I once had a polite-but-candid chat with a Geico executive on a flight to California. Feeling from him a certain urging to speak my mind, I said that while some Geico commercials would go down as classic works of pop art, others were stupid and idiotic and I understood nothing of the writers’ attempts to be funny.
“That’s perfect,” the man said.
“Because we don’t make every commercial for every viewer. Some of our ads are for you, Kurt. The rest of them are for other people.”
It is in the above spirit that this WagerBop preview is being produced. You’ll notice that we’re only covering the Premier League side (or sides) of the upcoming Champions League quarterfinal legs. Juventus – Ronaldo’s team no less – and the exciting upstart bid from CR7’s upcoming opponent Ajax are getting left out.
Personally, I think the Italian vs Dutch match-up could be the most intriguing of all in the UEFA quarters. Ajax seems just a tad undervalued for a squad that just creamed the defending champs from Real Madrid.
But there’s a subset of the English-speaking soccer community that is so tied into the Premier League, they’re just not that interested in how other clubs in Europe are doing. Those readers want us to focus on Reds, and Red Devils, and Spurs, and Citizens.
I’m vain enough to plan to cover Ajax-Juventus in a whole separate preview very soon. Handicapping that one will be exciting no matter how many people click on the prediction. But we’re nothing if not user-friendly and mainstream here at the ‘Bop.
So for now, here’s a preview-analysis (with moneyline odds courtesy of MyBookie) of only the 3 upcoming quarterfinal legs featuring English football clubs.
A corker of an idea, old chap.
Tottenham (Odds-to-Win 1st Leg at MyBookie) vs Manchester City
City has not lost a truly important match all season, at least not yet. The speed and ability of players such as Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus give the squad vibrant athleticism at forward and wing, while Sergio Agüero and Leroy Sané are each considered among the finest finesse strikers on the planet.
Then there is Ederson, who is a rock in goal. The backline is splendid, and when 2/3 of your midfield is named “Silva” a simple 4-3-3 becomes a death trap for opponents.
I admit my mistake in handicapping City. I was under the misconception that the squad’s scoring binges were starting to ebb, and that the result from the maiden Schalke 04 leg in the UEFA Round of 16 was closer to what it would be like down the stretch.
None of Manchester City’s 7 goals from the leg last week can be saved and used for extra tallies in an upcoming match. But what if so many of City’s close calls this season have ended in Citizen triumph directly because the threat of such an explosive counterattack makes opposing midfielders and defenders too uneasy to pull forward and contribute when full-on pressure is called for? What if most of City’s marginal attacking halves – gulp – have simply occurred because the team knew it already had all it needed?
Pep Guardiola’s offense could have been criticized by punters scrutinizing stat sheets after a 1-0 win over Spurs at Wembley way back in October. Winger Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal in the 6th minute, and City’s numbers with the football were commonplace.
But the match itself told a different tale. The usually-spirited Tottenham attack was a shadow, and Harry Kane was relegated to “trotting-ham” up and down the pitch.
I wouldn’t be interested in betting on any of the Sky Blues’ opponents under normal circumstances. But the biggest difference between Spurs of October ’18 and Kane’s squad today is that the club can no longer beat-out City for a domestic league or tournament title. All’s left is the Champions League, and Tottenham has much less to lose this time around. That could actually help a side give the Premiership favorites a go-around.
Besides, the maiden leg is not the end-all, be-all of the quarterfinals. That’s why Citizens’ return visit to Wembley Stadium on April 9th ought to have a little bit tighter moneyline than it does.
Spurs has the backline and the keeper to hold off City for most of 90+ in a given match, and the Sky Blues’ backs won’t be to the wall just yet. Tottenham’s (+327) is a line to look into, and so is Draw at (+278).
Liverpool vs FC Porto
A fortunate draw gives Mohamed Salah and company a chance to gain some ground at the familiar ground of Anfield.
But the “away goals” rule – so handy for Liverpool in somehow intimidating the Bavarians of Bayern Munich – always puts pressure on the host side to get off to a good start in the maiden match.
Liverpool’s road triumph over Bayern Munich is worth reminiscing about, especially considering that things were quite tense until elite defender Virgil van Dijk busted the match wide open in the 2nd half.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK! 🔥
His header puts Liverpool ahead and Bayern now need 2 goals in order to move on.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 13, 2019
There is the usual chatter around a team vying for more than a single trophy in a season, centering on whether or not each event’s rigors will detract from the squad’s abilities in another. Theoretically, yes, a club could win the Premier League a little more easily in a given season if it rejected all other invitations and focused solely on 38 matches.
But there comes a time for common sense, and it’s not like a busy schedule is hurting City. Citizens and Reds are manning the same boat. They have both endured mishaps in UEFA and the EPL, and the Premiership will play out as it will no matter what happens in the Champions League. Neither side has a marked advantage in health or stamina.
May marks the end of the FA Cup and the Premier League, leaving plenty of time to recharge for a UEFA final at Metropolitano. I’m not overly worried about City or Liverpool faltering if the grail is in sight.
However, look in the short-term and there may be good reason for skepticism of the Reds’ moneyline going into the maiden Q-Final leg.
FC Porto may have slid its way past Roma with an Alex Telles penalty in extra time, but Telles is symbolic of the Azuis e brancos and Portuguese soccer, as he came to the club with big dreams some years ago and has been overlooked at times since then. The Brazilian-Italian back never stopped pushing, and as of 2018-19 he’s gotten his first call-up to the Brazil National Team and scored a decisive winning goal in the Champions League.
The high-pressure penalty from Alex Telles that saw Porto seal passage into the Champions League quarter final against Roma.
Cool as you like. 3-1. Porto into the last 8.pic.twitter.com/n9FivcyMVP
— TugaScout (@TugaScoutPT) March 6, 2019
I’m giving Porto a better chance to win April 9th’s other quarterfinal leg than what the betting public is currently willing to swallow.
Manchester United vs Barcelona
Finally, we come to the “Good Times Bad Times” team of England, the Red Devils of Manchester United.
Right now it’s the “Bad Times.”
Come to think of it, the MUFC season has felt kind of like the first Led Zeppelin album. The drumbeat is like no other, the aura majestic, but not all of the riffs make sense.
Paul Pogba shouldn’t have gone on the riff he did this week when he suggested that a stint at Real Madrid would be good for the Les Bleus soul.
Is Paul Pogba on his way to Real Madrid? 👋 pic.twitter.com/SJhPVoXAjD
— Goal (@goal) March 20, 2019
Pogba’s unpopular remarks come on the heels of a dreadful loss to Wolves in the FA Cup. Reality is starting to sink in on the Red Devils. City could win a quadruple. United is hoping for just a single…along with a berth in next year’s Champions League.
MUFC has also drawn Messi and Barcelona, a petrifying prospect in the quarterfinals on April 10th and 16th.
I’m convinced that United won’t win the Champions League following another draining, emotional round, even if it ends in victory. Not while City is having ceremonies in the 2nd half against otherwise well-respected lineups.
But (+245) moneyline odds on the opening leg at Old Trafford?
I’ll take that wager on the proud old club to rebound and play well at home in at least one more big match in 2018-19.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.