Champions League, Tuesday, 18th February

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Liverpool v Bayern; 21:00

The match between Liverpool and Bayern München will start at 21:00 on Anfield in Liverpool. Referees are coming from Italy – the main one will be Gianluca Rocchi who has shown 20 cards in the last 4 matches, twice red. Liverpool have lost the first place, but as they have one match less than the first City, they are still having everything in their own hands. Bayern is coming closer and closer to Borussia Dortmund, and I think that even though their season isn’t anything special, they will beat their German rivals till the end of the season.

Liverpool: so far, the team of Jürgen Klopp is on fire, having a season full of records in Premier League but they had some problems in the group stage of Champions League after losing 2-0 in Belgrade and 2-1 in Paris. Anyway, since then they have won 10 matches, then started the year 2019 with defeats against City and Wolverhampton, added two wins against Brighton and Crystal, then two draws with Leicester and West Ham. In last match they finally added important three points on their account, beating Bournemouth at home with comfortable 3-0. We can say that they arrived in the most important period of Champions League a bit “out of form”, comparing results with some other months. Don’t get me wrong, winning 10 points of possible 15 is far from the bad form, but even two wins over Brighton and Crystal came after huge fights, none of them was an easy win, but at the same time that’s pretty normal, regarding the crazy schedule English teams are having over this period. Huge blow for Klopp is that he cannot count on the key player in defense – Virgil van Dijk. Besides him, Wijnaldum, Lovren, and Shaqiri are all slightly injured and it’s unsure if they will participate in the match or not. Another problem for Klopp is the health condition of Firmino, who has suffered a virus and didn’t train on Monday.

Bayern: the team of Niko Kovač already had several ups and downs this seasons, and there is plenty of those who would like to see Croatian manager sacked, ass well as some “veterans” in the team, but so far it looks like they are slowly getting in the shape. If they were tempting for March, April, May, that might be perfect as they still have all competitions in their hands. Still, with the seasonal plan – if they were really trying to get the team in the best possible state in the final third of the season, they probably didn’t expect Liverpool immediately in the knockout phase of Champions League. In 2019, they’ve lost the match in Leverkusen (3-1), won against Hertha in DFP after extra time, won against Schalke 3-1 and in the last round Augsburg away with 2-3. Kovač cannot count on injured Boateng, Robben, and Tolisso, and while the status of Goretzka is doubtful, Kingsley Coman got the green light and will be able to help Bavarians in England. As Boateng hasn’t been named in the squad, we can expect to see Süle next to Hummels, but the question if Kovač will start with Kimmich as a fullback or in the midfield. Another question is if Ribery will come back directly in the first lineup after being given an extra time due to the birth of his child.

Betting conclusion: English teams aren’t really among my favorites in Champions League. We were able to see what happened with Manchester United, but I think that in this case, we will have a totally different situation as the home manager is the one having much more experiences in matches like this. Actually, Kovač has them only as a player. We were able to see dozens of times how huge impact Anfield has on players of Liverpool and as everything will be completely burned up once again, I think that Liverpool will win this match. With all respect for Bayern, I suggest lower stakes as always in Champions League, but I think that at the moment, Liverpool, especially at home, is strong enough to beat Germans. I think that the right side of Bayern will suffer as it isn’t really the fastest. I expect huge pressure of Liverpool and as Bayern isn’t at their prime version at the moment, I expect to see Lpool winning the “first half”. Odds on Liverpool are still around 2,14.

 

Lyon v Barcelona; 21:00

The match between Lyon and Barcelona will start at 21:00 on Groupama Stadium in Dècines-Charpieu. Referees are coming from Turkey – the main one will be well known Çakir. Lyon is currently on the 3rd place in French Ligue 1. Barcelona is comfortably sitting on the first place of Spanish La Liga with 7 points advantage in front of Atletico Madrid.

Lyon: the team of Bruno Genesio is coming in the match after beating last-placed Guingamp with only 2-1. Anyway with 6 wins in last 7 matches, including the derby against PSG (2-1) is showing that Lyon is in a superb form. Even a match they’ve lost, the match against Nice could have finished completely different, as they were a pretty much better side, but Nice scored from one of their few chances and that was enough. Genesio rotated a bit in the league, let Depay, N’Dombele, and Mendy on the bench, but right now it’s hard to predict the “best” 11 of Lyon as especially in offensive coach has lots of choices with Dembele, Traore, Fekir, Depay, Terrier and Cornet all competing for 3-4 spots. Due to suspension, Genesio won’t be able to count on his captain Nabil Fekir, which is a blow for sure, but as mentioned, there is lots of depth when it comes for attacking positions. In the goal, they have in my opinion the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1. In defense, the only question is probably if they will start with experienced Rafael or lately in superb form Dubois. I expect to see two holding, defensive midfielders – probably N’Dombele (if 100% fit) and Tousart, even though I wouldn’t be surprised to see young, prolific Aouar who is much more offensive minded than Tousart. Without Fekir, I think that Aouar will start a bit higher on the pitch with Depay and Traore on wings and Dembele in a number 9 role. That’s somehow expected lineup, even though I do expect Cornet having a chance from the first minute as he had amazing matches against City. Lyon is still undefeated in CL, and I believe that they won’t be easy to beat.

Barcelona: the team of Valverde is coming in the match after a minimal win against 16th placed Valladolid. For sure that isn’t really a great ticket for the tough Champions League match, especially if we consider that Barça won only twice in last 5 matches. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a great Barça, capable of destroying the opponents as they played 2-2 against Valencia, 1-1 against Real Madrid and 0-0 against Athletic Bilbao. At the same time, we have to admit that on the only match, where they really needed to win with goal difference they won 6-1 and qualified in the next round of Copa. And no, the opponent wasn’t “Huesca” but Sevilla. It is obvious that Barcelona isn’t the same as it was. They aren’t as “crazy” not with possession, not with pressing, but they still have some individuals who can decide the match in every second of the game. Great news for Valverde is that Umtiti is finally fit and ready to play, but I think that the coach won’t risk him yet. We can expect Ter Stegen in the goal, Pique and Lenglet as center backs, Roberto and Alba on fullback positions, Rakitić, Busquets and probably Coutinho in the middle, if Valverde will decide to put offensive trio with Dembele, Suarez, and Messi. Other options are Coutinho instead of Dembele and experienced Vidal in the midfield partnering Busquets and Rakitić. Lyon isn’t the only one missing an important figure in the club – Barça will miss Arthur, who is by far most creative midfielder. Of course, 433 isn’t the only possible formation of Barcelona, as 442 isn’t something odd to Valverde.

Betting conclusion: I see Lyon “copying” their tactics from the match against City. While there is faster buildup and much faster wide players in City, there is no Leo Messi, so it won’t be a clear copy, but I do expect players being really close to opponents, trying to fight for every single meter on the pitch and as they are playing against huge favorites, I see this team, full of young talents or showing their best or be burned out totally. They really surprised me so far in Champions League, obviously especially on both matches against City where they caused so many problems in midfield. I think that with given odds, we cannot say there is no value on Lyon not losing this match (+0,5 @2,19). Even though it’s much easier to think odds around 1,80 on a club like Barcelona in France? They’ve never lost against Lyon, they will beat them! I think that from what we’ve seen from Barcelona lately, Lyon can surprise and with odds around 2,20 I see some value.

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