The Champions League is back and so is the £53,000+ Rollover Pick 4! Ed Acteson gives his opinion on the outcome of the four huge midweek games and he reckons that Liverpool should overcome a tense test away to Atletico Madrid. If you agree with his tips then join his Syndicate here.
Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool
Five of their last six meetings have seen 2 goals or less
We kick off with the tie of the week as two teams with huge Champions League pedigree meet at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Atletico Madrid, losing finalist in both 2014 and 2016, take on the defending champions Liverpool, who are determined to reach their third consecutive final.
Liverpool’s astonishing form is well documented in the Premier League. They are on course for the greatest season in English football history. With an outrageous 25 point gap to Man City in February, the title is sewn up The Reds can afford to channel their energies into retaining the Champions League.
Atletico don’t have the same luxury. They currently sit fourth in La Liga with 40 points and face a fierce battle for the final Champions League spot from Getafe (42), Sevilla (40), Villarreal (38) and Real Sociedad (37). Whilst Atletico will take this seriously, still having to fight on two fronts is a definite disadvantage.
In terms of form, Liverpool come into the game in much better fettle than their Iberian counterparts. Whereas Jurgen Klopp’s side have dropped just two points in the league all season, Atletico have won once in their last five league games.
Atletico have been solid if unspectacular at home in the league, winning seven, drawing four and losing one. Solid but unspectacular is probably a fitting description of them based on their seasonal winning margins as well. One quirky statistic is that they are the only La Liga side who haven’t won or lost by more than 2 goals so far.
For such an incredible side, Liverpool haven’t blown every opponent away as you might expect. In fact, 19 of their 25 league wins have also been by margins of two goals or less. They won’t fear the Atletico attack though, who have scored just 25 times in the league, making them the lowest scorers in the top nine.
That is why I am envisaging a tight, tactical affair. Liverpool will want to snatch an away goal but won’t take too many risks, whilst Atletico will simply try not to concede. I’m expecting a narrow Liverpool win, although a low-scoring draw isn’t totally out of the question as well.
Verdict: Liverpool 1-0, 2-0
Dortmund vs. PSG
There have been 3 or more goals in Dortmund’s last 3 Champions League games
From a tight, tactical affair to one which could be full of goals. Borussia Dortmund and PSG are among the continent’s great entertainers.
Each are the top scoring club in their respective divisions this season, with PSG (67) and Dortmund (63) combining for 130 goals in 47 matches. That is only goals scored, however. If you factor in the goals conceded as well, the number reaches 183, a rate of 3.9 goals per match.
First legs tend to be more cautious but I can’t see either abandoning their attacking instincts too readily and goals could be on the cards. PSG have seen 29 goals in their last five matches in all competitions whereas Dortmund have witnessed 36 in six.
Dortmund are top of the Bundesliga home table with eight wins and three draws whilst PSG top the Ligue Un away charts. They’ve won ten, drawn one and lost two away from home.
I believe we’ll see a close contest between two strong, evenly-matched and free-scoring teams who will put on a great show. I’ll take the high scoring draws, although would be unsurprised if either nicked it by a goal.
Draw: 1-1, Other Draw
Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig
There have been 3 or more goals in 8 of RB Leipzig’s last 10 Champions League games
The general consensus when Jose Mourinho took over at Spurs is that they would be converted into a tedious defensive unit relentlessly churning out 1-0 wins. Or, in other words, Mourinho-esque.
That hasn’t been the case. In 19 games under Jose Mourinho, they have won 3-2 on four different occasions, both teams have scored 14 times and both teams have scored more than once six times. In that period only Liverpool and City have scored more while just five teams have faced more shots. It’s been end to end stuff.
In RB Leipzig, Spurs encounter a side who will want to go toe to toe. They are managed by the talented and highly-rated Julian Nagelsmann who, at 32, was at school when Jose Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto in 2004.
They are spearheaded by the imperious Timo Werner, coveted by most of the European super clubs after scoring 25 goals in 32 appearances this season. Stopping Werner will be key to Tottenham’s success.
I do actually fancy Tottenham to do well here though. Leipzig weren’t overly convincing in the group stages, only clinching qualification from a weak pool in the final round of games.
Tottenham, comfortable escaping a group featuring Bayern Munich, despite the German giants embarrassing them 7-2 on that dreadful night at Wembley. You could argue that Spurs are significantly stronger now as well.
I can see Leipzig scoring but think this new look Tottenham will ultimately have too much for them.
Verdict: Tottenham 2-1, 3-1
Atalanta vs. Valencia
Valencia have scored and conceded in 5 of their last 8 home games
Two sides that weren’t necessarily expected to reach this stage of the competition. Atalanta did very well to eliminate group stage regulars Shakhtar Donetsk and claim a draw with runaway group winners Manchester City.
However, that was nothing compared to the exploits of Valencia who topped a group featuring Chelsea and last season’s semi-finalists Ajax. Their success earnt them a last 16 draw that, I think it’s fair to say, both sides were happy with.
They’re in a similar position domestically with Atalanta currently in fourth place, having earnt 45 points in 24 games, whereas Valencia are down in seventh with 38 points in 24 matches but just two points from fourth.
Looking at league form, there is a slight question mark over the home record of Atalanta, who have have only won only 50% of their games at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. They’ve won six, drawn two and lost four there, so it isn’t a fortress.
However, a much larger question mark hangs over the away form of Valencia who have a record of three wins, two draws and six defeats on their travels. Indeed, they seem far more comfortable playing in familiar surroundings.
They also meet an Atalanta side on a strong run of form. The Italians are unbeaten in five, winning four of them. They’ve managed an aggregated scoreline of 19-7 in that run which accurately portrays them as the fiercest attack in Serie A. In fact, their 63 goals are eight more than anybody else has managed.
Meanwhile, Valencia have only won one of their last six away from home and were humbled 3-0 away to Getafe a week ago.
My hunch is that Valencia’s struggles on the road will leave them short against a trigger-happy Atalanta who are scoring for fun. It is Atalanta’s leaking defence that has held them back so far this season, so I’d expect Valencia to find the net but still lose.
Verdict: Atalanta 2-1, 3-1
Wondering what ‘Other Draw’ means as a selection? Read our helpful guide here.