The Champions League returns to screens around the world this weekend with four appetising knockout stage matches.
The likes of Juventus, Manchester City and Barcelona still have plenty to do if they want to book their places in the last eight of the competition which heads to Lisbon, Portugal next week for the revamped mini-tournament that will determine this season’s continental champions.
FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 2020
Juventus v Lyon
A lot has happened since Lyon, through a single Lucas Tousart strike, bagged their first-ever win over Juventus, now owners of a stunning if not predictable nine consecutive Serie A titles. Facing a one-goal deficit should set this match up perfectly from the outset with the Italians needing to score first to avoid the pressures of dealing with the away goals rule.
Juve’s recent form has been woeful – three losses in four in wrapping their domestic season – and the league’s best player this term, Paolo Dybala, is an injury doubt. History is on their side, as is a rested Cristiano Ronaldo. The hosts should win but they will need to work hard to progress.
Suggested Bet: Juventus and over 2.5 match goals at 2.10
Manchester City v Real Madrid
Far and away the standout tie of the weekend … will City’s defensive frailties and their desperation to add this major title to their cabinet be their undoing? Will Real Madrid be able to cope without Sergio Ramos, who misses this match after being sent off as the English side came from behind to win 2-1 in the first leg?
Pep Guardiola’s biggest conundrum will be whether to attack the Spaniards from the outset or sit back and play on the counter. Madrid have the ultimate pedigree in this competition and were emphatic in their return to domestic football going 30 for 30 en route to dethroning Barcelona.
There will be goals. Lots of goals.
Suggested Bet: Real Madrid to win in regulation time at 4.27
SATURDAY 8 AUGUST 2020
Bayern Munich v Chelsea
Is this one over before it even kicks off? Bayern will start with a 3-0 cushion, another Bundesliga title, a 17-match winning run and the psychological edge over the Londoners. Chelsea? They failed to mark their stance as favourites in the FA Cup final and are depleted with both the in-form Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta joining their ever-growing casualty list.
An early goal from the visitors could bring about some doubts but even then, the educated observer would back Bayern to score at least once at home.
Suggested Bet: Chelsea +2 goals at 1.50 (Asian handicap)
Barcelona v Napoli
A neutral’s delight with Barca struggling with both form and injury concerns. The Spaniards led LaLiga by two points when the coronavirus pandemic halted the league’s play but ended five points shy of Real Madrid. Even Lionel Messi has issued a rallying cry for his teammates to raise their game or face the consequences. For the home side, both Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal are suspended while under-fire manager, Quique Setien, will make a late call as he faces something of an injury crisis at the back.
All of this sets up Napoli to play the role of villains in Spain. Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have the firepower to ensure the visitors score twice at the Nou Camp but that might not be enough. They have defensive issues of their own with constant struggles on the road and the highly-rated Kostas Manolas out injured.
Suggested Bet: Barcelona and over 2.5 match goals at 2.30