The draw for the Champions League quarter-finals last week threw up some really cracking ties, as well as some interesting possibilities for the semi-finals. Indeed, it has created a sort of two-tier system in the betting markets, with Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona and Liverpool seen as the big favourites, and their respective opponents, Spurs, Ajax, Man United and Porto, seen as outsiders.
However, as we have seen from the Last 16, there is nothing to say that the form book won’t be upended. And, indeed, if they get their tactics right, there is no reason to believe the likes of United and Spurs can march on to the semis. Here’s a look at the tactics for each tie and how the underdog could get through:
Manchester United vs FC Barcelona
Arguably the pick of the round, it’s possible that this is less of a foregone conclusion than is being suggested. Barcelona are given just odds of 1/5 to go through to the semi-finals by Betway, whereas United can be found at 16/5. Yet, United will be full of confidence over what they did to Paris Saint Germain in the Last 16. If they are to get through, similar tactics should be used by Ole Solskjaer, namely using the pace of Rashford, Pogba, Martial to hit Barcelona on the counter-attack. Limiting Lionel Messi is, of course, a tall order, but Chris Smalling did a fantastic job on Kylian Mbappé in Paris, and he should partner up with Luke Shaw to try to frustrate Messi in a similar fashion.
Ajax vs Juventus
This could easily be the upset of the round, with Ajax buoyed by their deserved hammering of Real Madrid in the Last 16. Indeed, Ajax coach Erik Ten Hag has brought total football back to Amsterdam, and his tactics might upset a Juventus midfield used to having things their own way. Like Messi above, stopping Ronaldo is paramount, but Ajax can frustrate the Portuguese by pushing him wide. It’s just 1/6 from William Hill that Ronaldo and Juve find a way, but the 7/2 offered for Ajax to go through looks a steal, especially if you use these best free bet offers for top bookies.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City
City are the 2/1 favourites for the Champions League outright with Bet365, which highlights just how good they have been in the last couple of years under Guardiola. To be fair to City, they have bossed Spurs in the Premier League in recent seasons, so it’s going to be tough. The best way to rattle City seems to be taking a leaf out of Liverpool’s book and going for the high press against City’s defence, but even that will leave City with space to exploit. Another option is to hit long balls into the channels, with the aim of getting City out of their comfort zone. They must also be progressive, as City will demolish Spurs if they sit back too much.
Liverpool vs FC Porto
The toughest case to make for an upset, Liverpool have a best price of 2/9 to qualify, whereas Porto – 80/1 outsiders for the Champions League – are found at 4/1. To ger through, Porto boss Sergio Conceicao must aim for something more than Liverpool having an off night. Again, it seems to be a case of harrying Liverpool’s defenders and not allowing them to build from midfield. If Porto sit back, Mane, Firmino and Salah’s movement will unlock their defence, regardless of how resolute the Porto defenders are. Getting an away goal at Anfield, or even coming away with a narrow defeat in the first leg, looks paramount.