Champions League Knockout Stage – 3/16/21
Welcome back for more Champions League Football! This week we finish up the first knockout stage round with 2 games on Tuesday, and the last 2 on Wednesday. Both are the return legs from 2/24 and due to Daylight Savings Time shenanigans both games will be kicking off at 4pm EST. Let’s start by breaking down the current odds:
Real Madrid (+105) vs. Atalanta
Manchester City (-455) vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
-Last week we saw PSG easily hold off a big lead to advance past Barcelona, Liverpool dispatched RB Leipzig, Porto shocked the world with a WILD extra-time winning knockout of Juventus and Borussia Dortmund sent Sevilla packing. Now we get Man City with a 2-0 away goal lead and Real Madrid with the 1-0 away goal lead thanks to one of the worst red cards I’ve seen in a while. Let’s jump into our Game by Game Breakdown for more info.
Real Madrid vs. Atalanta-
Spain’s last hope, Real Madrid, gets to host the Italian side Atalanta in what should be a very even match. Atalanta will feel very harshly done by the terrible red card handed out to Freuler just before the 20 minute mark in the first match. I think that might add a little extra fire to this match. Madrid will be without Eden Hazard who JUST returned from an injury to only then injure himself again in a 15 minute appearance over the weekend. Los Blancos will also be without Casemiro due to yellow card accumulation (big, big miss for that midfield and defense), but should get Sergio Ramos back at center back. Atalanta will be without the aforementioned Remo Freuler, as well as Hans Hateboer both due to suspension. Berat Djimsiti is a serious fitness question, but did make the trip.
Madrid is unbeaten in their last 8, with 6 wins and 2 draws in that time. They have really turned their season around and are currently sitting 3rd in La Liga (Barcelona currently lead 1-0 over Huesca in their match today), just 6 points off the leaders Atletico Madrid. Like I said before, they will miss the leadership and presence of Casemiro in the middle but getting Karim Benzema ($22/$9400) back to lead the line is huge. Vinicius Junior ($18/$6000) should also start up top, maybe even as a winger and is a nice play on DK. Toni Kroos ($17/$7800) has full set piece duty and should be popular on DK again. Marco Asensio ($11/$6600) would be a great FD play if he’s set to start on the right. Defensively, Sergio Ramos ($15/$4000) is probably one of the best plays; he has had PK duty in the past and will serve as the main defender in the onslaught that Atalanta should provide. Raphael Varane ($8/$3000) is the cheap defensive play but not a ton of upside. Ferland Mendy ($12/$4600) got a nice price hike due to his game winner last match, but I’m not interested in chasing that. Thibault Courtois ($11/$5200) is one of my least favorite players as you may have heard before. He was a whiny kid when he wiggled his way away from Stamford Bridge and since then he’s been pretty average at best, so that makes me feel good. He of course had a shut-out and a win last time out, but I chalk that up more to the ref screwing Atalanta then him actually being good. He will see a ton of shots here and is a nice GPP play off the Atalanta attack.
An angry Atalanta side is coming to Madrid, watch out folks. I’m going to die on this hill… but I love Atalanta here. The striking duo of Duvan Zapata ($16/$8400) and Luis Muriel ($17/$8800) has been fantastic domestically this season. Not only did the red card hurt Atalanta but Zapata went off 30 minutes in with an injury too. He’s since recovered from it and did play a sub role on the weekend. Mario Pasalic ($13/$4600) is my dude. I’ve loved his game from his Chelsea days and he just never stayed healthy enough to compete on the highest level. He had a brace on the weekend and should slot right into the midfield that is missing Freuler and Hateboer. Matteo Pessina ($8/$4100) was one of my favorite value plays last time these two met and I still like him but I think he will go lower owned this time around. Cristian Romero ($14/$3400) is a CB with goal upside as well as excellent defensive stats, oh and he went down $700 on DK, I love this play there. Robin Gosens ($12/$5200) is a wing back in this system and is very successful going forward; both he and Joakim Maehle ($8 /$4300) should be bombing forward all afternoon. Pierluigi Gollini ($9/$4400) has been the keeper lately in the UCL but Marco Sportiello ($9/$4300) has started the last 4 matches in Serie A. Both would be viable and should see plenty of action as Real Madrid won’t sit back too much with only a 1 goal lead in the tie.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1- Atalanta 2
Manchester City vs. Borussia M’Gladbach-
They are not invincible! We can beat them! (If I was Gladbach’s coach that’s what I’d be harping after Man United took down their cross town rivals recently.) City lost their unbelievable unbeaten streak but has since bounced back with two good thumping’s of some bad teams in Southampton and Fulham with a total of 8 goals scored to 2 conceded. Meanwhile Gladbach has now lost 6 consecutive matches (including the 2-0 to City at home). They sit 10th in the Bundesliga and are just hoping for the end of the season honestly.
The Premier League leaders are licking their chops at this match. They are extremely well rested (KDB, Mahrez, Sterling, Gundogan and Foden all had the weekend off), and look to wrap this up nice and early en route to a quarterfinal bid and a pursuit for 4 trophies alive. Kevin De Bruyne ($23/$10000) is back up to speed and scored two his last time out vs. Southampton. It’s tough to say what the rest of the lineup looks like but I’d guess Raheem Sterling ($20/$8300) on the left and Riyad Mahrez ($20/$8600) on the right with either Gabriel Jesus ($19/$8000) or Sergio Aguero ($18/$7500) up top. But it could be Phil Foden ($16/$8700) in there either on the left or as a false 9. Any of these are great plays of course and the slate will be decided on who you pair together unfortunately. Ilkay Gundogan ($15/$7600) caught absolute fire for a while but has come back down to earth recently; he still scores goals (1 vs. Southampton) but just that 1 in his last 6. I think he still well within reason to play but you’d have to sacrifice a mid guy with a safer floor like Kroos to get him. Defensively, Joao Cancelo ($15/$5800) has been outstanding this season, but is not projected to start. Instead Oleksandr Zinchenko ($8/$4900) s slated to start again on the left and is a nice savings reliever on FD. Not sure you can afford him if you want big F/M on DK. Kyle Walker ($10/$4700) probably will go under-owned with Zinchenko right there but he’s still a good play. While Aymeric Laporte ($9/$3200) is a nice punt for DK and a better floor play on FD with clearances being scored. Gladbach will throw everything they have at City; I just don’t see it being enough to really test the Citizens. Ederson ($13/$5900) is the chalk goalie of the slate easily. Especially on FD, but his ceiling is not as high as either keeper in the Atlanta/Real Madrid game.
This squad is an absolute mess, like I said they’ve dropped 6 straight contests and continue to drop like a stone in the Bundesliga. They have scored 5 goals in the last 8 games in all competitions. Alassane Plea ($17/$5500) is lead striker on this squad and had 5 goals in the group stage. Jonas Hofmann ($10/$6300) takes most set pieces and is very cheap on FD if you like to risk some free kicks for Gladbach. He’s the most expensive Gladbach player on DK. Lars Stindl ($13/$5700) is the only other offensive option I like for this team; he had 2 goals and 2 assists in the group stage, but let’s be honest, I’m not playing much Gladbach. Matthias Ginter ($7/$2700) is only playable on FD and that’s because he is a cheap CB on a big underdog. Nico Elvedi ($9/$2600) is the other CB on the squad and has a more offensive role on set pieces. Keep an eye for lineups; Oscar Wendt ($8/$2900) would interest me a lot as a cheap FB who loves to attack. Yan Sommer ($7/$3600) is the cheapest keeper on the slate and while he should see plenty of shots, City tend to dissect their opponents with quality rather than pelt them with quantity. (2 goals against, 2 saves last match)
Prediction: Manchester City 3 – Borussia M’Gladbach 0
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-Ram (DFSKarma Soccer Lead)