gargantuan clubs.
FC Porto vs Liverpool
Porto are perennial last 16ers. Their ventures beyond this stage are less frequent than they would like, but they continue to contend with Europe’s finest despite being the absolute pinnacle of a selling club.
As is commonplace, the hosts are nip and tuck with Benfica at the top of the Primeira Liga. Undefeated at the time of writing, in fact. Their defence is steely domestically, though they conceded as many in six group matches as they have all season in Portugal.
Liverpool are in the midst of a tense top four battle. Their Champions League progression was not all plain sailing despite eventually winning the group, and their defensive calamities put a real dampener on their European chances.
That said, they have to be fancied to score more than once. Their attack is up there with the best in Europe this season, and any away goal will be key in this one. I like the look of Mohamed Salah to score at least two goals at 9/1.
We can expect Porto to go down the same route as the majority of teams facing Liverpool this season. Sit back, absorb pressure, and simply wait for the inevitable error at the back. Give their forwards space, and the tie could be out of reach before the half-hour mark.
I don’t feel Liverpool can be relied on not to throw it away somehow, so over 2.5 goals at 3/4 is the pick of the bets here.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 3/4
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain
This is the tie of the round. The team who have reigned supreme in Europe over the last four years meet the club aiming to knock them off that perch and begin their own period of domination.
Real Madrid are 16 points off the La Liga pace set by Barcelona. Zinedine Zidane is already a man under pressure. Failure to make it into the last eight of the competition they cherish above all else might see the iconic former midfielder lose his job.
Paris Saint Germain are 12 clear at the top of Ligue 1, but that was a guarantee when Unai Emery began this season. Anything less than that would have been a crisis given the squad he possesses. It will all be wafted into the realm of irrelevance if it is not complemented by a foray into the latter rounds of the Champions League.
Missing chances has really hurt Madrid this season. They have higher expected goals than Barcelona (per understat) but have scored 10 fewer. Some of that can be attributed to luck, but a lot goes down to the stark decline of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Paris’ front three have been superb in contrast. Neymar is thriving without the looming shadow of Lionel Messi, and Edinson Cavani continues to push his case as the best centre forward in the world. Neymar at 9/1 to score and give an assist has to be one of the bets of the week. He has 28 goals and 14 assists so far this campaign.
I know plenty will be expecting a revival for Los Blancos in the Champions League, but this PSG side are a different animal to previous years.
TIP: PSG to win or draw @ 16/25
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*