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UEFA Champions League Preview – (Road to Semis)

There have only been eight trebles of league, cup and UEFA Champions League. Anyone for a ninth? Ajax AFC, Barcelona and Manchester City are still in the hunt for treble; in City’s case, it’s a quadruple chase for Pep Guardiola and his team. Juventus welcome Ajax to the Juventus stadium with a fairly good result away from home; the Dutch club has never won at Juventus. Barcelona won the first leg but cannot begin to think they have an advantage against a side that has produced better results on the road in this competition this season. Porto will be banking on their strong home form (four wins in the competition this season) to help recover a two-goal deficit against Liverpool. However, the host will still have painful memories of last season’s thrashing from the same opponent in front of their fans. There would be no hiding place for either Manchester City or Tottenham Hostpur at the Etihad stadium with both teams eyeing a place in the last four.

Here is our preview of the 2nd leg of the quarter-finals.

JUVENTUS v AJAX AFC – TUE. 16 APR 2019, 20.00HRS
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With Ajax’s performance at the Spanish capital last month against Real Madrid, Juventus will be aware of the Dutch giant strengths. Max Allegri rotated his squad heavily for this weekend league match against SPAL in a game where a single point would have won them the Championship but that didn’t happen. This is the trophy the Bianconeri fans want so badly, having lost in the finals twice in recent times, the Old Lady brought in a serial winner of the competition in Cristiano Ronaldo to lead them to glory. Ajax are enjoying a rollercoaster ride, they are in the only team that went through qualifiers left in the competition and have shown their qualities and abilities in Munich and Madrid where they face Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and left both cities without suffering a defeat. This game is finely poised at 1-1 but the visitors have never won at Juventus.

VERDICT – Ajax will make history if they can earn a victory in Turin against Juventus in their sixth trip. Erik ten Hag is suspended for Ajax while Juventus have some players in doubt. The home team is still the favorites and has only lost one home game in all competitions this season and that was back in November. Ajax have nothing to fear after winning away to Real Madrid in the last round; it appears they play better away from home. Juventus are not at their best at the moment but they have Cristiano Ronaldo; the x-factor for the game.  

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It wasn’t the typical free flowing or all conquering performance from Barcelona at Old Trafford last week but that appear to be case lately in away games in the Champions League knockout stages. Los Cules managed a victory regardless, an away goal and didn’t concede which gives the edge going into the return leg at the Camp Nou. Barca coach – Ernesto Valverde has warned that they cannot think they have an advantage which is a note of caution considering the margin of the first leg result and their opponent’s strong away form in this competition this season; winning in Paris against PSG and in Turin against Juventus. Barcelona should be fresher for this game with several stars getting the weekend off to keep them ready for Tuesday night.

VERDICT – Manchester United will have to produce another extraordinary performance in Catalonia against a team unbeaten in 30 home matches, winning 27 of it. Barcelona won for the first time at Old Traford last week and now; it is up to Manchester United to do same at the Camp Nou after four attempts. Solskajer acknowledges the enormity of the challenge for his team but victories in Paris and Turin means United have the ability to stun the Spanish Champions. Barcelona are favorites at home; they haven’t lost in all competitions in front of their fans since November but should not write off Manchester United who have the knack of producing the goods on the big night.

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A lack of an away goal makes Porto the underdog for this second leg cracker at Estádio do Dragão. There would be some belief with the Portuguese team camp that they can turn this around having done similar job against AS Roma in the last round. However, it should be pointed that Liverpool are not Roma, they have superior quality and won at Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. Liverpool continue to press hard for the English Premier League title for the first time in almost three decades but the Reds still have their eyes on this competition and could end up winning a double at the end of the season if they overcome the Dragão hurdle.

VERDICT – Liverpool make a fourth trip to Porto but are yet to suffer in defeat in Portugal against Azuis e brancos. Porto are very strong at home; they will need a perfect performance to turn the tie around if they aim to book a place in the last four. The home team need be more efficient in front of goal and keep a clean sheet against Jurgen Klopp’s formidable front three. Liverpool will be high on confidence after returning to the top of the Premier League at the weekend. They have won seven matches in a row and should be strong enough to earn another victory away from home.

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Manchester City reacted positively to the midweek disappointment against Tottenham Hotspur by securing a victory against Crystal Palace to keep the Premier League title race ongoing and their hunt for the quadruple alive. Pep Guardiola’s team will be facing Mauricio Pochettino and his team in part two of the trilogy on Wednesday with the final one on Saturday in two different competitions. City will aim to overturn the 1-0 deficit; City have been dominate at home in the competition with their last defeat coming at this same point last season against another English team. Spurs travel to Manchester in confident mood, winning their last three matches in all competitions and keeping their top four ambitions on track. Harry Kane would be a big miss for the Londoners with Dele Alli still a doubt but Lucas Moura warmed up nicely for this game with his excellent hat-trick over the weekend.  

VERDICT – Spurs have lost only one of their last eight away Champions League fixtures while the hosts have won six of the last seven. Manchester City have lost just one of their last eight meetings with Tottenham Hotspur in Manchester (6W, 1D). We can expect another tactical battle between two of the brightest managers in the game. City have just one-goal deficit to overturn but Spurs will make things difficult to the home side. The Citizens have what it takes but will need to approach this game in a controlled manner better than against Liverpool 12 months ago.

This wraps us our Quarter-finals preview. You can win big by predicting in the money spinning competition by visiting our Sports shop for mouthwatering offers for all these UCL matches.

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