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UEFA Champions League: Betting tips for first leg of round of 16

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The UEFA Champions League round of 16 continues with four more two-leg matchups between Frankfurt and Napoli, followed by Liverpool taking on Real Madrid on Tuesday. The slate Wednesday will feature Inter Milan against Porto with Leipzig and Manchester City capping off the first leg matches.

With all that in mind, let’s get to this week’s games. As always, remember that these bets are for regulation only.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook


Tuesday

Frankfurt (+220) vs. Napoli (+115), Draw (+220)

Napoli only had one loss in group play, outscoring opponents 20-6 and have also won 7 consecutive Serie A matches. Do you see the hot streak continuing in Champions League play?

Paul Carr: Napoli have been both playing well and running hot all season, and I see no reason for them to stop playing well. Since the World Cup, they’ve conceded more than one expected goal twice in eight league games, while tallying 1.4 or more expected goals in six of eight games. Even with Eintracht’s Randall Kolo Muani on a tear (seven goals in his past eight games), I can’t go against one of the best teams in Europe right now. I’m keeping this simple and taking a Napoli win at plus-money (+115).

Dan Thomas: Napoli are the best team in Europe at the moment and are absolutely flying. I think there is value for a win for them in Germany.

Liverpool (+130) vs. Real Madrid (+195), Draw (+255)

A rematch of last year’s Champions League Final that saw Real Madrid win 1-0 and claim their 14th UCL title. Real Madrid continued strong play, winning their group and is also in second place in La Liga. Liverpool, on the other hand, are middle of the table in Premier League. How do you see this matchup of last year’s finalists?

Carr: I don’t see how anyone could possibly trust Liverpool given their leaky defense (11th-most expected goals conceded in the Premier League) and Real Madrid’s potent attack, which leads La Liga in goal and expected goals. I’m always hesitant to go against Real Madrid in Champions League, but the absence of Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni will obviously hurt their midfield at both ends. With all the uncertainty, this is a stay-away game for me.

If I had to pick something, I’d lean toward the Real Madrid double chance at -160.

Thomas: This is such a difficult game to call, given the unpredictability of both sides. Real Madrid have only impressed in patches this season and Liverpool have fallen off a cliff. Both defenses are pretty dodgy, so I’ll take the over in goals at Anfield.

Wednesday

Inter Milan (-125) vs. Porto (+245), Draw (+220)

Porto hasn’t lost since October, but are an underdog to Inter Milan, who survived a tough group of Bayern Munich and Barcelona to advance to the round of 16. Who do you see coming out on top here?

Carr: Portuguese clubs tend to get underrated in Champions League, in part because their domestic league isn’t as strong or visible, and I think that comes into play here. Porto haven’t lost a league game since October, and though most of those matches were against inferior opponents, Porto also swept Leverkusen in the UCL group stage and split with Atletico while having far better chances in the two games. Inter have looked better lately, and Porto does have a couple injury concerns in Evanilson and Otavio, but I don’t think the gap is very large here. I like Porto on the double chance (win or draw) at even money.

Thomas: This game doesn’t exactly get the heart racing. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it will be a snoozefest. I’d take the under over 90 minutes.

Leipzig (+350) vs. Manchester City (-135), Draw (+275)

Man City is the biggest favorite of the week, facing Germany’s RB Leipzig. Man City lost in the semis last season. Is this the beginning of their run?

Carr: I don’t think so. RB Leipzig started the Bundesliga season slowly, with two wins through seven league games. Since then, they have one league loss in 14 games, and they played Bayern to a deserved 1-1 draw last month. Forward Christopher Nkunku, who’s second in the Bundesliga with 12 goals, returned from injury on Saturday and could be in line to start this week. Croatian star Josko Gvardiol anchors a defense that should trouble Man City, and I’m also a bit concerned about City in big games. They did beat Arsenal last week, but that was closer than the 3-1 score indicates, and they lost to Tottenham and Man United last month. I’m not as confident that Leipzig can hang on over two legs, but I like their chances at home, especially with a great price of +350. I’m taking them to win, and I don’t mind the draw no bet (+220) if you’re feeling more conservative.

Thomas: City are having such a weird season. I don’t think many saw this drop-off coming, especially with Haaland up front. I like City win and the over 1.5 at +110.

Former ESPN senior researcher Paul Carr is director of content for TruMedia.

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