The Champions League 2015 returns this week, and there are some cracking matches in store at this last sixteen stage. Here, we take a look at the first legs of the games between Shaktar Donetsk and Bayern Munich, as well as the mouthwatering clash between Schalke and last year’s Champions League winners, Real Madrid.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Bayern Munich – Tuesday 17th February
Ukrainian side FC Shakhtar Donetsk will be playing host to FC Bayern Munich for the first time in a competitive match, and while the home team are rank outsiders as far as the bookmakers are concerned, this is not a guaranteed victory for their German opponents by any means.
Shaktar have a wealth of Champions League experience, and while they are not one of the very top sides left in the competition, this group of players certainly won’t be phased by the arrival of undoubtedly the best team in the Bundesliga.
One slight negative for the hosts is their recent record against German opponents, with Shaktar Donetsk’s last victory over a Bundesliga side coming way back in 1980 when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Cup.
They drew 0-0 with Bayer Leverkusen during the group stages of last year’s Champions League on home soil, and while Shaktar would be up against it going into the second leg, a draw here against Munich would have to be considered a positive result.
Looking at the prices for this one, ydy have put Bayern Munich in as the 4/11 favourites, Shaktar Donetsk can be backed at odds of 15/2, while the draw is on offer at the 15/4 mark.
Bayern are no strangers to the latter stages of this competition and are well fancied to win the Champions League once again this season. The German giants have plenty of strength in depth as far as their squad is concerned, and should have too much for Shaktar over the two legs, but I don’t think the home side will go down without a fight.
Back Shaktar Donetsk +1 Asian Handicap at 11/8
Schalke vs Real Madrid – Wednesday 18th February
Real Madrid will arrive in Germany looking to make a big stride towards the quarter final stage of the 2014/15 Champions League, and get a step closer to successfully defending the trophy they won last season. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have an embarrassment of riches, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, have the best footballer in the world at their disposal.
Madrid are not a one man team however, and others such as Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez and Luka Modric would be stand out superstars in any other team. While there are bound to be a number of massive egos in this dressing room, Ancelotti has been able to manage them well since his arrival as coach, and it would be no surprise to see the club ranked highest by UEFA win the Champions League once again.
Schalke boss Roberto Di Matteo knows exactly what it takes to win the Champions League 2015, having led Chelsea to victory back in 2012, and the Italian is beginning to get this Schalke team playing in a very similar fashion. The German side are currently fighting in the top three of the Bundesliga and are proving very difficult to beat.
Obviously, Real Madrid are the worthy favourites but their 4/11 quote is a little short for my liking. There is definitely some value to be had in backing Schalke with a goal advantage on the Asian Handicap market.
Back Schalke 04 +1 Asian Handicap at 11/8