Champions League previews: Tuesday 27 March
The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage, with Barcelona and Real Madrid the teams that everyone wanted to avoid.
Chelsea managed to avoid the Spanish giants and Benfica is a reasonable draw at this stage of the competition although the Portuguese side might be feeling the same way considering the Blues have had a shabby season and needed extra-time to beat Napoli.
The west London side are in Portugal this week hoping to get a positive result to take back to Stamford Bridge, with Real Madrid going on a trip to Cyprus that would have been unthinkable at the start of the season.
Benfica v Chelsea 19:45
One of these teams are guaranteed to be playing Champions League football next season and it’s not Chelsea, who sit joint-fifth in the Premier League and might need to win this competition in order to be joining the European elite next term.
Andre Villas-Boas proved to be an expensive mistake for Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea team are now largely rudder-less, with the senior players helping Roberto Di Matteo to organise things in a vain attempt to conquer Europe.
Chelsea can be backed at 9/4 (Bet Victor £50 free bets) to win at the Estádio da Luz although they have been far from convincing away from home this term and might simply opt to keep things tight and hope that a passionate crowd at Stamford Bridge can will them to victory.
Didier Drogba got himself into a spot of bother when seemingly making light of his team’s quarter final draw ten days ago, although the Ivorian will surely lead the line for this away trip and can be backed at 13/2 (bet365 free bets) to score the first goal of the game.
However, Benfica are pretty strong at home and were unfortunate not to beat Manchester United at the group stage, with Jorge Jesus’ team attacking with real venom throughout the contest and they did end up topping the Red Devils’ section.
A 1-0 home win wouldn’t be such a bad result for the visitors and Benfica are a 6/4 poke (Paddy Power bookmaker) to claim a first leg victory which would see them inch towards the semi-final of the competition.
APOEL Nicosia v Real Madrid 19:45
Let’s face it, many of us hadn’t even heard of APOEL Nicosia ahead of this season’s Champions League and the draw for the group stage had the Cypriot champions being passed over in favour of Zenit and Porto.
However, Ivan Jovanović’s side amazingly finished top of the section and their headline-grabbing antics doesn’t end there, having knocked out Lyon on penalties in the previous round to set up a tasty clash with Real Madrid in the quarter final.
Do the minnows have any chance of pulling off a shock win over the two legs? Probably not, although they can possibly avoid defeat at the GSP Stadium and make things a little nervy for their opponents at the Bernabeu in the return game.
APOEL are 12/1 (Bet Victor free bet) to claim the biggest win in the entire history of the club and they did beat Lyon in front of their own supporters to ensure that the tie finished 1-1 on aggregate.
However, we are talking about a Real Madrid side who are riding high at the top of the Spanish Primera Liga and it could be that Jose Mourinho’s side prove too strong for their opponents.
Real will be heavily backed at 3/10 (Paddy Power £100 free bets) and their away form is almost as good as the results at home, with the Spanish side warming up for this contest with a 5-1 thrashing of Sociedad.
No prizes for guessing which players made it on to the scoresheet, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain all likely to play in this first leg and Paddy Power offer odds of 5/6 that the visitors lead at half-time and full-time.