Champions League Last 16 Preview - March 2019
Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Spread Betting Preview (5-6 March)
There is an element of formality about the two matchups involving English teams in this batch of second-leg last 16 ties. The first of these is the one universally expected to see a Tottenham team managed by Mauricio Pochettino reach grounds as yet unchartered under his reign, and secure qualification to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Staying Grounded Key For Spurs
The Champions League is realistically now Tottenham's only hope of avoiding another year without some much-needed silverware.
However, their display in the first leg against Borussia Dortmund was exceptional, and in truth, the 3-0 aggregate advantage that Tottenham take to Germany could have been much bigger.
Comfortable first-leg wins are no guarantee of an easy ride in the second, and last year's run-ins involving Barcelona (quarter-finals) and Liverpool (semi-finals) are evidence of just how much hostile ground can change a team's mentality.
In that respect, the `Yellow Wall' of Dortmund is a very real factor to account for, with Borussia Dortmund unbeaten in the Bundesliga at home this season - and beaten only once in the league this campaign prior to the first weekend of March.
That loss was eight Bundesliga games prior to the weekend, and given that Dortmund have scored at least twice in every single league game at Signal Iduna Park this season, this is not a match for Tottenham to take lightly.
Mauricio Pochettino has already experienced a famous victory at Dortmund though, with the 2-1 win in last season's group stage showing exactly how much the Lilywhites have grown under the Argentine mastermind.
That said, knockout ties are a different matter altogether, and while winning is not vital here for Spurs, last season's elimination at the hands of Juventus shows just how much experience can dominate in a situation that demands nerves of steel.
Manchester United Have a Mountain to Climb in Paris
Realistically speaking, the odds of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer winning the Champions League title as a player and manager are now beyond astronomic, especially in light of PSG's rise to (joint) second-favourites in the Champions League Outright Index on the back of their impressive result at Old Trafford.
A 2-0 first-leg home defeat to the French champions has left United's challenge in tatters, but they can never be completely dismissed - least of all when they are on the club¿s longest run of away wins across all competitions this century.
There is also United's group stage revenge win over Juventus to take into account, with the Red Devils beating the Bianconeri at the Allianz Stadium after falling to defeat at Old Trafford. Much can be made of the fact that Juventus were all but through by that point, but even without comprehensive motivation to perform, the Italian champions are worthy adversaries for everyone.
Opening the scoring is obviously vital for United, and their main strength under Solskjær has been the ability to start away matches strongly, and then hold on to win. Indeed, prior to their victory at Selhurst Park on 27 February, eight of United's nine prior away goals had arrived in the first half, with United also going in ahead at the break in eight of their previous ten matches.
Sadly for United, PSG are rightful favourites to win. Accomplished group stage winners and beaten just once in sixteen Champions League home games, PSG have had plenty of shooting practice over in Ligue 1.
The Parisians' last home match saw them extend their 100% home record into a fourteenth league game at the Parc des Princes, with their comprehensive 3-0 win over Nimes marking the 19th time in 25 Ligue 1 games anywhere that PSG had scored at least two goals.
Porto v Roma: The Neutral's Choice?
On Tuesday, another tie seen as something of a formality is the second-leg encounter between Real Madrid and Ajax. Although Ajax were not outclassed by the huge margin expected, they looked nowhere near Real Madrid's level, and two away goals conceded - if only as part of a defeat by a single-goal margin - seems like too much for the Dutch giants to overcome.
While Real Madrid's shocking 3-0 surrender to CSKA Moscow in their last European home game provides Ajax with a tiny strand of hope, that match was only the second time in twenty-five European home matches that the Galacticos have fallen to defeat. Some context is required too, as Real Madrid were already through, and clearly distracted by a badly-faltering La Liga title challenge.
Though Real had won two and lost two of their four previous home league games prior to last weekend's Clasico, those in attendance at the Bernabeu can expect to see late goals - especially as Ajax tire under the stadium's famous withering atmosphere. Tellingly, over half of the league goals scored by Real this season have arrived in the last 30 minutes of games.
Undeniably then, the tie that is by far the furthest from certain is Porto's Wednesday meeting with Roma. The Italians won 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in the first leg to leave the tie on a real cliffhanger, and they will be hoping to translate some of their domestic away form into this difficult journey.
Prior to their derby della Capitale with Lazio at the weekend, the Serie A outfit had scored two or more goals in each of their last four prior away matches in the Italian top flight. At the same point, they also boasted Serie A's best first-half goal difference in away matches, while leading at half-time and scoring at least two first-half goals in each of their preceding three away league fixtures.
In that respect, Roma's Edin Dzeko will certainly be a player to keep an eye on, as all of his Serie A goals this season have been scored on hostile territory.