This week’s Champions League slate features two English teams and a lot of intrigue. In this article we take a look at the best bets and daily fantasy picks from the upcoming matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid
Bayer Leverkusen has had a disappointing season in the Bundesliga, where eighth place isn’t good enough either for the club’s backers or the high-profile players who may seek a move away if Champions League football cannot be secured. In the Champions League things have been more positive, but facing Atletico, consistently excellent at this level and having only lost to Barcelona in February, is no-one’s idea of fun.
Fourth place in La Liga isn’t where Diego Simeone expects his team to be, but that means there’s likely to be even more focus on a European match for which Hakan Calhanoglu and Lars Bender are injured for the host, and important defenders Diego Godin and Juanfran for Atletico. Expect the Spanish side to take a narrow lead when players are getting tired in the second half.
Top Bet: 17/4 with Betway for a half-time/full-time result of Draw/Atletico Madrid
DraftKings Pick: G Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid ($5,000)
One of the best goalkeepers in the competition, Oblak is shielded by a defence that, even without two normally key operators, should be able to deal with an off-colour Bayer attack. Having conceded only two goals in the Champions League, this man is part of a defence that knows how to play the tournament.
Manchester City vs. Monaco
City goes into a tricky first-leg tie with injury problems building up. Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Ilkay Gundogan are joined by new signing Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines, meaning that as the games pile up at the end of the season, the chances of rotating the team are restricted.
Monaco is a different team to the one that was crushed last season by Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1; this time around after 26 games the principality has a three-point lead at the top. With three wins in the last four league games, there’s no better confidence-booster than momentum, and Monaco has it. There will be goals in this game, and City will struggle to keep Falcao, the 18-goal striker, in check.
Top Bet: 16/5 with BetFred for a draw
DraftKings Pick: F Falcao, Monaco ($6,200)
If you’re going to spend big on a striker, make it the in-form Colombian. Falcao has rediscovered his old goalscoring touch this season, and though the forward doesn’t try to beat defenders with explosive pace and strength any more, he’s got a superb footballing brain. With City’s defence lacking cohesion for much of the season, the chances of Falcao, a former Manchester United player, scoring, are high.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22
FC Porto vs. Juventus
Porto has won every game since January 15, and will approach this home leg with some confidence, although there is only expected to be one winner eventually, Juventue, who has itself won all games played since January 22. With Juve taking its traditional seven-point lead at the top of the table in Italy, the Turin side has no reason not to focus on taking a big lead back from this trip.
Usual first-teamers Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are injured at the moment for Juve, while Porto misses only Otavio, however the replacements in the Old Lady’s squad are of a high enough quality to still get the team through.
Top Bet: 11/4 with Betfair for Juventus to win by one goal
DraftKings Pick: D Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus ($3,400)
Almost certain to play in the absence of his usual central-defensive partners, Bonucci is unlikely to add much to your attacking points as he’ll almost certainly have his hands full with the core task of winning the ball back, but four out of Juve’s six Champions League group matches ended in clean sheets, and this may well be more of the same.
Sevilla vs. Leicester City
This match should come as a celebration of Leicester City’s run to last season’s Premier League title, but instead it comes at exactly the wrong time for the demoralised squad. Claudio Ranieri has been unable to stop a tailspin in the Premier League that sees his side close to the bottom, while the stand-ins were dumped out of the FA Cup at the weekend by Millwall.
The silver lining is that Leicester, with only Islam Slimani unavailable, faces Sevilla with Gabriel Mercado suspended, four players injured, and charismatic coach Jorge Sampaoli seeing out a touchline ban. When Sevilla has the likes of on-loan Manchester City winger Samir Nasri at peak form, though, that means little. Expect a comprehensive win for the team that sits third in La Liga.
Top Bet: 14/5 with Betfair for Sevilla to win by three or more goals
DraftKings Pick: M Samir Nasri, Sevilla ($6,500)
The little Frenchman, who was patchy at best during his time at Manchester City, has hit a rich vein of form for Sevilla this season, allowing a team that is often the best of the rest in La Liga to take the fight to the top teams. Leicester’s slow defence will likely be shown up by Nasri’s pace and trickery. He has a Champions League goal to add to two goals and two assists in Spain.
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