WHAT A WILD CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WEEK. Soccer did not disappoint this week as there were comebacks aplenty across the Champions League.
In day 1 Barcelona surrendered a 4-1 aggregate lead in Rome in a 3-0 loss to the Italians, bowing out due to Roma’s away goal in Leg 1. Roma became the third team ever to advance after being down at least 3 goals in an aggregate tie (Barcelona did it last season) and knocked out the competition’s favorites in one of the better matches in the history of the Champions League. Meanwhile, Manchester City who also needed a 3-goal comeback, fell short losing to Liverpool 2-1 and 5-1 on aggregate. Yes, there were bad calls and City should’ve been granted a goal but Liverpool were the better team in both matches and deserved to go through.
In day 2, Juventus were also down 3-0 and had to mount a comeback IN Madrid which seemed almost impossible. But Juve did not give in and somehow went up 3-0 on Madrid just 61 minutes in. It was poised to go into extra time until a controversial penalty was awarded to Madrid in the 94th minute along with a red card to Juve legend Buffon who surely played in his last Champions League match. Cristiano stepped up and scored to put Real Madrid in another semifinal.
Real Madrid now play Bayern Munich and Liverpool will face Roma in the semifinals.
Champions League QF Leg II: 2-2
All-time Record: 212-188-51
Chelsea @ Southampton – These odds seemed pretty absurd to me (-120) as both teams are playing for something going into this match. Yes Chelsea are out of the top 4 guaranteed but they are still playing for a place in Europe, being only 3 points ahead of Arsenal. Southampton meanwhile are fighting for their lives in 18th place and may be poised to be relegated. But even Chelsea’s B squad could out muscle this Southampton team and they probably won’t play. Chelsea (-0.5).
Everton @ Swansea – Not much to say about this match other than both teams will be well-rested and are coming off of good opponents in their last few games with little results to show for it. I usually pick the home teams when the odds are a ‘Pickem’, but I’m going to choose the more quality side here. Everton (Pick +110).
Watford @ Huddersfield Town – These two sides have been flip-flopping in the table all year long with their inconsistent play. Watford at one point were almost cracking the top 4, while Huddersfield were challenging top 4 clubs on a game to game basis. Both clubs are in bad form, but only one is in relegation danger, in a must-win match and they also happen to be home. Huddersfield (Pick -110).
Brighton @ Crystal Palace – Palace have a must-win match at home to avoid the relegation zone. They also face a Brighton team who have been HORRIBLE away from home, only scoring 7 goals (league worst) and also failing to score in 7 of their last 9 away from home. Crystal Palace (-0.5).
Leicester @ Burnley – Burnley have been an odd team to follow this season. Started extremely strong, slowed down due to poor goalscoring and then are now on a 5 match unbeaten run and have only 1 loss in their last 8. It will be a classic offense v defense match with Leicester’s offense trying to stifle Sean Dyche’s brittle defense. I’m going to take the home pick here and I honestly expect a 0-0 or a 1-1 draw. Burnley (Pick -110).
Bournemouth @ Liverpool – Liverpool are in excellent form, but will be playing in their 5th match in two weeks against a Bournemouth side who have shown that they are very hard to beat. With only one loss in their last 6, a week of rest and most likely a weakened Liverpool lineup, I like the Cherries to cover the 2 goal spread or at the least push. Bournemouth (+2).
Manchester City @ Tottenham – Manchester City are in a completely different spot than the last time these two played when City ran through them to the tune of a 4-1 victory. City at the time were still unbeaten and were setting records across the board. Now, City are coming off of one of the more disappointing weeks in the last decade with two Champions League losses and a loss to United while up 2 goals at half in a title-clinching match. They will look to rebound going to Wembley against a well-rested Spurs side who haven’t lost domestically since their December 16th loss to City. As much as I want to pick City, you can’t pick against a home side in great form and with a week’s rest. Tottenham (Pick -105).
Other Saturday Picks:
Inter Milan @ Atalanta: Inter (Pick -115)
Arsenal @ Newcastle United – Who the hell is Arsenal? One minute they’re completely falling apart both on and off the pitch, and the next minute they find themselves without a loss in 7 matches and in a Europa League Semifinal. Sadly, they run into an also hot Newcastle squad who have one loss in their last 8 matches, and haven’t lost to a ‘top 6 + Leicester’ side since November 25th. Added to that, they haven’t lost a home match since their 1-0 loss to City in late December. I can’t shy away from the home dogs here. Newcastle (+0.5).
West Brom @ Manchester United – This one is pretty simple from a straight-up perspective; West Brom is the worst team in the league and United are in 2nd. West Brom have been so bad that they got their first point in the league last Saturday since January 20th. United will be coming into this on a week’s rest and at home at Old Trafford and as much as I hate taking lines 2 or more, you can’t convince yourself United is only gonna win by 1 here. Manchester United (-2).
Other Sunday Picks:
Monaco @ PSG: PSG (-1.5)
Napoli @ AC Milan: AC Milan (+0.5)
Roma @ Lazio: Roma (Pick -120)
Seattle @ Sporting KC: Sporting KC (-0.5)
New York City FC @ Atlanta United: Atlanta United (-0.5)
That’s all for the weekend’s matches as I’ll be back for the midweek Premier League matches that will be taking place from Monday through Thursday. Enjoy!
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.