The Champions League is back and we’ve got four super mouth-watering quarter-finals to enjoy.
The competition is wide open and while we have four heavyweights – Juventus, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid – in two of the ties, Dortmund, Monaco and Atletico look equally dangerous to lift the trophy.
Leicester will relish their status as underdogs with nobody giving them a chance, but Everton exposed how fragile they can be and confirmed Craig Shakespeare’s side will need to be perfect to overcome the two-time Champions League finalists.
Let’s take a look at how the first legs will unfold with the competition as intriguing as it’s been for years.
Juventus vs Barcelona: Juventus to win (13/8) with Boyle Sports
Barcelona pulled off the impossible against PSG, yet they look as vulnerable as ever. Luis Enrique’s side were humbled once again last weekend by Malaga with Neymar not only seeing red but showing there is some time yet before he succeeds Lionel Messi as the King of Barça due to his inconsistency.
This one looks well set for BTTS, though a word of caution with Sevilla holding the Old Lady to a goalless draw in the group stages. Given the short price on that, taking Juve to win is more attractive.
The 1-1 draw at Napoli in Serie A – not the defeat in the Coppa Italia days later due to the dynamic of having a significant first leg lead – showed how Massimiliano Allegri’s side can absorb pressure.
They’re a well-oiled machine with a plethora of attacking options now that Mario Mandzukic has overcome a knee problem; Juan Cuadrado provides the width and Miralem Pjanic can unlock any defence. The Bianconeri to win this one at 6/4 appeals, given it’s the first leg and at the J-Stadium, and it’s all set for Gonzalo Higuain to truly prove his worth as a world class striker.
Borussia Dortmund vs Monaco: Monaco to win either half (8/5) with Boyle Sports
This is a dream tie for true fans of European football with an array of exciting young talents on show: Just one angle could be deciphering if Ousmane Dembele or Kylian Mbappe is Europe’s most promising attacking player.
Leonardo Jardim is not afraid of an away trip in Europe – just watch the first leg against Manchester City in a game that somehow ONLY produced eight goals.
Yes, it’s hard to go away from goals, goals and more goals here. Les Rouges et Blancs average 2.84 goals per game in Ligue 1, with 1.88 goals per game in Europe. Thomas Tuchel’s side have been wildly inconsistent in the Bundesliga, yet they are irresistible at the Westfalenstadion in Europe having struck 15 goals in four home games.
Over 3.5 goals is only evens though, which is really short. Monaco to win either half – as they did in both legs vs City – at 8/5, with Boyle Sports, offers a bit more value, especially with Bayern dispatching BVB so easily last weekend.
Atletico Madrid vs Leicester: Atletico to win 2-0 (9/2) or 3-0 (13/2) with Ladbrokes
They can’t, can they? Atletico are a formidable side in Europe, yet they don’t have that careless regard for the opposition which the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern do with their philosophy to play their game above all else.
Diego Simeone’s savviness should ensure they avoid an upset and with the first leg at home, he’ll want to do what Sevilla couldn’t: finish the tie before the trip to the KP Stadium. That means a two-goals advantage and a clean sheet – that second part is where Atleti can really hang their hat on in Europe.
Craig Shakespeare has been credited with the Foxes’ turnaround, but it’s evident that almost anybody in charge could have given that squad a boost given how they had deteriorated under Claudio Ranieri.
Atleti are really short at 3/10 to win with Ladbrokes, but they’ve conceded just two goals – against formidable opponents in Sevilla and Real Madrid – in seven games, which makes the correct score more appealing.
Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid: Bayern Munich to win (3/4) with Ladbrokes
Two heavyweights meet and this will be a tough test for the holders against their former master Carlo Ancelotti.
It feels as if Zinedine Zidane’s side are due a slip-up to shock their system and the Allianz Arena provides the sort of environment that could expose them if they are not at the races.
If Real have moments where they switch off, as was the case against Leganes and Atletico, Bayern are unlikely to pass up their chances. A 4-1 win over Dortmund sent out a serious warning to Europe with FC Hollywood keen to prove they are the team to beat in the Champions League.