Two contrasting styles face off on Wednesday night, where a team that doesn’t score much tackling a side that have more fire-power than the US military.
City put four past Basel in their first leg, away tie, last season and another positive result tonight looks very doable with the home side trading at 10/1 against the long, odds on, City at 2/9.
Schalke’s defence will need to be on their ‘A’ game to combat City’s goal getters, but that’s what the German’s side game is built on. They’re unbeaten in their last nine European games – winning six – and are looking for their third Champions League win on the bounce after Group D wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasary.
And while Domenico Tedesco’s side league form has been in free-fall since finishing runners-up to Bayern Munich last season – their Champions League form has been better.
They’ve conceded just four goals in six games when runners up to Porto in Group D but the downside is that they only scored six goals in the group stages – the lowest of any club left in the last 16. But even they must know that holding out for a draw in the first leg and getting a result at the Etihad, isn’t really an option.
City on the other hand are flying – though their record in European competition does justify them being such odds-on favourites. They’ve lost five of their eight knock-out games in the Champions League and got an early warning that they can’t just turn up in these fixtures when Lyon beat them 1-2 at the Etihad last September.
That said, since their Christmas brain fart when defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester threatened to derail their title charge, Pep Guardiola’s side have scored 48 and conceded just six goals to post 12 victories their last 13 games in all competitions since.
City also have the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday so will want to get the job done quickly here and manage the game. Schalke won’t be like playing Huddersfield at home, but City should still have enough to win this.
The visitors to win with three or four total goals in the game gives us a couple of options at 13/8.
You’d think Atletico would’ve seen enough of Cristiano Ronaldo when he was playing on the other side of Madrid. 22 goals in 29 games against the red-and-white stripes will have the Portuguese powerhouse fancying his chances of pushing his new club into a first-leg lead in this game.
It’s not fair really.
Diego Simeone’s men are second in La Liga, but haven’t quite been the force of previous seasons, with Antoine Griezmann hauling the team on his back up and down the Iberian Peninsula on his back.
Diego Godin is set to depart in the summer too, and there’d be no more fitting way for the warrior to go out than by finally making it over the Champions League finish line in Atletico’s new stadium in May, but they’ve to clamber past Juve if that’s to happen.
They’ve lost two of their previous three, one away at Betis followed by a 3-1 home beating to Real in the derby. The weekend saw a 1-0 win ground out versus Rayo Vallecano, but they’re not in the kind of form that’d encourage you to back them. They also made it through their group in second place thanks in large part to the capitulation of Monaco this season, so Juve will reckon they’ve a decent shot of a result here.
Not that they’ve been the relentless machine we’re used recently either. They took 3-0 hammering in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta, and then shared the spoils in a six-goal slugfest against Parma – a game where they led 2-0 just after the hour.
Still, order has been restored in their last couple of games, routine 3-0 wins over Sassuolo and Frosinone, and Ronaldo’s bagged five goals in his last five games, so the man brought in to push them past final failures looks primed for another CL charge.
He’s back in Madrid and would love to show the old stomping ground what they’re missing. 7/4 on him to score any time looks generous.
*All odds correct at time of posting