UEFA Champions League
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Champions League & Europa League Preview (18th – 20th April)
Bayern Munich have a huge deficit to overturn as they welcome Man City to Germany while Benfica will hope for a miracle after suffering a shocking loss at home to Inter last week. Over the weekend, just 4 of the 12 teams we’ll be previewing here picked up wins, with 4 losing and 4 drawing. This means extra emphasis was laid on these fixtures and we should be in for some intense games. We look at what’s at stake for both teams and other European quarter-finalists here but 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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Chelsea v Real Madrid (Agg: 0-2)
This weekend, Frank Lampard continued his horrible start to life as interim-manager of Chelsea with a 3rd loss in a row, this time to Brighton. Chelsea finally found the back of the net for the first time since last month through Conor Gallagher in the 13th minute, but the Seagulls turned it around to grab all 3 points, as we predicted.
The Blues have enjoyed good Champions League home form over the past two seasons, losing just once while picking up a draw and seven wins in nine games. However, that one loss came against Real Madrid a year ago when Los Blancos grabbed a 3-1 win at the same stage of the competition. First leg deficits haven’t been much of a problem for Chelsea, though. In fact, history shows that they have thrived when faced with elimination. In five of their last seven Champions League knockout ties in which they lost the first leg away from home, the Blues have turned it around to progress in the second leg. But this isn’t the Chelsea of old, and with players either off-form, suspended, unmotivated, or all three, it’s hard to see them turning this result around.
A slightly rotated Real Madrid side picked up a 2-0 win over Cadiz on Saturday as they cut Barcelona’s lead to nine points. Although the reigning Spanish champions are not expected to retain their league title, it was important to get back to winning ways given Atlético Madrid’s current run of eight wins and a draw in nine games, which has taken them to within two points of Real Madrid. Vinícius Jr., David Alaba, Toni Kroos, and Dani Carvajal didn’t feature in the game, while Luka Modrić and Eduardo Camavinga both came on as second-half subs. All six players are set to start on Tuesday, and it’s expected that Carlo Ancelotti’s men will do enough to finish the job at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea Form: L-D-L-L-L
Real Madrid Form: W-W-L-W-W
Real Madrid have progressed from 18 of their last 19 UCL fixtures after taking a first leg win by 2 or more goals. The last time they had such a lead and blew it was against Monaco in the 2003/04 season. Chelsea, meanwhile, have scored just once in their last 5 games and with the London side needing to score at least 2 unreplied goals against Real Madrid, the odds understandably are against them.
- Double Chance: Real Madrid or Draw @1.39
- Real Madrid to score over 1.5 goals @2.23
- King’s Combo: Benzema to score, Militao to be carded and Real Madrid to win @14.40
Napoli v AC Milan (Agg: 0-1)
Napoli’s game with Hellas Verona almost went the way we predicted; Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (and Victor Osimhen) were both left out of the Starting 11 which meant Napoli struggled for goals, we had under 3.5 goals and the match ended in a draw. While the dropped points wouldn’t be much of a worry for Napoli given their 14-point lead, their home form since the start of March gives them reason for concern. They’ve lost twice and drawn once in their last five games, failing to score in each of those three games. Even more worryingly, Napoli will be without Zambo Anguissa and Kim Min-jae, who would both be suspended for this game, while Osimhen might have some rust to shake off, though his ferocious shot that hit the woodwork on Saturday might dispel that. Having already lost twice to Milan this April, Napoli will aim to avoid a third loss to the same team in one season for the first time since they did so to Lazio in the 1994/95 campaign.
Seven-time champions AC Milan weren’t expected to go as far as the semis when the season started, but now they’re 90 minutes away from getting there for the first time since the 2006/07 season. Milan has a very rich history in the Champions League and have only been eliminated twice after winning the first leg of a knockout tie. With their attack lacking the goals to match those of other big European teams, their defense, which has seen them keep five clean sheets in a row, has been a major part of this run and would once again be key to this fixture. In their draw away at Bologna this past weekend, Stefano Pioli made 10 changes to his starting lineup; a clear sign of his prioritization of a Champions League title over a more achievable top-four finish.
Napoli Form: W-L-W-L-D
AC Milan Form: L-W-D-W-D
Napoli have not lost a UCL match at home since 2017, winning 9 and drawing 3 in that period. This season, they’ve won each of their 4 home games, scoring at least 3 goals in each of them including a 4-1 win over Liverpool.
- Under 2.5 goals by Napoli @1.23
- Double Chance: Milan to win or Draw @2.00
- Total Bookings: Over 5.5 @1.86
Bayern Munich v Manchester City (Agg: 0-3)
The unexpected dismissal of Julian Nagelsmann has transformed Bayern Munich’s potential treble-winning season into one where they would be lucky to win the Bundesliga. After being eliminated from the DFB Pokal Cup, the Bavarians are virtually out of the Champions League following a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad. In the Bundesliga over the weekend, they dropped points at home to Hoffenheim, and they were fortunate that second-placed Dortmund also lost points to 10-man Stuttgart. Bayern’s off-field problems are even worse as they threaten team chemistry on the pitch. After last week’s defeat at the Etihad, Sadio Mané and Leroy Sané were involved in an altercation that resulted in the Senegalese forward throwing a punch and injuring Sane’s lips. Mané was subsequently suspended for a match and fined a reported £260,000. Given these on and off-field issues, Bayern’s chances of overcoming the huge deficit against the most in-form team on the planet are slim.
Manchester City is currently unbeaten in 14 games, winning 12, including 10 in a row. The Cityzens are known for their impressive end-of-season form, often producing some of their best performances during the final months of the season, and they did just that last week. While Bayern’s defenders could have done better to prevent the scoreline from getting worse, there is no doubt that Guardiola’s men were the better side. The victory was Man City’s 16th against German opposition in the Champions League, with only one defeat and three draws. Erling Haaland, who scored in the win and assisted Bernardo Silva’s header, is likely to finish the season as the top scorer in both the Premier League (32 goals) and the Champions League (11 goals) and is expected to find the net in Munich. He was limited to just 45 mins in the 3-1 win over Leicester City on Saturday but they were enough for him to grab a brace.
Bayern Munich Form: W-L-W-L-D
Manchester City Form: W-W-W-W-W
Since losing three consecutive games to Thomas Tuchel (during his time at Chelsea), Pep Guardiola has won each of his last 3 games against the German manager without conceding a goal. Manchester City are unbeaten in their 9 games against German sides in the knockout stages of this competition (W8, D1).
- King’s Combo: Haaland to score and Man City to win @2.75
- King’s Combo: Over 2.5 goals, both teams to score and 9+ corners @2.90
- Dayot Upamecano to be carded @3.95
Inter v Benfica (Agg: 2-0)
Benfica’s recent poor form could not have come at a worse time, as they have suffered three consecutive losses in all competitions. This has resulted in their lead in the Primera Liga being cut from 10 to 4 points, and they are in danger of being eliminated from the Champions League. This is a disappointing turn of events for a team that had a promising season ahead of them, and the players, fans, and staff must be feeling the weight of this. Two second half goals by Inter were enough to give them a 2-goal victory in Portugal, making Benfica’s quest for a semi-final spot harder than expected.
Inter’s recent form has been poor as well, which is why they are now focused on the Champions League. Despite only winning twice in their last 10 games, they have won five of their nine UCL matches and have kept five clean sheets in the process. Although they have struggled at home in Serie A, losing three straight games at the San Siro, they have been more successful in cup competitions, winning their last five UCL and Coppa Italia matches at home. Inter is expected to adopt a defensive approach to protect their 2-goal lead, just as they did in the previous round against FC Porto, which could result in a cautious and tense game.
Inter Form: L-D-D-W-L
Benfica Form: W-W-L-L-L
Benfica’s 2-0 loss to Inter was the 9th time in this competition in which the Eagles would lose a first leg by 2+ goals, and only once (back in the 1961/62 season vs. Nürnberg) have they been able to turn a similar deficit around. Inter, on the other hand, have won the first leg in this competition by a 2+ goal scoreline for the 9th time in club history and have never blown such a lead in the second leg.
Sevilla v Manchester United (Agg: 2-2)
Late own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire compounded Manchester United’s misery as they lost more than just a 2-goal lead on Thursday night at Old Trafford. The team suffered a series of injuries, with Lisandro Martínez fracturing a metatarsal bone in his foot, ruling him out for the rest of the season, while Raphaël Varane will also miss several weeks. Both defenders joined Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Alejandro Garnacho on the sidelines and with Bruno Fernandes suspended for the 2nd leg, what looked like a very comfortable tie following Marcel Sabitzer’s 21-minute brace has turned into a difficult one. Erik ten Hag’s men did well to bounce back from this disappointment with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Sunday, but even that victory came at a cost as Sabitzer was taken out of the starting lineup minutes before kickoff due to an injury, although it may have been a precautionary measure.
Sevilla’s strong start under their new manager, José Luis Mendilibar, continued with an impressive away win over Valencia, moving them up to 12th place. Mendilibar will be looking to maintain his unbeaten record with the club and join the impressive list of five previous Sevilla managers who won their first home game in this competition. However, despite their momentum, Sevilla must be cautious of their discipline, as they have received a high number of cautions this season, with 128 yellow cards and 11 red cards across four competitions. Mendilibar has highlighted this as a potential problem for the team in this tie.
Sevilla Form: L-W-D-D-W
Manchester United Form: L-W-W-D-W
Sevilla have won 23 of their last 26 home games in this competition, drawing twice and losing just once. They have a superior head-to-head record over Manchester United, winning twice and drawing twice in 4 meetings against the English giants.
Sporting CP v Juventus (Agg: 0-1)
Juventus’ two consecutive defeats in the Serie A indicate their strong focus on winning the Europa League, as they aim for their first European title since the 1999 Intertoto Cup. In their recent match against Sassuolo, they fielded a slightly rotated side, resulting in an expected defeat. However, they have an opportunity to secure a semi-final place in the Europa League on Thursday, having already won the first leg 1-0 in Turin. Although their form in the league has dipped in recent weeks, they have been in impressive form in Europe, winning their last four matches without conceding a goal. They’ll have a chance to make this 5 for first time since 2013 Europe with a win (and a clean sheet) when they travel to Portugal on Thursday.
Sporting CP faces a huge challenge, even if the scoreline doesn’t fully reflect it. They’ve been eliminated from each of their last 5 ties in Europe after losing the first leg and the last time they were able to overcome a first half deficit was in 2010 against Everton. Sporting CP are winless in their last four home games in Europe (D2, L2) and they’ll hope to avoid making that 5 for the first time in their history.
Sporting CP Form: W-D-W-L-D
Juventus Form: W-D-L-W-L
Just like other Italian teams in Europe this season, a strong defense has been key to Juventus’ deep run in this competition. Following their elimination from the Champions League, The Old Lady have conceded just one goal in 5 games in the Europa League; a 1-1 draw to Nantes in Turin.
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