Wednesday, 4/17 Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

Tuesday Recap:

  • Ajax did it. They went to Juventus and didn’t just win, they absolutely dominated again. They’ve now out-classed Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the semifinal and pose a serious threat to win it all. A squad with the average age of 24 and with half the starting lineup born after their last Semifinal in 1997, might be the scariest team in the world right now.
  • Barcelona did what most people thought they would do in crushing United 3-0 at home. Messi’s first goal was an absolute piece of art and so was Coutinho’s for the third. United looked completely helpless and it’s obvious they’ll need a couple years to get back to where they want to be on the European stage.

This Season’s Record: 187-151-44 (+5.9 Units)
Tuesday Champions League: 2-1 (+1.0 Units)

Wednesday, April 17th
3:00 pm EST

Liverpool @ FC Porto – Liverpool have a comfortable 2-0 lead going into the second leg and an away goal would all but seal their ticket to the Semifinals. But going to Portugal and facing this Porto team isn’t necesarilly an easy task. In fact in the Round of 16 this year, Roma had a 2-1 lead after the first leg and lost in the second leg 3-1 after extra time in Porto. But there’s something about this line that makes it really tough to pick a side. With it only being (0.5), part of me wanted to take Porto as home underdogs but picking against this Liverpool team might be a bad idea right now. And on Liverpool’s side, picking the favorite with an already two-goal lead is arguably just as dangerous. But I did find something with the total that I liked.

Looking at the last two Champions League campaigns, I collected some data about over/unders in the second legs. Last season, 6 of the 8 matches went over 2.5 goals in the 2nd leg of the Round of 16, 3 of the 4 matches went over 2.5 goals in the 2nd leg of the Quarterfinals and both 2nd legs of the Semifinals went over 4 goals with an average total of 5. This season, 7 of the 8 2nd legs in the Round of 16 went over 2.5 with an average of 4 total goals and both Quarterfinals on Tuesday went over 2.5. That’s 13 of the last 16 2nd leg knockout matches going over 2.5, a pretty staggering trend.

Why are 2nd legs so high-scoring? Often one, or both teams, have to ditch normal tactics and either go for the win/goals or they have such a big cushion that letting up goals isn’t the end of the world. Another reason is because sometimes a passive approach is taken in the first leg, to ensure that both teams have a good chance in the second. I think these thought processes fit here. Liverpool have a comfortable lead and one away goal would seal it while Porto will surely try to go for it as they were more passive in the first leg, only trying to get that away goal.

I honestly think Liverpool can add a few goals for themselves with how good their front three is and Porto’s offense is very good at home as well. I also think Porto has a real opportunity to make this a game and if they can get the first goal, they’ll force Liverpool to get that coveted away goal to put the tie away. If the game opens up like that early I expect there to be goals and if it doesn’t and Porto throws everything at Liverpool, I expect Liverpool to counter and score goals with their front three. Bottom line; I think the floodgates could open here. Over 2.5 goals (-105).

Tottenham @ Manchester City (TV: TNT) – This is obviously the match of the day as City will look to reverse their one-goal loss in the first leg and Spurs will look to pull a shocker and sneak into their first ever Champions League Semifinal. Both teams have a lot to prove so let’s dive into it.

Spurs will be without Harry Kane, their top goalscorer for the last five years, and they’ll now have to rely on Son, Eriksen, Llorente, Lucas and Alli for their production. But when Kane was out earlier in the year in January, they won five of their seven matches including their first leg against Dortmund in the Round of 16. But let’s put a little context in those matches before we rush to judgement.

Away from home in that span they went 1-2 with their only away win being at now relegated Fulham. Their two losses were to Chelsea and Palace right after that Fulham match, and then they went on to win four straight home matches against Watford, Newcastle, Leicester and Dortmund. A couple things stand out to me there; one being that they didn’t perform well away from home and another being that they couldn’t beat the only top 6 team they played. But it’s not just that they’re poor away from home without Kane, it’s that they’ve been poor with him too. They’re 1-6 in their last seven away from home and this will be their first away match in four matches since they lost to Liverpool 2-1. That doesn’t bode well going into an Etihad Stadium where City have won their last 12 matches with a goal differential of +46, an average win margin of 3.8.

We all know what Man City can do and it’s no secret that this will be very tough for Spurs. Before their loss to Spurs last week, City went 14 straight unbeaten with the most recent eight being wins. Their best players are currently in excellent form with Sterling and De Bruyne on absolute fire as of late and De Bruyne didn’t even get more than 5 minutes last week in the first leg. If they can survive the press that Spurs will likely put on and are able to build from the back, they will 100% be successful in creating the necessary chances in this game. It was the one thing that was missing last week, the link from the back to the forwards, and I think De Bruyne’s addition will be that final link to the forwards.

City should have all of their starters ready to go for this with the likelihood of Delph if he’s even considered such, unlike Spurs who will be without Kane and likely Winks while subs Dier, Lamela and Aurier should miss the match as well. I think City run away with this one starting with an early goal and not looking back. The line, sitting at (1.5), is perfect for this match as City will likely have to win by 2 goals. This is basically me betting on City to advance in the 90 minutes, a very liekly possibility.Man City (-1.5, -110).

That’s all for today’s matches! Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page and to follow on Twitter and Instagram!!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Tuesday, 4/9 Champions League Quarterfinals Preview

It’s baaacckkk. The Champions League returns with four awesome Quarterfinal matchups; Liverpool v. Porto, Tottenham v. Manchester City, Manchester United v. Barcelona and Juventus v. Ajax. I’m posting individual match previews for each day, that way I can go more in-depth about each match. Expect my Wednesday preview of United/Barca and Juve/Ajax to drop Wednesday morning.

This Season’s Record: 180-153-42 (+4.2 Units)
Matchweek 33 Weekend: 5-3-1 (+0.7 Units)

Tuesday, April 9th
UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals
3:00 pm EST

FC Porto @ Liverpool – This draw is obviously the easiest of the group as Liverpool get what is likely the weakest opposition in Porto. But with that being said, Porto aren’t necessarily a complete pushover. They went 5-1-0 in their group and although it was a pretty easy group, it’s still a very impressive feat. They then went on to beat Roma in the Round of 16 over two legs, winning the second leg 3-1 after extra time. Their defense is quite stingy as they have allowed the least amount of goals in the Portuguese Primeira Liga (17 goals in 28 matches) but they will be without veteran defender and three-time Champions League winner Pepe for the first leg due to yellow card accumulation. They will also be without Hector Herrera as the Mexican, who has played in every match for Porto this year, is also be suspended for yellow card accumulation. Their offense can be potent, but they haven’t faced this good of a defense all year long. Making matters worse, they haven’t won on English soil in 18 matches, creating quite the uphill battle for the Portuguese side.

Meanwhile Liverpool, who are favored by 1.5 goals in this, are coming into this match in good form but not great form. The reason why I say that is because although they’re winning their matches, it hasn’t been as easy as one would think. Their last three matches (Fulham, Tottenham and Southampton) have all been tight and have needed either luck or a few late goals to get them the three points. It can be shown as a positive though as they’re still grinding their way to wins, a quality that championship sides must have, but could be a warning sign that they’re not dominating as much as they should be.

Injury/suspension-wise they aren’t as clean either, as they will be without in-form left back Andy Robertson, who has been key for most of their recent wins. Liverpool’s outside backs getting forward is a staple to their attack and Robertson’s 9 assists in the Premier League are as many as Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. They will surely miss him but since they will likely dominate the ball, back-tracking by the wing-backs might be less expected than usual in this match. I expect the Reds to lean on left back Trent Alexander-Arnold to make up for Robertson’s offensive absence, as TAA is also ranked in the top 10 in assists in the Premier League this season.

I think the keys to this match are Liverpool’s ability to finish their chances, the amount of created chances compared to Porto, the possession and Liverpool’s home field advantage. Liverpool’s best trait is that they finish their chances even if they don’t create a ton, which I think they will in this match. Their front three can all score and they can score in many different ways, making their attack multi-dimensional. Porto haven’t played anyone nearly to the quality of Liverpool and are used to being the ones having the majority of the ball, creating the chances and setting the tempo. That won’t happen on Tuesday and I think Liverpool will take full advantage of Porto being out of their comfort zone at Anfield, one of the best atmospheres in all of Europe. Liverpool (-1.5, -110).

Manchester City @ Tottenham (TV: TNT) – These two will be playing each other three times in a span of eleven days, with the first being this Quarterfinal at Spurs’ new stadium. It will be interesting to see if Spurs can feel comfortable in their new stadium against what might be the best team in the world right now, while for City it should be interesting to see if their legs can hold up as they’ll be playing their third match in six days.

For Spurs, they got back to winning ways last Wednesday with a home win against Crystal Palace at their new stadium after they had two straight away losses. It looks like Eric Dier, Eric Lamela and Serge Aurier will be missing the match which definitely hurts their depth with less options coming off of the bench. The key for Spurs will be to get through the first 15-20 minutes as City have been brilliant starting off matches. In fact, City have scored 6 goals in the first 5 minutes this season and 26 in the first 20 minutes. If Spurs can ride that initial wave, they can then push a bit forward and force the issue a little bit to get some momentum before halftime.

Other than starting well, the biggest thing for them will be whether or not they can finish their chances when they get them, especially on the counter attack. If Kane and Son can put away their chances, then they stand a good chance at getting to the second leg unscathed. If not, they’ll allow City too much time on the ball without the threat of being countered, which is right where City feel the most comfortable. Most of City’s conceded goals this season have been on the counter after they’ve pushed too far up the field, leaving them vulnerable. If Spurs can counter effectively then they have a great opportunity to score a few goals.

For City, my biggest concern is whether or not they will be up for it, which is crazy considering it’s a Champions League Quarterfinal. But I mean that because their recent opponents have been relatively easy and they’ll be playing their third game in a week. Since the Carabao Cup Final against Chelsea in February, they’ve played West Ham (1-0), Bournemouth (1-0), Watford (3-1), Schalke (7-0), Swansea (3-2), Fulham (2-0), Cardiff (2-0) and Brighton (1-0). Although they went 8-0 in that span, none of those matches can get you ready for a Champions League Quarterfinal against Spurs, especially with only two of those wins being convincing. Luckily for them, they will likely be returning star striker Sergio Aguero who will certainly be in the squad, but questionable to start. Kyle Walker pulled up with a hamstring injury in this weekend’s FA Cup Semifinal, but has responded to treatment well and should be fit to feature in the 18-man roster. They absolutely have the quality to beat this Spurs team, but only if they’re fit and ready for the challenge will they do what’s expected of them.

I think it’s a poor practice to doubt this City team. Yes they’ve had bumps in the road, specifically at the turn of 2019, but they can smell the quadruple and they’ll surely be up for this trip to London. Adding to that, Spurs’ are 2-2-5 against the Premier League top six and Barcelona in their last nine against those opponents, not a record that gives me confidence against arguably the best team in the world. I think City being slight favorites is an opportunity you can’t pass up since they’ve only dropped points twice over their last 23 matches. I think City win a low-scoring match and bring a 1-0 or 2-0 aggregate lead back to Manchester with away goals.Manchester City (-0.5, -110).

That’s all for Tuesday’s preview! Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page and to follow on Twitter and Instagram!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Matchweek 33 Weekend Preview

We have an amazing weekend ahead of us but let’s look back on what was an interesting week in the Premier League.

This Season’s Record: 175-150-41 (+3.5 Units)
Matchweek 33 Weekday: 4-3 (+0.8 Units)

Quick Premier League Recap:

  • Man City jump back into first as they are now one point above Liverpool with the same matches played.
  • Spurs win in their new ground for the first time and jump back into third place, pushing Arsenal back to fourth.
  • Chelsea won and sit in fifth tied with Arsenal on points, but with a worse differential than the gooners by five goals.
  • Fulham have been relegated.

We go into a weekend which includes a few MASSIVE matches including the Der Klassiker between Bayern and Dortmund, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid, Juventus host Milan and the FA Cup semifinals will be taking place at Wembley. I’ll have a pick for all of them as well as a few wild card matches where I find some value.

I put my Bayern/Dortmund preview separately due to it’s length compared to my other previews which you can find HERE. I highly recommend you take a quick read as it may be the match of the club season.

Let’s kick it…

Saturday, April 6th
German Bundesliga
9:30 am EST

RB Leipzig @ Bayer Leverkusen (TV: FS2) – These two have been in polar opposite form both short term and long term. Leverkusen have lost their last two and are 2-1-3 (W-D-L) in their last six while Lepizig have won their last three and their only losses in 2019 have been to Dortmund and Bayern. I love Leipzig not only because of the intrinsic value a pickem has, but the price of (+110) is too good to pass up when they’re the better team and are in better form. They’ve also been impressive away from home this season. I’ll take Leipzig. RB Leipzig (Pickem, +110).

English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Leicester @ Huddersfield – Leicester are on fire right now and they will be traveling to a Huddersfield squad who are in complete shambles. They’ve lost four straight to Brighton, Bournemouth, West Ham and Palace while Leicester have won four of the last five. Adding to that, Leicester are sixth in the away table in the league and Huddersfield are last in the home table. I’ll never bet on Huddersfield and Leicester are a hot ticket, so good luck convincing me against this one even with the heavy price as favorites. Leicester City (-0.5, -130).

Crystal Palace @ Newcastle United (TV: NBCSN) – Newcastle have turned their poor away form from earlier in the season around but will have to face a Palace team who have been great away from home this season. But not only is history not on Palace’s side here as they have only won once at Newcastle since the early 70’s, but Newcastle have won their last four at home including wins against City and Everton. I also think Palace having to play two away matches back to back will be tough, especially going to rival Spurs opening their new stadium then to Newcastle which is one of the harder places to play at. Yes Palace’s form all season away from home has been great, but Newcastle are in a bit better shape especially as of late. I like Newcastle on the home pickem line. Newcastle United (Pick, -120).

Italian Serie A
12:00 pm EST

AC Milan @ Juventus (Stream: ESPN+) – Juve will be coming into this match with a cloud looming over them after the Moise Kean incident. If you’re unfamiliar; Moise Kean, the teenage stud for Juventus, received racist monkey chants and then scored and celebrated with his arms wide facing the racist fans. Bonucci, Kean’s teammate, said Kean was partially to blame for the abuse he got, sparking worldwide criticism. I’m a firm believer in taking the locker room situation into account when making picks, and I actually think they will have this sorted out before the match against Milan. It’s too big of an issue to not address immediately and as much as Bonucci was in the wrong, I’m sure the players have already addressed it and made sure there are no more issues. But I like Juve for more than that. Juve have been unbelievable at home, Milan have been fifth in the league away from home this season and the last time Milan beat Juve at Juve was in 2012 and the last time they won there in the Serie A was in 2011. I just can’t fade Juve at home here in a statement game even before their Champions League match on Wednesday. Juventus (-0.5, -125).

Spanish La Liga
12:30 pm EST

Valencia @ Rayo Vallecano (TV: beIN Sports) – Rayo have lost again! That’s eight losses in their last nine matches, with the other being a draw, and they are now on their way to be relegated. Sadly, they’re facing a Valencia team who just beat Real Madrid (which I called), who haven’t lost in the league since January 5th and who have been pretty darn good away from home this season. There’s just no way I can fade them here. Valencia (-0.5, -105).

English FA Cup Semifinal
12:30 pm EST

Manchester City @ Brighton (Stream: ESPN+) – City will win this semifinal, but they haven’t been as much of a sure thing in these types of matches as you’d think. With the spread being 2.5 and it being a semifinal against a somewhat stingy Brighton team, I’m staying away from that number. But with a total of 3 goals, I love the over. Not only because this City team could have a day and run ragged all over them, but because only one of the last nine FA Cup semifinals have gone under 3 goals. It will either be a 3+ City win or a 2-1/3-1 match. I’ll take the over. Over 3 goals (-120).

Spanish La Liga
2:45 pm EST

Atletico Madrid @ FC Barcelona (TV: beIN Sports) – Another fantastic match even though it doesn’t matter nearly as much as Der Klassiker. It will also be a completely different match as Bayern/Dortmund as this one is usually a very tight, low-scoring game. In fact only only two of the last eight matchups have gone over two goals. But as good as Atletico have been playing, they’ll have to go up against a Barca team who haven’t lost in all competitions since January 23rd (15 matches) and who haven’t lost in the league since November 11th (19 league matches). They’ve won three straight at home and they are fresh off of an insane comeback at Villareal, where a Messi free kick and a Suarez last-second goal, both in extra time, equalized the scoreline at 4-4. I’ll take a low-scoring Barcelona win here in what will be a very tight and intense match. The under could also act as a hedge in what could be a 1-1 or even a 0-0 draw. FC Barcelona (-0.5, -120) and Under 2.5 goals (-110).

Sunday, April 7th
English FA Cup Semifinal

Wolves v. Watford (Stream: ESPN+) – The other FA Cup semifinal will be a much tighter match as the 7th and 8th team in the Premier League face off for a shot at what will likely be City in the final. Wolves have been fantastic this season especially for a newly promoted club and have the ability to beat anyone in the league top to bottom. Luckily the spread is a pickem which is gold in matches that can go into extra time if tied after 90 minutes. Sometimes teams play to get to extra time and penalties as it may be their best shot. I think the team that could be playing for extra time is Watford and Wolves will be the ones trying to win it. Wolves have been excellent in big matches as they beat United in the quarterfinal and in the league over the weekend, and I expect them to at the least put this one into extra time or win in the 90 minutes. I’ll lean on Wolves with the pickem line. Wolves (Pick, -120).

That’s all for this awesome weekend of footy. I hope you can wake up Saturday and Sunday morning with a cup of coffee (or beer) and some breakfast and enjoy the matches. Remember to read the Bayern/Dortmund preview for what will be a legendary match HERE.

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW THE NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT! @canikickitblog

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

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