With Arsenal’s six-point swing over United, Chelsea’s dropped points against Wolves and Spurs’ blown lead to Southampton we now officially have two races at the top of the table. City and Liverpool still remain a point apart at the top of the table but it’s now third through sixth that will be fought for over the next two months as well. Here’s how the top 6 shapes out:
This Season’s Record: 161-140-38 (+0.2 Units)
Matchweek 30 Record: 6-3-1 (+3.0 Units)
The footy rolls on as we close out the Round of 16 in the Champions League this week with only one of the matchups really being out of reach and the rest still up in the air. Let’s get to it.
Tuesday, March 12th
4:00 pm EST
Atletico Madrid (2) @ Juventus (0) (TNT) – Atletico got two crucial goals in the first leg and will be in damage control mode in the second leg here as they know if they bag a goal they should be good to go through. Sitting back actually suits Madrid since they’re known as defensive stalwarts, but they’ll be facing a fresh and rested Juve side who have been unbeatable at home this season. In their 4-1 win on Friday they rested Ronaldo, Chiellini, Dyabala and Mandzukic in preparation for this match compared to Atletico who played on Saturday and started a few more starters in their 1-0 win over Leganes. Juve know they need to score goals which is what they’ve done all year at home and with Ronaldo’s Champions League track record, I love Juve to win this game at the least. We’ll see if they advance but I like them as slight favorites in this match. Juventus (-0.5, -130).
FC Schalke (2) @ Manchester City (3) – There are a couple huge warning signs for Schalke going into this match. The first being they will likely need to score three goals to overcome the aggregate score and the away goal difference (assuming City get a goal in this game). The second one being the rumors that they might not put out a lot of their first team due to injuries and due to their fight to stay in the Bundesliga as they’re only four points from safety. And third, they are 1-2-6 in their last nine matches with each of their last three matches being multiple-goal losses. Yes, City haven’t been their normal self recently, will be without Fernandinho, De Bruyne and Otamendi and have been shaky in the Champions League this season but this is their chance to right the ship in an advantageous position against a vulnerable opponent. They showed signs on Saturday that they are slowly finding their goal-scoring abilities and this will be their first back to back home match since early January. I think City will run through Schalke here and get a few early goals to put the nail in the coffin. Manchester City (-2.5, -105).
Wednesday, March 13th
4:00 pm EST
Lyon (0) @ FC Barcelona (0) – Lyon did a wonderful job keeping Barcelona at bay in the first leg but they now have to go to the Camp Nou and win, or at least keep a clean sheet long enough to put into penalties. I don’t think that will happen. But what I do think will happen is them keeping Barcelona at bay again, enough to cover or at least push the two-goal spread. Lyon have gone undefeated in the Champions League this season, beating City once, drawing City another time and now drawing Barcelona in the first leg. This is a team that has lost by more than two goals once this season, away at PSG a long time ago, and one that figured out how to limit Barca’s effectiveness in front of goal in the first leg. They allowed Barca to go at them, but stayed stout in and around the box keeping everyone behind the ball rather than getting beaten when Barca advanced the ball forward. Although this tactic often can’t last for a whole match, it can last for just long enough to cover a two-goal spread. Lyon also rested many of their starters and key players in preparation for this match over the weekend while Barca still had to start most of their main core. Barcelona will advance don’t get me wrong, but this is a Lyon team that will make that very hard on them and subsequently I’ll take the points. Lyon (+2. -120).
Liverpool (0) @ Bayern Munich (0) (TNT) – This is probably the best match overall of the week when considering the matchup and the aggregate score. Two European titans battle it out in the second leg with everything to play for after going 0-0 in the first? Sign me up. Much of this match is up in the air on paper as it could go either way. Liverpool’s defensive ability and Bayern’s offensive prowess match up so well it’s almost impossible to pick who will come out on top. But there are two things that stick out in this match that I think give Bayern an edge. First thing that jumps off the page is that Bayern will have an extra day of rest since the Premier League didn’t let Liverpool change their Sunday match against Burnley where they won 4-2. The next thing is form. Bayern has one loss since November 10th, are 6-1-0 in their last seven and during that span they have a goal differential of +12 (19 goals scored and 7 goals conceded). Liverpool meanwhile are 3-5-0 in their last eight with draws against Bayern, United and Everton. It’s not that they’re playing poorly but more that they’re not playing to the standard they will need to go to Munich and beat a red hot Bayern side. I like Bayern to win the match in the 90 minutes and advance to the Quarterfinals. Bayern Munich (-0.5, +110).
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.