Champions League Tipsheet: Can Atleti do the Italian Job?

Diego Simeone
Is this Diego Simeone's year?

Juventus' face a rude awakening from their Champions League dreams unless Cristiano Ronaldo steps up, writes James Horncastle...

Of all the teams in Europe, Atleti are the one you'd back to defend a lead.

Anti-climax for the Old Lady?

Juventus v Atletico Madrid
Tuesday, 20:00
BT Sport 3

Juventus have come back and qualified after losing the first leg away from home on four occasions. And it just so happens that three of those instance were against a team from Madrid; Real Madrid.

Each of them, it should be noted, were from a one-goal deficit. Juventus have never turned around a defeat like the one they suffered to Atleti three weeks ago.

The silver-lining, in Massimiliano Allegri's opinion, was that his side didn't concede a third goal and can't possibly play as badly as they did in the second half at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Juventus tend to give their best in these situations. Last year, for instance, they came within seconds of taking Real Madrid to extra-time despite losing the first leg 3-0.

Injuries to Filipe Luis and Lucas Hernandez and the suspensions of Diego Costa and Thomas Partey are also grounds for optimism. Last week only one team - Spurs - was able to manage and hold onto the advantage they accrued in the first leg.

Allegri rested all his big hitters in Friday's 4-1 win against Udinese. The extra day to prepare may also help particularly if Juventus get themselves into a position where the game goes into extra-time. Atleti lost 4-0 in Dortmund in October - which is one of the reasons they finished runners' up in their group - in what Diego Simeone described as the worst display in his time at the club.

Juventus need to hope that, in addition to meeting their own high standards, something similar happens on Tuesday. Of all the teams in Europe, Atleti are the one you'd back to defend a lead. The Exchange makes them third favourites to win the competition @ [9] and lifting the trophy at the Wanda remains the driving force of their season.

Cristiano Ronaldo has to step up for Juventus. They did not spend €117m for him to score one goal and go out in the Round of 16. An epic night is needed. Juventus are [4.1] to Qualify.

Bayern coming good

Bayern v Liverpool
Wednesday, 20:00
BT Sport 2

Bayern could not wish to go into Wednesday's second leg in better form. Nico Kovac's side are coming good at exactly the right time and confidence in Bavaria is understandably high now that they are top of the Bundesliga for the first time since September.

While Liverpool have laboured in front of goal of late - alternating 0-0s with 4-2 and 5-0 wins against Burnley and Watford - the same cannot be said for Bayern. After hammering Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-1 last weekend, they put another six past Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Credit to Kovac, it's been quite the turnaround. Some felt he was out of his depth and would be unable to turn sceptics into believers when Bayern slipped nine points behind Dortmund in the winter. But he has overcome it all and has the German champions peaking in time for the final stretch.

The manner in which Bayern defended at Anfield three weeks ago was impressive. Long periods of possession stopped Liverpool from getting into a rhythm. When Bayern did lose the ball they were compact and organised. Liverpool were rarely able to break into space or isolate one of the opposing defenders against Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The only regret was Bayern did not return to Munich with an away goal.

Nevertheless history is on their side. Sixty-eight per cent of the teams that drew the first leg away 0-0 have ended up progressing to the next round. Liverpool's record on the road in Europe this season has also been cause for concern. The Reds have lost four in a row and will need to set that right if they are to make the quarter-finals.

Bayern have not dropped a single point at the Allianz Arena since November. But nor have they played a team of Liverpool's talent in that time. Jurgen Klopp's side also have Virgil van Dijk back from suspension, whose aura and impact on this team cannot be underestimated. And so for all that Bayern look formidable again, there is still a temptation to pick Liverpool to qualify @ [2.04].

Barcelona on for the treble

Barcelona v Lyon
Wednesday, 20:00
BT Sport 3

Metz are the only French team to win at the Camp Nou and that was all the way back in 1984. But Lyon don't need a victory to reach the last eight; a score-draw will suffice.

Bruno Genesio's side have built a reputation for upsets in the Champions League this season. They remain undefeated and took four points from six against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. Nabil Fekir is back from suspension and Memphis Depay and Tanguy Ndombele were able to put their feet up and have a rest at the weekend.

Reason enough to believe Lyon will reach the quarter-finals for the first time in almost a decade?

An injury to Marcelo, the team's most used centre-back, is a blow and he faces a race against time to be fit for the trip to Catalonia. They will also need to pose more of a threat than three weeks ago when Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was forced into a wonder save, but didn't face another shot after the first 10 minutes.

The Exchange doesn't give Lyon much hope despite the belief derived from winning at the Etihad. In fairness, Barca have only lost once at the Camp Nou all season, going down 4-3 to Betis in November. Athletic, Girona, Valencia and Spurs have achieved the kind of score-draws that would see Lyon through. They certainly have the fearlessness and unpredictability to pull off one of those results.

The odds are against the Gones and it's worth pointing out that Barcelona are second favourites to win the Champions League behind Man City @ [5.4]. But last week we saw what another young, talented team were able to achieve in Spain. Can Lyon draw inspiration from Ajax? The Exchange is pricing them @ [5.3] to Qualify.

James Horncastle,

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