B/R Experts: Big-Game Predictions, March 14-16
The UEFA Champions League takes centre stage, and there are quarter-final places up for grabs this week.
Our team of experts have been doing their homework in a bid to point you in the direction of the winning formula.
Will Leicester overcome Sevilla, are Porto capable of upsetting Juventus and can Monaco outscore Manchester City?
Read on for our thoughts on these ties and some intriguing games in the Europa League.
Juventus vs. Porto
Juventus will host this second leg hoping to make short work of FC Porto, believing their two-goal advantage from the away tie gives them enough of a cushion to make passage to the quarter-finals quite simple.
With both Giorgio Chiellini and Medhi Benatia carrying knocks, coach Massimiliano Allegri has injury concerns in defence, but Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Daniele Rugani offer him the depth to overcome them comfortably.
A tactically intelligent and measured approach should be more than enough for the Serie A side, who looked in control of the first meeting even before Porto were reduced to 10 men.
Juve have been drawing at half-time and winning at full-time in their last three Champions League outings, while also keeping a clean sheet in five of their last seven matches in the same competition.
First goalscorer: Gonzalo Higuain
Leicester vs. Sevilla
Sevilla have been enjoying a fantastic season in La Liga and are the favourites to progress following a 2-1 first-leg success.
However, this could end up being the latest shock result in this year’s competition.
When it comes to comebacks, Barcelona set the bar last week. Leicester should take heart from that 6-1 win over PSG and believe they can produce their own miracle to book a place in the quarter-final.
The Foxes have sacked manager Claudio Ranieri since the defeat in Seville and the impact has seen Leicester win back-to-back games.
Craig Shakespeare has now been named boss until the end of the season, and you get the feeling another special night could be in store.
They managed home victories against FC Porto, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen in the group stages and will have confidence that they can manage the game in a similar fashion.
Last year they took the Premier League by storm, this time the rest of Europe are feeling their force.
Sevilla have drawn their last two matches against Alaves and Leganes, so don’t rule out an upset.
First goalscorer: Riyad Mahrez
Monaco vs. Manchester City
It is surely impossible for this match to live up to the thrilling first leg, but we should all tune in just in case.
City’s 5-3 win at the Etihad was a captivating affair, and it is fair to assume both sides will also score in this fixture. Monaco have not failed to score since the beginning of December, while City have only failed to score twice in that same period.
Pep Guardiola’s men completely dominated Middlesbrough in a 2-0 FA Cup win at the weekend but this opposition will offer far more threat.
Monaco are unbeaten in their four matches since the game in Manchester, scoring 10 goals along the way, and they will head out in hope of scoring an opener that keeps the tie alive.
But one key factor in the build-up to kick-off is Radamel Falcao’s race for fitness. He has a hip injury and would be a notable absentee if he is not declared ready. While Monaco do have a host of other forward options, Falcao’s experience is vital.
First goalscorer: Bernardo Silva
Atletico Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Atletico Madrid have put themselves in a fantastic position after beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in the first leg, and the simple fact is that a team with the established mentality, resolution and fortitude that Atleti have are not going to relinquish such a lead.
Diego Simeone's men also picked up a late weekend victory in La Liga on Saturday against Granada, which is further testament to their determination to get the required result, whatever it takes.
Leverkusen have no choice but to attack, needing to score at least three times, and that should play into the hands of Atleti who will likely play all their best counter-attacking options: Antoine Griezmann, Yannick Carrasco and either Angel Correa or Nico Gaitan. Between them, they can notch at least once and the tie will be over. No Barca-esque comebacks at the Vicente Calderon.
First goalscorer: Julian Brandt
Roma vs. Lyon
AS Roma seem to have suffered a blip at the worst possible moment, a sudden loss of form that has seemingly derailed their entire campaign. It began when they were beaten 2-0 by Lazio in the Coppa Italia semi-finals. They were subsequently handed a Serie A defeat by Napoli before losing 4-2 away to Olympique Lyonnais.
That makes qualification for the next round extremely difficult, and Lyon’s own spectacular form does not bode well. The Ligue 1 outfit have not lost in their last seven matches in all competitions, outscoring opponents by a staggering 29 goals to seven over that same period and looking sharp all across the pitch.
First goalscorer: Mohamed Salah
Manchester United vs. Rostov
Manchester United's Champions League hopes for next season pretty much rest on this game. They need to win and then go on to lift the trophy because, simply put, it is their best chance of being among Europe's elite next term.
Jose Mourinho knows the importance of it and at least Zlatan Ibrahimovic is only suspended for domestic games. Frequently he has been compared to Eric Cantona and this is the game when he really can earn God-like status at Old Trafford.
We suggested the first leg would not be straight forward, and it proved to be the case. A draw was a decent result in the circumstances and the English side do now have the advantage.
There have been times this season when United dominate games but do not get the results their performance deserves. Do not expect this to be one of them.
Mourinho had been planning the way this fixture would pan out even while United were gearing up for the Chelsea FA Cup match they lost 1-0 on Monday night.
First goalscorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic