Expect goals at Camp Nou, but a tight affair in Schalke, says European football expert James Horncastle as he previews Tuesday's two Champions League encounters
"Barcelona have conceded at least one goal in 32 of their last 44 games and if they do so on Tuesday, they'll have to score at least four to reach the quarter-finals. They have of course managed that on 13 occasions this season, so it isn't beyond them."
Barcelona v AC Milan
Kick Off: 19:45
TV: Live on ITV1
Andres Iniesta was prepared to swear immediately after Barcelona's 2-0 first leg defeat to Milan at San Siro that his team would prevail in the second leg and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. "I would put my hand over fire," he said.
His confidence is admirable and shared by his teammates. It certainly says a lot about Barcelona, their reputation and what they've achieved over the last four years that the odds of them qualifying aren't longer than 2.486/4 following that defeat in Italy three weeks ago.
Only 19% of sides that lost the first leg away from home 2-0 have ever managed to overturn it to go through to the next round in this competition in the 572 other cases since the 1970-71 season.
The last time Barcelona had to come back from a two-goal deficit incidentally was after they lost the first leg of their Champions League semi-final 3-1 to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in 2010. They of course failed to overturn it in the second leg at the Camp Nou. Inter famously "didn't want the ball" and "parked the plane" not the bus. A 1-0 defeat was enough for them to progress to the final 3-2 on aggregate. Mourinho ran out onto the pitch in celebration. Barcelona turned the sprinklers on. Will Milan get the same treatment?
Sunday's 2-0 victory over bottom of the table Deportivo La Coruna brought some comfort after a torrid few weeks in which many have asked whether Barcelona's run as the world's best team and their ability to perform like no other in the history of the game is now over.
There were a couple of things to take from this result. Barcelona kept a clean sheet after 13 games without one. Milan, though, will be confident of scoring at the Camp Nou as they did on their two visits last season. Barcelona have conceded at least one goal in 32 of their last 44 games and if they do so on Tuesday, they'll have to score at least four to reach the quarter-finals. They have of course managed that on 13 occasions this season, so it isn't beyond them. With this in mind, 2.1411/10 looks a good price for over 3.5 goals.
Milan it must be remembered have let in more than three only twice in the current campaign to Fiorentina and Roma. Friday's 2-0 win at Genoa was a good test of their resolve. Down to 10 men for the last 25 minutes, they managed to hold on and not concede.
Milan have had an extra day's rest. However, the team is likely to suffer a number of absences. Kevin-Prince Boateng wasn't even in the squad for the Genoa game. Philippe Mexes went off at half time as a precautionary measure and Giampaolo Pazzini has been ruled out after he suffered a micro-fracture of the fibula. Allegri now has a selection headache in attack. Lest we forget, Mario Balotelli is also cup-tied.
Freshness doesn't appear to be an issue at Barcelona after Roura rotated a lot against Deportivo. Lionel Messi, Iniesta, Sergi Busquets, Gerard Pique, Pedro and Jordi Alba all started on the bench. Xavi was left out but is expected to be fit in time.
The pitch at the Camp Nou is in much better condition than that at San Siro and will also favour their play. And Milan surely can't play the perfect game twice, can they? Is that reason to believe in a comeback or a 'remuntada' as they say in Catalan? Perhaps.
Recommended Bet: Over 3.5 Goals at 2.1411/10
Galatasaray v Schalke
Kick Off: 19:45
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
Elsewhere in Europe on Tuesday night, Galatasaray are in Gelsenkirchen. Their hosts were in crisis when they met at the Turk Telecom Arena last month. Two wins in the Bundesliga since late November, a change of manager, the loss of Lewis Holtby and Galatasaray's signing of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba made them the underdogs. However, the 1-1 draw they achieved in Istanbul appears to have been a turning point in their season.
Schalke have won three on the bounce, including Saturday's Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund. The club's plan to freeze the €1.5m bonus the players were due after making it out of the group stages to re-incentivise them to get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and finish fourth in the Bundesliga appears to be working. That UEFA rejected their claim Drogba was ineligible to play in the first leg doesn't appear to matter. The momentum is with them.
Schalke are still unbeaten in the Champions League this season. They've tended to keep things quite close as demonstrated by each of their last three games in the Champions League finishing with under 2.5 goals.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's medial knee ligament injury might herald another low-scoring outcome. And with Galatasaray yet to click following the arrivals of Sneijder and Drogba - the Aslan haven't found the net in each of their last two games and surprisingly lost to Genclerbirligi on Saturday - 2.26/5 looks a good price for the encounter with under 2.5 goals.
Recommended Bet: Under 2.5 Goals at 2.26/5