UCL x Europa Tips
UCL x Europa League Preview – (14th – 16th Mar)
Real Madrid welcome Liverpool to the Santiago Bernabéu with a 3 goal advantage in their corner. It’ll take something special to overcome the deficit, and Klopp’s side will have to shake off the Bournemouth disappointment if they’re to do that. We also take a lot at Man City and neigbours, Man Utd who are hoping to advance to the next round of the Europa League. Before that, you can head to our Cross Sport Specials page to check out some of the special offers we have.
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FC Porto vs Inter
Since the first meeting between both sides, neither team has been in good form. Porto lost one of their three games against Gil Vicente, while Inter suffered defeats against Bologna and Spezia. This indicates that both teams are placing a high priority on the Champions League particularly since Benfica and Napoli appear to be comfortably leading their respective domestic leagues.
Inter’s record in Portugal is poor, having only managed one win in their last 8 trips (D3, L4). Conversely, Porto has a good record against Italian teams, having won against their last 4 Italian visitors – Roma, Juventus, Milan, and Lazio. In their previous 5 matches against Inter, Porto has lost 3, all of which were played at San Siro. However, Porto’s sole win and draw against Inter have come at home. Although Inter holds a narrow lead heading into this match, they will need to put up a fight to advance to the next round, as their neighbors AC Milan did against Spurs last week. Similarly, we anticipate a low-scoring game.
Porto will be counting on Inter’s shaky away form to give them a slight edge in this game. A draw at Sampdoria was followed by successive losses at Bologna and, just this Friday, Spezia. They will however have to keep an eye out for Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian’s return to Inter has been plagued by injuries, but he’s managed to score 5 goals with 2 coming in his 2 games in the Champions League. Lukaku proved to be the deciding factor in their previous encounter three weeks ago and, following his recent goal against Spezia, he may be slowly but surely returning to his previous form.
FC Porto Form: W-L-L-W-W
Inter Form: W-W-L-W-L
FC Porto have been eliminated in 6 of their last 7 Champions League knockout ties when losing the 1st leg, with their only progress coming against Roma in 2019.
- Under 2.5 Goals @1.80
- Porto to score in both halves (No) @1.22
- King’s Combo: Lukaku to Score, Bastoni to be carded and Under 3.5 goals @23.10
Manchester City vs RB Leipzig
One loss in 12 has Man City looking good again on paper, but they just don’t pass the eye-test. They’ve won 9 of those 12 games but seemed to have labored for them compared to the first half of the season where Erling Haaland bullied his way through everyone. There has also been the selection issues we’ve become accustomed to under Pep Guardiola, but this time around, something seems off. Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne were both leading the charge towards getting hold of Arsenal in the league and shortly after they did just that, both players seem to have lost their starting spots. In their weekend win over Crystal Palace, De Bruyne came in as a late sub while Mahrez was left on the bench. The Cityzens had to rely on a clumsy penalty by Michael Olise in the 78th min which Erling Haaland converted to get all 3 points and this will cause some concerns for Guardiola.
Visitors Leipzig can count themselves lucky to be on level terms heading into this tie. A very late handball in stoppage time of the first leg – which could have resulted in a Man City penalty – was not reviewed by the VAR, and they held on to a 1-1 result. They showed the English champions they were no pushovers and their persistence paid off through a Joško Gvardiol equalizer in the 70th min. Gvardiol, who also scored in the 3-0 win over Gladbach on Saturday, is becoming one of the finest center backs in Europe following his outstanding display in the World Cup, and it’s only a matter of time before someone, perhaps Man City, snaps him up. With him in defense, Leipzig are currently on a 5-game unbeaten run in the UCL (W4, D1) – their longest run since they reached the semis in the 2019/20 season (7 games). Though Man City are favorites for this tie, it’ll take something special to deliver on that expectation.
Manchester City Form: D-W-W-W-W
RB Leipzig Form: W-D-W-L-W
Manchester City has gone 23 games unbeaten in Champions League home games, winning 21 of those. They’re one game away from equalling Arsenal’s record for the longest home unbeaten run by an English club (24) set between September 2004 and April 2009 under the legendary Arsène Wenger.
- King’s Combo: Erling Haaland to score and Man City to win @2.20
- King’s Combo: Man City to win, Over 2.5 goals & Both Teams to Score @2.96
- Over 8.5 corners @1.41
Napoli vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will always be brought up when we talk about Napoli. Both players have combined for 54 goals in all competitions and are arguably the deadliest duo in all of Europe. Backed by those two, Europe’s most in-form team head into this game with the chance of getting to the last 8 of the Champions League for the first time in club history. A 2-0 win in Germany gives them a huge advantage at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona where they’ve lost just once in 90 mins since April of last year. They will however be weary of history repeating itself. Back in 2012, they had what seemed like a comfortable 3-1 lead against a dysfunctional Chelsea team. But Roman Abramovich worked his magic by sacking manager, André Villas-Boas and hiring Roberto Di Matteo on an interim basis before the second leg. That sole move changed the history of Chelsea as they went on to win the second leg 4-1 before eventually lifting the Champions League in Munich. A 2-0 lead is comfortable, but Napoli won’t be taking anything for granted with the team on the verge of making history.
Frankfurt will have to be borderline flawless to get anything out of this tie. Randal Kolo Muani’s sending off in the first leg was a huge blow for the German side, but they’ll have to forge ahead. With 16 goals and 14 assists in 34 games, he’s been their most productive attacker, and they’ll have to think of creative ways to make up for his absence. No other attacker has numbers close to Kolo Muani’s, but in midfield, they have Daichi Kamada and Jesper Lindstrøm who have 18 and 13 goal contributions, respectively. Daichi Kamada has 3 goals in the Champions League, and it’s expected he’ll be leaned on the most in the attacking phase.
Napoli Form: W-W-W-L-W
Eintracht Frankfurt Form: W-L-L-D-D
Though they’ve not been the most convincing in road games in the Bundesliga, Frankfurt have a very good record away from home in their debut season in the Champions League. They have scored in all 3 of their Champions League away games this season (5 games), winning 2 and losing just once.
- Napoli to win @1.49
- King’s Combo: Kvaratskhelia to give 1 or more Assists @4.00
- King’s Combo: Over 2.5 Goals, both teams to score and 9+ corners @3.72
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
When recalling the first leg of this tie, a funny Nigerian proverb, “No be who first call police de win case,” comes to mind. Liverpool started out strong, scoring two goals early in the game and thrilling the Anfield crowd. However, what happened next was both stunning and impressive. The reigning European champions, Real Madrid, demonstrated their quality by scoring 5 unanswered goals and dominating all five phases of the game, including a perfectly executed corner kick that took advantage of Liverpool’s zonal marking system. This was the first time since 1966, against Ajax, that the Reds had conceded five goals in a European Cup/Champions League tie. Although a 5-2 victory looks good on paper, Real Madrid will need to remain cautious and not become too complacent heading into the next game. Los Blancos’ journey to their unprecedented 14th European title included several come-from-behind victories when they seemed to be down and out, so they are well aware not to underestimate their opponents.
Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth ahead of this game might have actually been a blessing in disguise for them. After their impressive 7-0 victory over Manchester United, some of their supporters thought they were ready to take on Real Madrid and make a comeback from the heavy deficit. However, the loss to Bournemouth brought them back down to reality and exposed some of the issues they still face on the road. Nevertheless, they can draw hope from their 2019 performance when they lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final but then went on to win 4-0 at home. This has only happened four times in the history of the Champions League. With a fully fit squad to choose from, a cautious first half is expected, but things could become explosive in the second half when substitutes are introduced and Liverpool become more aggressive in their attack.
Real Madrid Form: W-D-L-D-W
Liverpool Form: L-D-W-W-L
Real Madrid have progressed from 26 of their previous 27 European Cup/Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg away from home. The only exception came in 2019 when the beat Ajax in the first leg (2-1) but lost 4-1 at home.
- Double Chance: Real Madrid or Draw @1.42
- Both teams to score @1.45
- Over 2.5 goals @1.51
- Highest Scoring half (Second) @1.97
Real Betis vs Manchester United
Real Betis have only progressed from one of their previous six major European ties when they lost the first leg. That one time came in this competition back in the 1998/99 season against Danish side, Vejle BK. This time around, there’s little hope about their ability to turn this around. Since the World Cup break, they’ve won just once at home – a 2-1 victory over relegation battlers, Valladolid. In that period, they lost 4 games in a row but have been surprisingly better on the road where they’ve won 5 games. A poor home form with an angry visiting Man Utd side is never a good mixture and with a few key players still expected to be out, it’s hard to see Real Betis doing enough to turn this tie around.
A 6-min window pretty much decided this tie in the first leg. Antony’s trademark curler from outside the box in the 52nd min was quickly followed by Bruno Fernandes nodding home a Luke Shaw corner-kick minutes later to make it 3-1. Though Man United later made it 4-1 through Weghorst, you could argue they should have won by a bigger margin as they created chances for fun. With a few players either injured or in need of a proper rest, that 4-1 scoreline gives Man Utd the luxury to do just that. Alejandro Garnacho and Marcel Sabitzer are still injured while Varane, Rashford and Bruno Fernandes could do with some time on the bench to keep their legs fresh. Marcus Rashford has 24 goals in major European competitions for the Red Devils and could be the 6th player to hit 25 and the youngest to do so for the club. His form since the World Cup has been phenomenal and makes him an easy pick to get on the scoresheet. However, given the likelihood of United resting players at some point in this game, maybe choosing him as a scorer wouldn’t exactly be the smartest idea.
Real Betis Form: W-W-D-L-D
Manchester United Form: W-W-L-W-D
Of all teams to win by a 3+ goal margin in the first leg of Europa League knockout ties since the 2009/10 season, only one has been eliminated – Basel in 2013/14. So, while Real Betis could win this game, their chances of eliminating Man Utd remains very slim.
SC Freiburg vs Juventus
Juventus has quietly turned a corner since their 15-point penalty in the Serie A, and they’ve been one of the in-form teams in Europe. 8 wins and a draw in their last 10 games has them looking like one of the favorites for the Europa League, as well as a late threat for a Champions League spot in Italy. Ángel Di María is at the forefront of everything good in their attack, while Adrien Rabiot and Gleison Bremer have stepped in recent weeks in midfield and defense. Despite disciplinary issues and a further injury to Paul Pogba being a distraction in recent weeks, the Old Lady has found a way to put that aside while on the pitch and get important wins. One of those wins was the first leg in Turin, where Ángel Di María recorded his 4th Europa League goal in 2 games. He also has the most shots (12) and take-ons (15) since his first appearance this season in the competition (16th February). He’ll once again pose a threat in Germany, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.
Freiburg may have never lost the second leg of a major European knockout tie (W2, D2) but the sample size of 4 doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Besides, their home form – though good on paper – has some holes which can be exploited by Juventus. Since losing their first home game of the season to Dortmund in early August, Freiburg haven’t lost at home in 15 games (in all competitions) which is a remarkable record for a team their size. However, they haven’t kept a clean sheet at home since the 6th of November. In fact, each of their last 6 games at the Europa-Park Stadion has seen both them and the visiting team get on the scoresheet, and this inability to keep clean sheets at home could be the decider in this tie.
SC Freiburg Form: W-D-D-L-W
Juventus Form: W-W-L-W-W
Since their epic collapse against Fulham in 2009/10, Juventus have progressed from each of the last 9 major European knockout ties when they’ve won the first leg.
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