There are 16 teams remaining in the Champions League, but by the time the dust settles on Wednesday evening, only 12 will remain. That’s right, we’ve reached the second legs of the round of 16, and that means it’s time to put up or shut up, or whichever cliché you prefer.
Some teams have much higher mountains to climb (Sporting), while others (Bayern Munich) are staring calamity in the face. What’s going to happen? I have no idea, but for the sake of content, let’s pretend I do. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Liverpool vs. Inter Milan
Date: Tuesday, March 8 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: CBS/Paramount+
Featured Game | Liverpool vs. Inter Milan
I took Liverpool to win the first leg against Inter, and I see no reason to change the recipe now. Sure, we’re not getting nearly as nice a price as we did for the meeting in Milan, but Liverpool are the superior team in this matchup, and it’ll show on Tuesday. That’s not a knock against Inter, which are still the favorites to win Serie A this season. There are very few teams in the world on Liverpool’s level. Jurgen Klopp’s side has a 2-0 lead following the first match, so there’s a chance it takes a more cautious approach to this one, but it took a cautious approach in the first meeting and still won 2-0.
Meanwhile, Inter have not been in the best shape lately. They beat Salernitana 5-0 on Friday, but Salernitana are the weakest team in Serie A. While it’s a nice confidence boost, Inter struggled to get things going in matches against Sassuolo, Genoa and AC Milan since the loss to Liverpool. The win over Salernitana was only its second win in their past seven matches. Liverpool have won 12 straight. Pick: Liverpool (-175)
Bayern Munich vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Date: Tuesday, March 8 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
Featured Game | Bayern Munich vs. Salzburg
I can’t convince myself that Bayern Munich will lose to Salzburg at home and be eliminated from the Champions League in the round of 16. That said, I don’t think it will be easy for Bayern. While it was a bit unlucky in the 1-1 draw — Bayern led 2.1-1.0 on expected goals (xG) — Salzburg had plenty of chances, managing 11 shots total and five on target. There’s little evidence suggesting it was a one-off performance for Bayern, as it’s been weak defensively for over a year now.
Bayern have kept only one clean sheet in their past seven matches and have not been nearly as dominant as many of the Bayern teams we’re used to seeing. I think Bayern will move on to the quarterfinals and that this team is still potent enough in attack to get to the semis or maybe even further. But I don’t think they’ll do so while keeping a clean sheet against Salzburg or anybody remaining in this tournament, frankly. As long as Bayern’s playing, I’ll take both teams to score in their matches. Pick: Both Teams to Score (-125)
Real Madrid vs. PSG
Date: Wednesday, March 9 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: CBS/Paramount+
I took Real Madrid to win the first meeting and Carlo Ancelloti threw me a curveball. With away goals no longer serving as a tiebreaker, Ancelloti sent his team out to play for a scoreless draw. It sucked, but it almost worked. While PSG peppered Real Madrid’s defense with shots (PSG had 21 shots to Madrid’s three) all night, Madrid held out until Kylian Mbappe scored in the fourth minute of stoppage-time to give PSG the walk-off win.
I am undeterred. I’m retaking Real Madrid because they can’t sit back and defend this time, and getting Madrid at this price at home is too strong a value. Hopefully, Karim Benzema serves as more than an expensive desk lamp for this meeting and is allowed to touch the ball. Pick: Real Madrid (+150)
Manchester City vs. Sporting CP
Date: Wednesday, March 9 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
Manchester City won the first meeting 5-0, and barring the most spectacular upset in Champions League history, they will be moving on to the next round. I anticipate Pep Guardiola using this as an opportunity to rest some key players with the Premier League title still undecided and also give some players a chance to get back in form.
Meanwhile, Sporting must come out with everything it has and be aggressive. That will lead to plenty of opportunities for Manchester City to score, and considering the match will be played by humans subject to the same frailties as the rest of us are, Man City might lose a bit of focus defensively itself. Sporting score at least one goal often enough to make this an enticing price on The Mr. Rogers (we want both teams to have fun). Pick: Both Teams to Score (+125)