Champions League Final Preview

The match everyone waits for all season long is finally here as Liverpool are back for revenge after losing to Real Madrid last season and will face Tottenham who are here for the first time in their history. I’m going to go over what each team has going for them as well as what they don’t have going for them and of course a bet for the match. Let’s rock and roll.

This Season: 212-169-48 (+15.8 Units)
FA Cup Final: 1-1 (-0.1 Units)
+15.8 units = $100 bettor has won $1,580 this season)

As I said earlier, Liverpool will look to avenge their loss from last season where Real Madrid beat them 3-1 in Kiev. Luckily for them they won’t be playing the 13-time winners and are instead playing Final debutants, Tottenham. Yeah Spurs aren’t Madrid from the last few seasons but they’re still someone Liverpool should be genuinely worries about. Spurs are a team who they play at least twice a year and they haven’t necessarily comfortably beaten them as of late. Over the last 9 meetings between the two, Liverpool have only won four and only one was by more than 1 goal. Each of the meetings this past season were tight as Liverpool won both 2-1, but needed a late own goal to beat Spurs at Anfield in March. So what does Liverpool have going for them on Saturday?

Obviously Liverpool are known for their front three (Mane, Firmino and Salah), who have been outstanding this season, but it isn’t that far and away better than Spurs’ front three (Lucas, Kane and Son). Instead I’m going to focus on the impact that their outside backs have had this season. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson combined for 30 assists this season with TAA earning 12 in the Premier League and Robertson 11, good enough for third and fourth in the league respectively. If Spurs press too much, which they likely will, and don’t have the proper protection on the wings to prevent those outside backs from moving forward, they will be in serious trouble. Liverpool love to move the ball through the midfield then push the ball wide so the outside backs can whip balls into the box or attack the endline with pace.

Another thing that Liverpool have going for them is their defense, specifically with Virgil Van Dijk, which ranked first in the Premier League in goals conceded. Van Dijk will be key in stopping that Spurs front three which will likely be returning Harry Kane for the first time in almost two months. Since Spurs will likely play Son and Lucas on the wings to prevent the outside backs from having space, it should make VVD’s job a bit easier in marking Kane. If Spurs spread themselves too wide and don’t offer the proper help for Kane, it could leave him stranded which would be a dream scenario for VVD and Liverpool. But expect VVD to be shadowing Kane or whoever starts up top on Saturday.

So what are some negatives for Liverpool? Well they will likely be without Firmino, or at least a not 100% Firmino, and Keita has been officially ruled out. That is not good news especially if Firmino can’t start as there isn’t a like for like replacement for the Brazilian. They’ll also be facing a Spurs team who will be returning one of the better strikers in the world in Harry Kane, someone who they got to this stage without. Adding that threat might make this team even stronger and gives that already potent offense more weapons. In games with Harry Kane this season Spurs were 24-3-12 (W-D-L) while without him they went 9-2-7 with an average of 0.7 goals per game. That doesn’t mean he will come back and score goals, but it does mean that he has the ability to provide a spark to the offense or at least make the defense focus more attention on himself and less on Son and Lucas.

For Spurs, things are much more simple than people believe. If they can play their game; press and cause turnovers, then they should cause Liverpool issues. When Spurs press effectively it allows their front three who are doing the pressing to gain possession in key areas with enough space to create quick chances. If they can do that effectively and provide Kane, Son or Lucas with chances inside the 18, they can surely nab a goal.

Another thing that Spurs really have going for them is they seem like the team of destiny in this tournament (trust me that matters). They had to get through Man City in the Quarterfinal in dramatic fashion and then they had to score three second half goals including a 96th minute winner to beat Ajax in Amsterdam in the Semifinal. They won’t have as much pressure as Liverpool since this is their first ever Final and they owe almost nothing to their fans in that respect. Liverpool meanwhile are looking to avoid back to back defeats in Champions League Finals. Adding to that, Spurs have been great in matches away from home in this competition when their backs are against the wall. Bottom line; they’ve gone through the gauntlet and won’t be scared of this Liverpool team.

What are some of the negatives for Spurs? They have also been hit by the injury bug as Sanchez, Rose and Winks are all doubtful. Even Kane might not start because he may not be able to go a full 90 minutes let alone 120 if it goes to extra time. We don’t know what their starting XI will be on Saturday and that should worry Spurs fans. The only thing that we know for sure about Spurs is the midfield trio of Eriksen, Alli and Sissoko. Good luck to Pochettino in picking that starting XI.

How do I think the game will go? Well usually in Finals it takes about 15 minutes for both teams to settle and get the wheels moving because nobody wants to make an early mistake. I don’t think that will happen in this match. Both teams know each other very well, they both press and play a fast-paced style and they both have a few potent goal-scorers. I love the over 2.5 in this match both due to the points I just made (expected back and forth style, goal-scorers and familiarity) and because of the history. Both matches between these two teams went 2-1 this season, 5 of the last 6 matches they’ve played have had at least 3 goals and 6 of the last 8 Champions League Finals have had at least three goals. Outside of the total, I can’t get a read on this match with Liverpool as favorites. I think that’s a fair line for both teams and there isn’t much to exploit from it. Take the over and enjoy what should be a crazy match. Over 2.5 goals (-110) 3 UNITS.

I’d like to thank everyone for following along this year. A year and a half ago I started this for fun and it’s turned into something that became fun for everyone else as well. I recorded a podcast last night for the first time with Gos (@oh_my_gos on twitter) to recap the Europa League Final, this past Premier League season and to preview Saturday’s Champions League Final. We honestly just pressed record and talked for an hour so take it with a grain of salt, but I think it’ not half bad. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

Thanks again for another amazing season! I will be providing a few updates shortly after the Final that I’m sure will intrige you all (*eye emojis*).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 37 Preview

Before we get into this weekends preview let’s go over Barcelona v Liverpool in the first leg of their Semifinal.

On paper you’d think Liverpool were able to get a result as they had more of the ball, more shots, and even more passes completed. But the scoreline says a completely different story as Barcelona ended up throttling Liverpool 3-0. They failed to achieve two of my three key points; stopping Messi and keeping a clean sheet/scoring an away goal. They did well to contain Messi for a lot of the match but there were times that the entire Liverpool defense went into panic mode whenever he had space, which allowed the lanes for Suarez and Coutinho to open up. On his first goal he was unmarked in the box and put away one of the easier chances of his career. That’s what happens when you take your eye off of him for 5 seconds in the box.

It also didn’t help that Messi scored one of the greatest free kicks we’ve ever seen. It was so good that the Liverpool players couldn’t even complain and it even made Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp smile on the touchline. 30 yards out, at 61 miles per hour and perfectly in the top corner. I really recommend watching the goal HERE. Liverpool now have a massive mountain to climb especially since they don’t have an away goal in their back pocket.

This Season’s Record: 201-159-46 (+14.9 Units)
Barcelona v. Liverpool: 1-0 (+1.0 Units)

Saturday, May 4th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Bournemouth – This is an interesting one because how Spurs line up will say a lot about their commitment to their top 4 finish and their Champions League Semifinal on Wednesday. Son was rested on Tuesday against Ajax because of his suspension but they’ll be without Vertonghen, Kane and several other rotation players I’m sayursay both because of rest and injuries. They have enough of a cushion in the league where if they drop points, a top four finish is still likely. I think they’ll end up resting a few players because of their upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Their form worries me as they’ve only had one win in their last five matches and away from home they’ve gone 1-8 in their last 9. Bournemouth haven’t been fantastic either but they’re coming off of a 3-3 draw at Southampton where they showed that they can grind out a result especially by scoring goals. This is a great opportunity for Bournemouth to steal some points and I’m going to take them as home underdogs. Bournemouth (+0.5, -110).

10:00 am EST

Fulham @ Wolves – Fulham have been in fantastic form ever since they got relegated, winning three straight. But those matches weren’t far-fetched wins for the club and they’ll now have to face their first real test in Wolves. They’ve gone 0-4 in their last four matches against top-8 opponents with a -9 goal differential which makes for an average loss margin of 2.25. Wolves meanwhile have gone their last three matches unbeaten, with a win away at Watford and a win at home to Arsenal. They’re playing well enough to halt Fulham’s form in it’s tracks and they’re still fighting for that 7th place spot. A win here and a Leicester loss at City could guarantee that spot. I’ll take them on the spread at home. Wolves (-1. -110).

German Bundesliga
9:30 am EST

Nurnberg @ Wolfsburg – Nurnberg’s draw against Bayern last weekend was nothing short of spectacular, but it’s a one-off performance In my opinion. Adding to that, Schalke’s win at Dortmund puts Nurnberg’s hopes of survival at almost 0 as they now have an 11 point gap with 5 matches left. They’ll face a Wolfsburg team who have performed up to their standard over the last few matches, covering or pushing in most of them. They’re also still within an earshot of qualifying for European competition next season as they sit only 2 points behind the last Europa League spot and 4 points behind the last Champions League spot. Three points would be crucial in maintaining that quest for Europe and I trust them to get those points at home here. Wolfsburg (-1, -105).

Sunday, May 5th
English Premier League
9:00 am EST

Watford @ Chelsea – Chelsea will be coming off of their 1-1 draw at Frankfurt in the Europa League Semifinals while Watford will have a full week’s rest. I always like fading teams late in the season when they’re coming off of major travel, especially against clubs with a full week’s rest. Also, Chelsea’s recent results have been somewhat uninspiring as their only win in their last five matches was at home to Slavia Prague in the Quarterfinals of the Europa League. Yes Watford are coming off of a home loss last weekend, but they’ve been pretty good against top-6 clubs away from home this season. They’ve only failed to cover once against those teams in their last four tries and rank 8th in the league in away goal differential. I think they can cause Chelsea some serious trouble, especially if Sarri decides to rest some starters before the second leg against Frankfurt. I’ll take them on a spread that I think is 0.5 points too many. Watford (+1.5, -125).

Spanish La Liga
6:00 am EST

Girona @ Getafe – This is one of the more intriguing matches of the weekend as Getafe are still clinging on the the last Champions League spot and Girona are still at risk of relegation. Due to those factors, Getafe only sit as -0.5 favorites, but I think Vegas is severely underestimating how good this squad is. In their last few matches, Getafe have drawn Real Madrid, beaten Sevilla handily and had a home win against Bilbao. That’s three major results against three top-7 clubs while Girona are 1-6 in their last 7 matches. Yes, Girona’s sole win came against Sevilla last weekend (which ironically helped Getafe tremendously in the race for 4th), but overall Girona aren’t a team that Getafe should be too scared of. I love Getafe at home here to continue their quest for their first Champions League birth in 8 years and only their second ever. Getafe (-0.5, -125).

German Bundesliga
7:30 am EST

Augsburg @ Schalke – Schalke are coming off of their biggest win of the season as they dismantled rivals Dortmund and possibly ruined their chances at a Bundesliga title. Shockingly though, they still sit in the last safe spot in the league, but with a six point cushion. Meanwhile Augsburg sit only one point above them. If either of these teams can get three points, it’ll likely guarantee survival for that club. Although Augsburg have had a few good results as of late, they haven’t won in any of their last ten away matches, with their last win coming back in October. I trust Schalke, who are surely buzzing after their win last weekend, to take care of business at home and guarantee survival. Schalke (-0.5, -125).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Atalanta @ Lazio – This is probably the best match in Italy this weekend, outside of maybe the Turin derby between Torino and Juve. Atalanta come into this match in great form as they have won three straight matches and have gone unbeaten in their last eleven matches. Lazio meanwhile have had a few good wins including against Milan an Inter, but they’ve also dropped points to Chievo Verona, Sassuolo and SPAL. They’re also 2-3-1 in their last six and sit four points behind the final Champions League spot held by Atalanta. Atalanta will also have to play Juve in a few weeks and would feel much more comfortable going into that match with a three point cushion in their 4th place spot. I feel much more comfortable picking an Atalanta team who have had steady and consistent results against a Lazio team who are somewhat out of sorts right now. I’m even going to go as far as taking their moneyline at 2/1. Atalanta (+200).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Who Will Win the Bundesliga? The Case for Borussia Dortmund

The last time a team won the Bundesliga that wasn’t named Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund was in 2008-2009 when Wolfsburg triumphed atop the German table. This year will be no different as the two clubs are tied atop the Bundesliga table, eleven points ahead of third place Leipzig. Luckily for Bayern they have a seven point lead on the goal differential tally, the tie-breaker if both clubs are tied on points, but a lot can change over the next two months especially when these two clubs face each other on April 6th.

I’m going to go into who has the better shot at winning the league title with their respective paths to the finish. In this piece I will go over Dortmund, following with a piece for Bayern’s chances.

The Case for Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund were on top of the table for most of the season until their bad run of form in February and early March, where they went five matches with only one win in the league and eight matches with one win in all competitions. They crashed out of the Champions League, DFB Pokal and lost their grip atop the Bundesliga table, allowing Bayern to take the top spot. Bayern’s outstanding form has also attributed to this as they have had only one league loss since away at Dortmund back in November. But Dortmund began to turn things around a bit with back to back wins before the international break and should come out of the break feeling good. Another thing that will help their title chase is that they will be playing less matches than their rivals Bayern, as the Bavarians will be playing in the DFB Pokal, the German domestic cup. They are expected to go far in the league cup, possibly chopping up their focus on the Bundesliga title.

Let’s see what Dortmund’s road ahead looks like and if they can gain enough points to top Bayern.

HOME v. Wolfsburg – Dortmund haven’t lost to Wolfsburg at home in the league since 2012 but they haven’t been beating them comfortably recently either. Their last two matches were 0-0 at home last January and a 1-0 win for Dortmund at Wolfsburg this past November. Wolfsburg are also on the cusp of a Europa League spot as they sit four points off of a guaranteed place in European competition and are tied with Leverkusen for the Europa League playoff spot. This has the makings of a trap game for Dortmund, and could well be a draw. But for the sake of this hypothetical let’s say they take the three points at home where they have yet to lose this season.(3 pts).

AWAY v. Bayern Munich – Ahhh the big one. If someone can grab the three points here they will surely be the favorites to win the league. The bad news for Dortmund is that they haven’t taken points away at Bayern in the league in five years and Bayern have won seven straight home games this year scoring 24 goals and conceding only 2. It will be a very tough task for Dortmund to come in and they may even try to settle for the draw. I think that will doom them and I expect Bayern to take this one. (0 pts).

HOME v. Mainz – They shouldn’t have trouble with a Mainz side who have been poor this season especially away from home where they have collected only 11 points from 13 matches. (3 pts).

AWAY v. Freiburg – Freiburg haven’t been bad at home this season, ranking mid-table in that juncture but they just aren’t strong enough to beat this Dortmund team. They haven’t beaten Dortmund since May of 2010 and I see that trend continuing. (3 pts).

HOME v. Schalke – What’s really tricky about this match for Dortmund is that Schalke could be facing a relegation battle at this stage in the season and are historically always up for this derby. They’ve split the last two and the previous four encounters resulted in draws. If Schalke are fighting for their lives I think another draw is likely here in what is always a very tightly contested match. (1 pt).

AWAY v. Werder Bremen – Another trap game here for Dortmund as they face a Werder team who has troubled them not only in this season but in recent years as well. Their DFB Pokal match earlier in the year went to penalties with Werder prevailing, their league match in December was very tight going 2-1 to Dortmund and the last time these two met at Werder they drew 1-1. I think Dortmund slip up again here and drop points in a very tough away match. (1 pt).

HOME v. Fortuna Dusseldorf – As of 3/25 Dusseldorf sit in 12th place and although they’ve been good against top opposition this year, I don’t see them waltzing into Signal Iduna Park in May and getting points. This will be Dortmund’s easiest chance at three points and I expect them to take full advantage.. (3 pts).

AWAY v. Mochengladbach – If the league is still up for grabs on the last day of the season here, expect an all-timer between these two clubs. Gladbach have been brilliant this season sitting in 4th place and have been more than capable at home. They could be likely fighting for a Champions League spot and I have a hard time envisioning Dortmund coming out of this one with all three points. If both teams are fighting for something, I see this one being a draw. (1 pt).

With that point tally Dortmund would finish with 75 points, which would very rarely win you the Bundesliga. But with this seasons lower-than-normal point total you never know and if they can pick up form during this stretch then anything can happen. Their odds to win the Bundesliga currently sit at (+225) which has value, but their path does looks grim as they’d need to win two derbies and a tough match on the last day of the year to win the league. They’d also likely have to finish above Bayern instead of tying them as they are behind on goal differential, another obstacle for the yellow and black.

As I said before, their price to win the league does have value based on the positive odds, but the reality of their race to the top is that they’d likely need a miracle run to win it. I wouldn’t buy into Dortmund right now but I also wouldn’t completely rule out their chances to make things interesting, especially if they can grab points against Bayern. But with that being unlikely and due to them being behind on goal differential, I don’t see Dortmund coming out of this season crowned champions.

Keep an eye out for Bayern Munich’s case for the Bundesliga coming soon.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Facebook: Can I Kick It

Can Manchester City Win the Quadruple?

Only eight European teams have ever won the coveted Treble (Domestic League, Domestic Cup and Champions League) in European soccer, with only one club doing it twice; Barcelona in ’08-09 and ’14-15. Most leagues across Europe only have three competitions but England, being the usual outlier they are, have two domestic cup competitions allowing their clubs to achieve an unprecedented Quadruple. Only one English team has ever won a Treble, Manchester United in ’98-99 coached by Sir Alex Furgeson. But now Manchester City, coached by Barca’s ’08-09 Treble-winning manager Pep Guardiola, are presented with the opportunity to win that elusive Quadruple and at the least England’s second ever Treble or first ever domestic Treble.

What makes a Treble or Quadruple so hard?

It’s hard enough winning a domestic league title, especially in leagues like England and Spain where multiple teams always vie for that league title. But it’s even harder to balance a league schedule, a cup (or two) schedule and, if you’re lucky enough to be in European competition, a Champions League schedule. For instance if you were to win a Treble you’d play 38 league matches (36 in the Bundesliga), around 6 domestic cup matches (6 more for English clubs) and 10 Champions League matches. For English clubs that is 60 total matches, the rest of Europe usually around 52-54 matches, with many weeks of the year containing around 2 matches. A lot of those matches will sometimes be against clubs who aren’t playing that many fixtures, some playing almost half, giving them the advantage of rest.

Combine the congested fixtures especially late in the season, inevitable injuries, the need for depth, proper game-to-game management from managers and the always surprising nature of the sport where any team can win any match at any time and you have one of the hardest feats in all of sports.

So how do we analyze a situation like Manchester City, who have the opportunity to not only win a Treble, but an elusive Quadruple? Let’s dive into the possibility by going into their chances at each competition.

EFL Carabao CupChampions.

This one is easy, as Manchester City secured the Carabao Cup on February 24th in a penalty shootout. But this was a warning sign that even getting to the final doesn’t mean you can count your chickens before they hatch. It took Man City penalties to get their first title of the season and it’s certainly the easiest/least important competition of the four.

FA Cup – Quarterfinal

Man City got the luck of the draw in the FA Cup, the oldest soccer competition in the world, by drawing Swansea City of the second division and missing the other five Premier League teams still remaining. They should advance into the Semifinals but this tournament has a way with magic. Every year, a few big fish lose to a minnow and Man City are not immune to that trend. In the modern era they have only won the cup once and have lost to a third division team and a second division team twice in the last six years (both ironically to Wigan). They should be okay playing Swansea on March 16th but they play a Champions League match just a few days prior, reinforcing the need for depth and game-to-game management. And with City’s recent big injuries, they may want to tread with caution.

The remaining opponents will either be Wolves/Manchester United, Crystal Palace/Watford and Millwall/Brighton and without knowing the draw for the next round it’s hard to assess their chances. But those remaining teams with the exception of Manchester United, who have the toughest draw of the group, are teams who City should beat. I think the FA Cup is their next best chance at a title and Vegas seems to agree, putting them at (-150) to win the title with United behind them at (+300).

I’d take them at (-150), with their implied probability being 60% to win the FA Cup.

English Premier League – 1st Place

What a wild season it’s been in the Premier League this year. In arguably one of the best title races in a decade, Liverpool’s 10 point lead in December has flipped to a one point lead for Man City. It’s the title Pep Guardiola is most focused on (or so he says) and it’s the one City fans want more than anything else, much due to the fact that they can quiet the noisy Liverpool fans after a tumultuous season.

But what are City’s chances at retaining their Premier League crown? Well Vegas has them as clear favorites at (-300, 75% implied probability) which is surprising since City is in one more competition than Liverpool. Liverpool do have a bit of a tougher schedule and play Wolves in the final match of the season compared to City who play Brighton and their only really tough league game looks like the Manchester Derby against United (still a tough task though). I think Manchester City will win the league but their odds are a little excessive for my taste and it hinges a lot on things that they can’t control (Liverpool’s remaining fixtures and City’s own injury problems). I think this is their second best chance remaining at a title this season, but I also think Vegas is overvaluing them with only a one point lead on Liverpool.

I wouldn’t take the odds at (-300), but I do think they’ll retain the Premier League title.

UEFA Champions League – Quarterfinals

After absolutely throttling FC Schalke in the Round of 16, City have now drawn Tottenham in the Quarterfinals of the Champions League. There are two ways you could look at their draw against Spurs; one being good since they could’ve drawn teams like Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool or United and one being bad since they already play Spurs twice a year and will play them three times in the same month in April. It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row, and City will surely need to win the one in the league and at least one in the Champions League convincingly if they still want a chance at the Quadruple.

In regards to the actual odds, City’s odds went unchanged since before the second leg and were the only team to do so, meaning Vegas’ confidence in them has not changed and they remain favorites at (+250), an implied probability of 27%, with Barcelona lurking behind them at (+330).

So, can City do it? Well if they do indeed beat Spurs in the Quarterfinal they would face the winner of Ajax and Juvenuts. That might be a really tall order for the Cityzens, especially if they are in a tight title race with Juve already having their Serie A title wrapped up (if Juve can get past Ajax). I think they can do it, making all four of their legs for the Quadruple possible, but I wouldn’t take them at the deflated odds of (+250) to win the Champions league.

I wouldn’t take the odds at (+250), but I do think they have a good chance at winning the Champions League due to their quality, depth and possible path compared to the other side of the bracket. With that being said many things can happen on the way and likely facing Juve in a semifinal and Liverpool/Barca in a final will be a very tough task for them. I don’t expect them to win it, but I would definitely leave the door open to the possibility.

Manchester City can surely win a Treble and possibly even a Quadruple, but in the end they will likely have to focus on winning the Premier League first and go from there. I think they’ll win the FA Cup and the Premier League but fall short in the Champions League to Juventus in the Semifinal as things stand now. City is the only team remaining in the Champions League that will have to fight for three more trophies, making their Quadruple unlikely. But…

I would take City winning the Quadruple at (+600) but only for value’s sake. I believe their chances to win the domestic treble (League Cup, FA Cup and Premier League) are much higher and I would also take them at (+140) to do so. Regardless it should be fascinating to see how this pans out, and if City can become the most successful single-season European team of all time.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Champions League R16 Leg 2 3/12-3/13

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.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Facebook: Can I Kick It

Matchweek 30 Preview and Champions League Recap

In one of the most wild Champions League matchweeks ever, Ajax, Porto, Manchester United and Tottenham all advanced to the quarterfinals. Here’s how it went down.

Ajax (5) @ Real Madrid (3) – Ajax went into the defending champions’ den and put on an absolute masterclass by winning 4-1, capping off the worst week in Real Madrid history after they just lost to Barcelona twice. Ajax looked brilliant going forward, had a lot more purpose than Los Blancos, completely dominated the midfield and finished all of their chances including a few spectacular goals. Ajax’s young core led by 19 year old captain Matthijs de Ligt, 21 year old Frenkie De Jong and former Southampton striker Dusan Tadic made Madrid look like a youth team and sent shockwaves and warning signs across Europe. They were +750 to advance going into the match.

Tottenham (4) @ Borussia Dortmund (0) – Dortmund had a mountain to climb even before the match being down 3-0 from the first leg. Matters were made worse when Harry Kane got Spurs a fourth on aggregate and an away goal, forcing Dortmund to have to score 5 to get through. Spoiler alert: they didn’t even score one. Spurs get through to the Quarterfinal.

Roma (3) @ Porto (4) – Even though it had to go into extra time, Porto prevailed 4-3 on aggregate and 3-1 in the second leg coming back after being down 2-1 from the first leg. An Alex Telles penalty sealed the deal for the Portuguese as they knock out a Roma side who ended up firing their manager just 24 hours afterwards.

Manchester United (3) @ PSG (3) – Manchester United became the first club in Champions League history to advance on aggregate after losing the first leg at home by at least two goals. They advanced on away goals as their tally of three away goals trumped PSG’s two from the first leg. This marks PSG’s second embarrassingly bad blown lead in the last three seasons and they’re now left wondering what has gone wrong. Several defensive and goalkeeping mistakes allowed United to capitalize on two of their goals and a handball in the box gave them their third. PSG may have let things slip but it was United’s resolve lacking nine of their first team players that shined on Wednesday. A bunch of kids led by a caretaker manager went into PSG’s house and got a fantastic result, moving them on to the Quarterfinals.

Let’s get into this weekend’s preview…

This Season’s Record: 155-137-37 (-2.8 Units)
Matchweek 29 Record: 1-3 (-2.3 Units)

Saturday, March 9th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Brighton @ Crystal Palace (NBCSN) – Palace at home against a struggling Brighton side, especially away from home, seems like a good bet here. Their only loss in their last eight was against a surging United team and Brighton are starting to struggle recently with only one win in the league since December 29th. I’ll take Palace at home. Crystal Palace (-0.5, -115).

10:00 am EST

West Ham @ Cardiff – West Ham are too well-priced here against one of the worsts team in the league. The Hammers have played very well recently with a draw against Liverpool, 1-0 loss at City and wins in the two matches that they should get three points from (Newcastle and Fulham). Cardiff meanwhile have lost three straight and lost their captain and center back Sol Bamba last weekend to a torn ACL. They’ll be more vulnerable than they already have been at the back and there’s a chance this can totally get away from them. West Ham (-0.5, +115).

Bournemouth @ Huddersfield – I couldn’t fade a team who has (+130) odds to beat the worst team in the league. A lot of things are trending away from Bournemouth right now but six of their last seven away losses were to Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, United, Spurs and Chelsea. I think going to Huddersfield is the perfect chance to break their form and get an away win especially against a Huddersfield team who have nothing to play for. I’ll take them here especially at (+130). Bournemouth (-0.5, +130).

Fulham @ Leicester City – Brendan Rodgers’ home debut will be against Fulham’s new manager Scott Parker’s whose squad is the worst away team in the league this season. Fulham have also lost their last five matches with only one of them being unwinnable, showing that they’re not getting the results even in matches they could get points from. I like Leicester to take all three points at home here in what hopes to be the start of a new era for the club. Leicester City (-1, -105).

Everton @ Newcastle (CNBC) – Newcastle are not only turning it around but they’re turning it around at home and at the right time, a recipe for success for staying up in the Premier League. They’ve won their last four league matches at home while Everton haven’t beaten a team above 16th away from home since October. I always love me a home pickem and it’s no different here. Newcastle (Pick, -110).

Tottenham @ Southampton (NBCSN) – Spurs are the best away team this year and are surely feeling great after advancing to the Quarterfinals of the Champions League. Yes their last two away league matches were losses, possibly bucking their away form, but they’ve since had a big draw in the North London Derby and had a huge away win at Dortmund in the Champions League. Things seem to be turning around for Spurs and I want to nail them while they’re hot. Tottenham (-0.5, -115).

12:30 pm EST

Watford @ Manchester City – Yes, for the first time maybe ever I’m fading City for a third straight week. They’re injured, have a huge Champions League match on Tuesday, will have one less day of rest than their Champions League opponents and only twice in their last nine matches have they won by more than two goals (only once in the league). For Watford, since the start of December they have only lost by more than one goal once against a top 5 side and against all teams in the league they’ve only lost by more than two once. They’re a team that can make life hard on good teams and I think with their fresh legs,they’ll sit back and take their chances on the counter, something that worked for West Ham and Bournemouth in the last few weeks against City. I’ll take the points. Watford (+2.5, -120).

Sunday, March 10th
English Premier League
8:00 am EST

Burnley @ Liverpool (NBCSN) – I’m taking another underdog, fading the other title contender here. I honestly think this will push but my rationale in picking Burnley is that Liverpool are a bit out of form, haven’t beaten Burnley by more than two goals in the last seven encounters and they have a big Champions League match on Wednesday that will be on their mind and they’ll need to prepare for. They play a Burnley team who in the league, have beaten Spurs and drew United in the last month or so. They are always up for playing the big clubs so I’ll take the points again here. Burnley (+2, +105).

10:05 am EST

Wolves @ Chelsea – Wolves against a top 6 side is always a good bet but I love this one specifically here. Chelsea’s depth problem/Sarri’s lack of change in the squad will come back to bite him after they had a match on Thursday in the Europa league and will likely be tired. They’ll need to make changes and if they do, their depth isn’t that strong and if they don’t then they’ll be tired. Wolves will be rested and have eleven points from nine matches against the top six the season, the best outside of that group this campaign. They also beat Chelsea 2-1 earlier in the season. Wolves (+1, -110).

12:30 am EST

Manchester United @ Arsenal (NBC) – Yes United’s win on Wednesday was one of the most miraculous comebacks in European history, but we have to remember that most of their first team is still injured and they will have to play another group of young players at the Emirates. Yes Arsenal will have one less day of rest and they suffered a bad loss in the Europa League on Thursday but they’re much healthier and have been brilliant at home this season. I think this could very well be a draw but I’m going to lean on the Gunners here a bit more than I would on United. Arsenal (Pick, -130).

Enjoy your weekend of matches! Please tell your friends and subscribe/follow me!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Facebook: Can I Kick It

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