The Champions League returns this week. We are down to the final eight in Europe’s premier club competition. Unlike the last 16, the quarter-finals are jammed into one week, leaving us with a couple of fixtures on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That’s good news for fans who enjoy a multi-screen session. We’ll be doing just that, so here are a few thoughts and tips from Wednesday’s ties…
FC BARCELONA vs AS Roma
Barcelona are unbeaten in 30 La Liga matches this season. That stretch was nearly ended by Sevilla on Saturday, but a certain Lionel Messi snatched a 2-2 draw. The Catalan giants are a cosy nine points clear atop Spain’s first division and are one of the frontrunners to lift yet another Champions League trophy.
The visiting Roma side are in limbo comparatively. What once looked like a potential title-winning campaign has left the club protecting their Champions League status in Serie A. A draw with out-of-form Bologna at the weekend was hardly the perfect way to prepare for a trip to the Camp Nou, where Barcelona dispatched Chelsea in the last 16.
Barca are unbeaten on home turf in all competitions this season. The absence of all-action midfielder Radja Nainggolan makes the task even harder for the Italian side, despite their decent form of late. As we saw from Chelsea, this Barcelona defence is fallible. The trouble for Roma is, without Nainggolan, their ability to transition quickly is limited.
This could be all over after this tie. Roma’s defence has been good on the road in Serie A this term, but this is an altogether different prospect.
TIP: Lionel Messi to score and Barcelona to win @ 4/6
CORRECT SCORE: Barcelona 3-1 Roma (17/2 with 888sport)
LIVERPOOL vs MANCHESTER CITY
This is the tie of the round. Two teams from the same nation meeting as early as the last eight is usually a disappointment given how frequently they play each other anyway, but this match is different. Liverpool and Manchester City are the two best teams to watch in Europe right now. They are expected to deliver a thriller under the lights at Anfield.
Liverpool ended City’s hopes of invincibility with their 4-3 in this fixture earlier in the season. The blueprint for that day was the same that is always is from Jurgen Klopp, and there’s no reason for that to change here. Liverpool have lost just once in 23 home matches this season.
Klopp has won more matches against Pep Guardiola than anyone else on the planet. Manchester City will have learnt from their league meeting, however, which could see Guardiola alter his approach slightly. The probable return of Sergio Aguero looms large, too.
City walked all over Everton on Saturday evening a few hours after Liverpool left it late to grab the points against Crystal Palace. Those matches are hardly comparable to this, but the extra effort exerted by Liverpool could be a factor in the last 20 minutes on Wednesday night.
Both teams have good defensive records of late, but I can’t see that continuing here. Neither side is capable of making this cagey, and neither manager will be inclined to do so. Expect goals, maybe quite a few of them.
TIP: Over 3.5 goals @ 37/20
CORRECT SCORE: Liverpool 2-2 Man City (10/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*