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UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals First Leg

UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals First Leg

Eight teams remain in the running for the UEFA Champions League title, and today the first leg of the quarterfinals kick off with Barcelona facing Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich vs Benfica. Keep reading for the game previews.

Atletico Madrid vs FC Barcelona

  • Time: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 2:45 PM ET

Betting on FC Barcelona

Barcelona’s mission is to be the first team since 1990 to keep the Champions League trophy in their coffers for the second time in a row as they get ready to host their La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid.

Though Barcelona leads in La Liga, these two have already made it to the UEFA finals in recent years, so both have a shot at raising “La Orejona.”

However, Barcelona suffered a defeat at the hands of arch rivals Real Madrid, 2-1, in El Clasico on Saturday. Which, for some, might have rattled Barcelona in anticipation of their Champions League match. In fact, the loss broke the impressive 39-game win streak in all competitions and their air of invincibility at Camp Nou.

Whatever the case may be, Barcelona is still the favorite to win this game. And, of course, with the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar in front, it’s hard to argue on the contrary. It’ll be even harder for Atletico to contain them, now that they’ll be hungry to shut down anyone’s thoughts on the contrary.

Though a few of Barcelona’s players have suffered injuries that will keep them off the pitch, namely Jérémy Mathieu, Adriano and Sandro Ramirez, the starting lineup is as expected with Ter Stegen – Alves, Alba, Mascherano, Pique – Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta – Messi, Suarez, Neymar.

Betting on Atletico Madrid

Atletico just barely passed through to this stage, having won in penalties against PSV. Though riding on the momentum of winning against Real Betis 5-1 right before this game, as well as winning 5 of their last 6 matches, they’re well aware of the opponent they now face.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone will probably play conservative and keep his players back, taking advantages whenever possible with Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann. Torres has been especially effective at getting the ball in the back of the net against Barcelona, against which he’s scored in 10 opportunities in 14 matches.

The strategy follows suit based on Real Madrid’s experience of waiting for a counter. Of course, it was also a successful strategy for Atletico back in 2014 when they drew to 1-1 at Camp Nou and eventually won at home.

Injuries might be an issue for Atletico. Yannick Carrasco still remains on the injury list with ankle problems, while Saúl Ñíguez is doubtful after being knocked around during the 5-1 win over Betis.

The greatest problems lie in injuries to Atletico’s defensive ranks, Diego Godin, Stefan Savić and José Giménez and are out. This is compounded by the possible injuty to French defender Lucas Hernández who might not be available for the trip to Barcelona due to a back problem.

Atletico is expected to start with Oblak – Felipe Luis, Hernandez, Monslave, Juanfran – Koke, Gabi, Fernández, Kranevitter, – Griezmann, Torres.

Prediction: Since the 1-0 win in the second leg of 2013/14 Champions League quarterfinals, Atletico hasn’t won over Barcelona in 7 meetings in all competitions. All this points to a Barcelona win.

Benfica vs Bayern Munich

  • Time: Tuesday, April 05, 2016 2:45 PM ET

Betting on Bayern Munich

Though barely passing through after a contested Round of 16 against the Italian powerhouse Juventus, the German team is still alive, now facing Benfica in the quarterfinals.

If Bayern underestimated the Italians, they would do well not to fall in the same error against the Portuguese Benfica. If you recall, Bayern was losing until a minute 90 goal by Thomas Mueller saved their day. 

Against Juve, uncharacteristically, the Germans had many difficulties on defense, allowing Juventus’ players to pass through fairly easy towards Neuer’s goal. However, in their last two Bundesliga matches, they seem to have adjusted, winning 1-0 against Eintracht Frankfurt and previously over FC Koln 0-1 as well.

The Germans have only lost once in their last 18 matches in all competitions and 14 of them are wins, and are unbeaten in Champions League this season with an extensive goal scoring record of 18 goals from 4 matches while conceding just 3.

Though Benfica might not pose such a big threat as did Juventus, the Portuguese team has reached this stage and deserves respect. Regardless of playing in Allianz Arena, where Bayern has only lost once this season and has been extremely effective in scoring, anything may happen in football.

Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber are long term absentees for Bayer Munich due to injury. Manager Pep Guardiola is expected to go with Neuer – Alaba, Benatia, Martinez, Lahm – Alonso – Ribery, Vidal, Muller, Costa – Lewandowski as a starting lineup.

Bayern is clearly one of the favorites to win the Champions League. At home, they’ve racked up 10 games in a row, while only losing six in 28 matches.

Betting on Benfica

Benfica is riding high on motivation, after defeating the Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg in the last round.

They also have been successful in their own league, just recently crushing Braga 5-1 last weekend. The combination of Brazilian Jonas and Kostas Mitroglou have proved to be a deadly effective scoring machine, racking up a total of five goals in this competition and put them atop the Portuguese league with a difference of five goals.

Midfielder Nico Gaitan completes a trio which could pose a big threat to a potentially leaky Bayern defense, which showed signs of weakness against Juventus in the last round. Benfica could capitalize on the opportunity of being underestimated by the Germans, a tendency which seems to favor smaller teams.

Benfica is no stranger at being the underdog. And, this could even mean an upset for the Germans; if you recall Benfica’s road to this point, they have beaten Zenit and Atletico at home.

The Portuguese are expected to go with Moraes – Eliseu, Jardel, Nilsson, Almeida – Samaris, Renato Sanches – Jonas, Gaitan, Pizzi – Mitroglou as a starting lineup.

Betting Prediction: Bayern Wins

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