1. Juventus vs. Tottenham
Tottenham comes into the round of 16 off an impressive showing in the group stages. The attack was stunning in the first six games of the competition netting 18 goals. This Spurs team tallied three goals in four of the six games of the opening round. They thrived playing in Wembley in the group stages where they held a 12-2 goal ratio. They were great at home, but this will be Tottenham’s first ever trip to Turin. This season, the crew from London has proved that it can face up to any opponent, winning what many called the group of death after being drawn with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and APOEL. Tottenham has fared well historically vs. Italian opposition where they have lost just four times in 15 competitive matches. They should carry some confidence traveling to Italy, in their first appearance in the round of 16 in 2010-2011, they defeated AC Milan with a 1-0 aggregate score (1-0 away, 0-0 home).
Experience will be crucial in a tie that’s so evenly matched, and this is where the match will be decided. Juventus has now made the final in two of the last three years. This will be the Bianconeri’s 8th appearance in the round of 16 in this competition. In the group stages, the old lady was unbeaten at home, a record that dates back to 2013 in the champions league. That’s a 26 match run in UEFA competitions in which they have not tasted defeat in Turin. Juventus, got off to a slow start, being trampled by Barcelona 3-0, in a game many thought the Spanish side used as revenge from last years competition. Juventus gave up a total of 5 goals in 6 games of the group stage. But dating back to the reverse fixture vs. Barcelona on November 22nd, the old lady has only conceded one goal in 16 matches. During that time they have netted 29 goals.
The runners-up in last years competition, Juventus, come into this tie in excellent form. The same can be said for Tottenham who is on a 12 match unbeaten run dating back to December 16th where they fell 4-1 vs. Man City. If Tottenham can get a result in the first leg, they have a chance. But that won’t be the case against a team that thrives at home while the Spurs are 1-3-4 in games played in Italy.
“We have to play with intelligence and technique and try not to concede, though I would not settle for a 0-0. We know their strengths, and we know we will have to suffer at times because Tottenham has four players with great quality in attack.” Massimiliano Allegri-Juventus coach
The loss of Matuidi and Dybala will be crucial, but the defense is locked in. They will wait for Tottenham’s attack and counter where the visitors are vulnerable.
Under 2.5 Goals
Juventus To Advance
Juventus: Buffon; De Sciglio, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; Khedira, Pjanić, Sturaro; Douglas Costa, Higuaín, Mandžukić
Out: Cuadrado (groin), Matuidi (thigh), Höwedes (thigh), Dybala (thigh), Barzagli (calf), Lichtsteiner (thigh)
Tottenham: Lloris; Trippier, Sánchez, Vertonghen; Son, Dembélé, Dier, Davies; Eriksen, Alli; Kane
Out: Alderweireld (fitness)
2. Basel vs. Manchester City
The first time these teams will ever face off, and some are saying the first leg won’t be as easy as some think. One of the most underrated venues in all European football, St. Jakob-Park is an asylum. In the group stages, they pulled at an upset against another English giant in Manchester United. The home crowd played crucial in a game where they were dominated in possession. United held the ball 62% of the match but only was able to generate three shots on goal. Basel had 6 shots on goal with only 38% possession, giving merit to their counter-attacking style. They will give you possession in the midfield, but they hunker down in the back and try to cut off passing lanes.
Manchester City comes into the knockout stages as the odds-on favorite at +350 most places according to Odds Shark. Man City coasted through the group stages where they scored 14 goals and conceded 5. More impressive they scored four goals in their first two away fixtures, the last game of the group stage won’t be included as they were already qualified for the round of 16. They held a 5-1 record, again the only defeat being in the last game when they were unmotivated with the group and qualification in pocket and nothing to play for. While Manchester City has been great attacking, the back line has been exposed at times. If Basel can capitalize on the open space that City will leave as they press upfield, we can have a fascinating encounter. The only problem for the home team will be if the Sky Blues break through early in the match.
Pep Guardiola is one manager that always gets his teams up when being heavy favorites. Maybe its the memory of the 4–0 defeat to Fabio Capello’s Milan side in the 1994 Champions League final in Athens. Guardiola as a player at the time was deemed as the best under 21 player in the world. Cruyff’s “Dream Team,” is what they were called with the dangerous Romario joining the team to strengthen the attack. They were upset in a brutal manner in that Champions League Final, something the manager never forgets. In 2008, Pep traveled to Basel with his Barcelona team and thrashed the home side 5-0, showing he doesn’t take opposition lightly when heavily favored. The loss of their best defender Manuel Akanji, the Swiss international, will be a huge factor in this game leaving a hole in the Basel backline. Borussia Dortmund signed the versatile defender thru 2022. City scored nine goals in 3 away games last round, four on two occasions. They have also scored 2+ goals in 14 games as visitors this season. The Citizens are in perfect form while Basel is coming off their winter break. Something that mysteriously last from December 17th through February 4th, so they have only had two competitive matches since. The first match off break they lost at home to Lugano. Look for the Sky Blues to keep rolling against a team that will be overmatched in all aspects. They will try to park the bus, but the Citizens will break through.
Manchester City -1.5
Manchester City Team Total Over 2
Full Game Over 3
Basel: Vaclík; Lacroix, Suchý, Balanta; Lang, Frei (Zuffi), Xhaka, Petretta; Elyounoussi, Van Wolfswinkel, Oberlin
Out: Vailati (shoulder)
Doubtful: Balanta (thigh), Zuffi (foot)
Man. City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling; Agüero
Out: Mendy (knee), Jesus (knee)
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