Manchester City ([3.30])
Quarter-Final: Lyon (Saturday)
Manchester City‘s 4-2 aggregates success over La Liga champions Real Madrid was a major statement of intent for the Citizens’ Champions League prospects. Pep Guardiola‘s group have been installed as tournament favourites following the Last 16 victory, with a generous draw against outsiders Lyon in the last-eight now standing in the way of a semi-final berth.
Question marks remain over City’s foundations, their ability to defend set-pieces, as well as their coping mechanisms when teams transition at speed in attack. However, such flaws are often superseded by the sheer quality at Guardiola’s disposal in forward areas; the Blue Moon’s final-third precision can be devastating and the Citizens deserve their position at the top of the market.
Should the draw play out as expected, Man City will lock horns with well-fancied Bayern Munich in the final-four – a showdown fit for any final – and for that reason, punters are best advised to leave Pep’s posse alone at the prices. Nonetheless, there are options elsewhere to keep the top two teams in the competition onside.
Bayern Munich ([4.30])
Quarter-Final: Barcelona (Friday)
Bayern Munich‘s clash with Barcelona tops the quarter-final bill as the only two previous winners left in the competition go head-to-head at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light. The Bavarians have been well backed to progress after Hansi Flick‘s outfit extended their remarkable 2020 form with a routine demolition job of Chelsea during the Last 16 second leg last Friday.
For the second campaign running, FC Hollywood have done the domestic double. But this is no ordinary Bayern; under Flick’s watch the team have been transformed with and without the ball. Harmony has been restored, players are performing at the peak of their powers and the results have been nothing short of spectacular under the current regime.
Bayern have won 26 of their last 27 games across all competitions – including all 13 fixtures since lockdown – Robert Lewandowski has just completed his best-ever Bundesliga campaign, while Thomas Muller posted a single-season record figure of 21 league assists. The team arrive fresh following a reasonable rest and appear serious crown contenders.
Recommended Bet: Back Bayern Munich to beat Barcelona at [2.02]
Quarter-Final: Atalanta (Wednesday)
PSG‘s dominance of French football shows no sign of abating as Thomas Tuchel‘s team took top honours in the curtailed Ligue 1 campaign. Les Parisiens then returned from their long enforced break by underwhelming in both Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France title triumphs over the past fortnight, the side’s only competitive encounters since March.
Despite the club’s vast resources, PSG’s modest Champions League record – no semi-final appearance since 1995 – is disappointing. Les Rouge et Bleu regularly come unstuck when running into elite European opposition, and so being pitted on the softer side of the draw could prove pivotal to the team’s progress. Even so, there are issues to be ironed out.
Top goalscorer Kylian Mbappe looks unlikely to be fit to play against a dangerous Atalanta side, Marco Verratti has been ruled out, whilst Angel Di Maria is suspended. Options have also been limited by the exit of Edison Cavani and Thomas Meunier. The quarter-final contests should be a thriller, but a bloody nose is far from implausible.
Quarter-Final: Bayern Munich (Friday)
Barcelona‘s defence of their La Liga crown alarmingly fizzled out following Spanish football’s return but the Blaugrana were at least able to raise themselves to overcome Napoli in their Champions League Last 16 second leg showdown. Hugely reliant on Lionel Messi for magic, the Catalans were clinical in the first 45 minutes to pull through a potentially tricky tie.
Under-fire head coach Quique Setien is boosted by the returns of Sergi Busquets and Arturo Vidal for Friday night’s mega match with Bayern Munich, but Barcelona have looked a fading force on the continental circuit for some time, particularly at the back. When goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is regularly picking up Man of the Match awards, alarm is raised.
A devilishly difficult draw, coupled with the club’s downturn in performance levels under Setien, has seen Barca’s support in the market dwindle significantly. The Catalans were 5/1 shots at the start of the group phase but are now largely friendless at twice the price coming into the quarter-finals. Their prospects beyond the quarter-finals look bleak.
Recommended Bet: Back Bayern Munich to beat Barcelona at [2.02]
Atletico Madrid ([10.50])
Quarter-Final: RB Leipzig (Thursday)
Atletico Madrid finished 17 points shy of neighbours Real Madrid in the La Liga ladder but don’t be fooled into thinking Los Colchoneros are a fading force.
Diego Simeone‘s side suffered only four league defeats across the campaign, ousted Premier League champions Liverpool in the last knockout round of the Champions League, and have collected an eye-popping 22 clean sheets across all competitions this term. The Spaniards remain one of Europe’s elite when it comes to knockout football.
Atleti endured a brief identity crisis after a big turnover of players last summer, although grit and consistency have returned in droves. Wedded to the tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 system, Simeone’s dogged and defensively robust outfit will relish their role as spoilers and look underrated in the race for a place in the final considering their position on the softer side of the draw.
Recommended Bet: Back Atletico Madrid to reach the Champions League final [3.50]
Quarter-Final: PSG (Wednesday)
Atalanta may herald from a small city of some 120,000 inhabitants, boast a solitary major honour (1962 Coppa Italia) across their 113-year history, operate from Serie A’s 13th-highest wage budget and play in a stadium that was deemed to small and unsafe to host continental competition his season, but the boys from Bergamo are creditable challengers.
Gian Piero Gasperini‘s group are in unchartered continental territory, have smashed numerous club records over the past 18 months and thrilled fans with their carefree approach. La Dea might not have the megastars to match their Champions League rivals, but Europe’s most entertaining team pack a serious punch that deserves respect.
Expect to see Atalanta attempt to outrun and outplay every opponent, starting with PSG on Wednesday night. The curious 3-4-2-1 system focusses on furious high-pressing without the ball, whilst their gung-ho attitude in possession presents threats from across the park. Josip Ilicic‘s absence is a blow, but the Bergamo club are much more than a one-man team.
Doubts persist over Atalanta’s ability to keep the backdoor locked but one-legged ties at neutral venues ensures the opportunity for upsets are rife.
RB Leipzig (20.00)
Quarter-Final: Atletico Madrid (Thursday)
RB Leipzig are arguably the hardest team to assess coming into the quarter-finals.
The Bundesliga side were splendid when swatting Spurs aside in the Last 16 earlier this year but too often in 2020 Julian Nagelsmann‘s outfit have failed to hit their capable heights consistently. Die Rotten Bullen haven’t played competitively since June and are shorn of their best attacking talents in Timo Werner and Yusuf Poulsen.
Leipzig face a tough quarter-final tie against ultra-organised Atletico – a challenge rarely faced in their domestic duties – although the Saxony side don’t deserve to be completely dismissed. After all, the RB outfit matched Bayern Munich home and away this season.
Quarter-Final: Manchester City (Saturday)
Lyon have been saving their best performances for Champions League nights this season. The competition outsiders have reached the last-eight for the first time since 2010 after ousting Juventus last time out with Rudi Garcia‘s young squad impressing over two legs.
Les Gones notably restricted Juventus to a solitary effort on-target during the Last 16 first leg fixture, and looked a constant menace on the counter-attack. January arrival Bruno Guimaraes and starlet Houssem Aouar have thrilled French followers, whilst Maxence Caqueret‘s emergence has given Lyon extra impetus in their preferred 3-4-1-2.
Understandably unfancied to feature any further in the competition with Manchester City in opposition on Saturday night, the overachievers are likely to be outgunned by the Premier League’s flat-track bullies. But don’t expect a walkover win for the Blue Moon, Lyon are well-adept of keeping the contest competitive.
Recommended Bet: Back Lyon +2 Asian Handicap against Manchester City at [1.60]