Champions League Last 16 - Spread Betting Preview
Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Preview (19-20th Feb)
Still priced as favourites to lift the Champions League title on the Outright Index, Pep Guardiola's men have been outstanding in this season's competition, and are rediscovering the peak of their destructive powers that saw them break multiple domestic records in 2017/18.
Their trip to Schalke is the first of four star-studded round-of-16 ties set to forge their own mark in history this week.
Schalke v Manchester City
The Citizens' 6-0 demolition of Chelsea in the last round of Premier League games illustrated that any naïve defending will be punished greatly. Having hit nine unanswered goals across two group stage games against Shakhtar Donetsk, this domestic ruthlessness has occasionally translated to the Champions League.
With current Champions League spread betting prices for this match predicting multiple goals for City in the Team Goals market - despite being the away side - the disparity between the sides is self-evident. It should still be noted that teams like Shakhtar Donetsk are considered nowhere near City's standard, but it is difficult to ignore the fact that the Guardiola era has seen City fail to score in only two Champions League away matches out of a possible thirteen.
Of the eleven matches in that category, eight have seen Guardiola's men score multiple goals. Ultimately, it is obvious that Schalke will need to be at the very top of their defensive game, and try to build on a solid return of just one goal conceded - and none from open play - across three home games in the group stage.
Sadly for them though, even that may not be enough, Schalke's record against teams drawn from pot 1 (in prior group stages) is appalling.
Indeed, Schalke's 1-1 draw at home Porto broke a losing run of what was four losses from as many Champions League home matches against these top seeds. That quartet of defeats includes a 6-1 humbling at the hands of Real Madrid, and two home defeats against Chelsea, seeing them concede a total of eight unanswered goals.
Where candidates to score the opening goal, or score multiple goals are concerned, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte all scored twice over the course of City's three trips abroad. Silva and Aguero show no signs of slowing up despite their advancing age, and Laporte has proven himself to be a deadly presence on the receiving end of set-pieces.
Liverpool v Bayern Munich
Twenty-four hours prior to Schalke vs City, Liverpool get to grips with Bayern Munich - an opponent they have beaten in their last two meetings, though it is nearly forty years since their last clash of real consequence.
Liverpool and Bayern are once again moving in contrasting directions in their respective domestic leagues. Liverpool are in the midst of their most promising title challenge in the 20-team Premier League era, while Bayern's crown appears all but lost as a golden generation begins to falter.
The Merseyside club's home form in the Premier League and Champions League suggests that Bayern would likely take a score draw right now. April 2017 remains the last time any Liverpool side lost at home in either competition, and the Reds last tasted defeat on home soil in the Champions League way back in October 2014.
In practice, that means Jurgen Klopp has never overseen a home defeat for Liverpool in European competition. Much of this is down to quickfire starts, with four of Liverpool's last five European home games seeing them score at least twice inside the first half.
That is not to say Bayern Munich cannot boast the same degree of self-assurance when travelling to foreign shores. Unbeaten in eight Champions League away trips and victorious in six, Bayern have also scored multiple away goals across that period.
The last three in that sequence have also featured a goal from the evergreen Robert Lewandowski, who remains on course to end this season as the Champions League's top scorer, and gain inclusion into the competition's Squad of the Season for the third time.
Ronaldo vs Griezmann
The other two ties also promise much in the way of drama, with two superstars of European football facing each other once more - though not in a Madrid derby for once.
Even at the age of 34, there is no sign of Cristiano Ronaldo feeling the effects of over 15 years' relentless double-edged continental and domestic battles at the very highest level in Europe. A talisman if ever there was one, nearly all of the goals scored by `#CR7' this calendar year alone have been accompanied by a winning result for the Bianconeri.
Though he has scored only once in this Champions League campaign so far, a run of six goals across all competitions since the turn of the year represents excellent momentum. Certainly, with Antoine Griezmann also scoring consistently for Atlético Madrid, Juventus will need Ronaldo more than ever to steal the show.
Dating back to 28 November, Griezmann himself has scored in every one of his home appearances this winter, and - unlike Ronaldo - is on fire when playing Champions League football at home. Five goals in his last four Champions League home outings in the Spanish capital suggest that he fears nobody, even though he is under great pressure to give Atlético something to take to Turin for the second leg.
Messi Masterclass Imminent?
While the battle of Ronaldo and Griezmann will be a blockbuster, an older rival of Ronaldo is also in excellent form ahead of his own round-of-16 battle. That man is, of course, Lionel Messi, who will lead the charge in Lyon in the hope of taking a healthy glut of away goals into the second leg.
Though Messi missed two Champions League group games through injury, he has come back stronger than ever, and - since returning on 11 November - Messi has scored on eleven of the last fourteen occasions (across all competitions) that he has played a full ninety minutes.
Lyon showed no sign of improvement in defence during the group stage, despite remaining unbeaten by virtue of one win and five draws. The main reason Lyon remain in the competition is thanks to the good form of Nabil Fekir and Maxwel Cornet, who both scored in two of the last four group stage matchdays.
Will there be a shock, or can the favourites book an early ticket to the quarter-finals of the Champions League? Get the latest Champions League spread betting markets on Sporting Index!