Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
The razzle-dazzle of the Champions League returns this week, with 4 Last 16 second leg fixtures scheduled to be contested over what promises to be two evenings of fascinating continental action on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the first pair of Last 16 second leg contests on Tuesday evening, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City defend first leg leads against Juventus and Schalke 04 respectively.
On Wednesday, Bayern Munich and Liverpool clash in Germany with their tie locked at 0-0 after the first leg, while Barcelona and Lyon renew acquaintances at the Nou Camp after their own stalemate in France last month.
As always, there are tons of potentially lucrative betting markets and exciting specials available for each fixture, leaving punters with plenty of choice ahead of the Champions League carnage.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of player specials for this week’s Champions League fixtures. Take a look at our selections below:
Cristiano Ronaldo – under 6.5 shots – 1/1 (JUVENTUS vs Atletico Madrid)
Juventus splashed out over £80m to sign Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, hoping that the indomitable Portuguese superstar would help to fire them to their first Champions League title since 1996.
Ronaldo’s arrival hasn’t quite had the impact Juve had hoped for however – the Old Lady are on the verge of another early Champions League exit, and Ronaldo has scored just once in 6 appearances in the competition.
The 33-year old’s low haul is even more galling when you consider that he has averaged a whopping 5.8 attempts on goal per game in the Champions League for Juventus this season.
Only Lionel Messi has averaged more shots per game on Europe’s biggest stage this term, though the Argentinean’s attempts have returned 6 goals.
On Tuesday, Ronaldo comes up against one of the continent’s meanest defensive units in Atletico Madrid. The Spaniards kept Ronaldo and Juventus out in the first leg, and Diego Simeone’s men have conceded the fewest shots per game on average (8.7) in this season’s Champions League.
Atletico are certain to dig the trenches and spool out the razor wire in Turin this week, and Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates should find it incredibly difficult to get a sight at goal.
With that in mind, we think Ronaldo looks a great bet at evens with bet365 to have under 6.5 shots on Tuesday.
Matija Nastasic – over 1.5 tackles – 8/11 (Man City vs SCHALKE 04)
Schalke 04 defender Matija Nastasic faces the unenviable task of attempting to stop Manchester City’s devastating frontline on Tuesday in the teams’ Last 16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
Nastasic spent 2 seasons at Manchester City before moving to Schalke 04 to 2014, though the Serbian centre-half won’t be relishing the return to his old stomping ground this week.
The 25-year old has averaged only 1 tackle per Bundesliga game this season so far, though Nastasic’s tackling average jumps to a much meatier 3.3 in the Champions League.
Nastasic was forced to make 3 tackles against City in the first leg in Gelsenkirchen last month, and the stopper will expect a similarly busy evening at the Etihad in the second act of the club’s double-header on Tuesday.
You can back Nastasic to make over 1.5 tackles at a cracking looking 8/11 with bet365 this week.
Nabil Fekir – over 0.5 shots on target – 5/6 (Barcelona vs LYON)
Many observers were expecting Barcelona to coast past Lyon in the clubs’ Last 16 2-legged tie, though the Ligue 1 outfit showed enough in the teams’ 0-0 first leg draw to suggest that they can make life hard for Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
Lyon battled their way to their first leg stalemate without the services of one of their best players, Nabil Fekir, though the talented 25-year old will be keen to make up for lost time in Barcelona this week.
Fekir has averaged 3 shots per game in Ligue 1 this season, 1.6 of which were on target, though that average climbs to 4.6 in the Champions League with 2 of those attempts hitting their mark.
On Wednesday, Fekir comes up against a Barcelona defence that has kept only 1 clean sheet in their last 7 fixtures at the Nou Camp.
Barca are a team that routinely concede chances to their opponents at home – if Fekir can get just a single shot on target at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, bet365 will pay out winning bets at 5/6 odds.
Mats Hummels – over 69.5 passes – 5/6 (BAYERN MUNICH vs Liverpool)
After Bayern Munich and Liverpool cancelled each other out in the first leg of their Last 16 two-legged tie at Anfield last month, any number of possibilities could play out at the Allianz Arena this week in the second leg.
It’s extremely difficult to predict the direction that the tie will swing, though forecasting the pattern of play is a little easier.
Liverpool are generally the archetypal counter attacking team when playing away from home in the Champions League, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them ceding possession to Bayern Munich for large parts of Wednesday’s clash.
As a direct result of that, Bayern centre half Mats Hummels should see plenty of the ball this week. The German international has averaged 82 passes per game in the Bundesliga this season, and his equivalent Champions League figure stands at an only slight fewer 77.2 passes per contest.
Based on his current distribution stats, Hummels is priced incredibly generously at 5/6 with be365 to pass his way beyond 69.5 passes against Liverpool.
Fabinho to get booked – 6/4 (Bayern Munich vs LIVERPOOL)
Even though Brazilian holding midfielder Fabinho ranks 10th for Liverpool for Premier League minutes played this season, the versatile 25-year old is out on his own as the club’s most carded player.
Fabinho has been booked 5 times in just 16 league starts for Liverpool, a total that shines a light on the physical and combative qualities the former Monaco star brings to Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI.
In Bavaria on Wednesday, Fabinho will need all of his defensive and tenacious qualities to stop Bayern Munich’s technically talented midfield from opening passing lanes through Liverpool’s defence.
Fabinho filled in at centre half for Liverpool in the first leg at Anfield last month, though the Brazilian international is expected to be restored to midfield for the return match this week.
Fabinho has already shown a propensity for falling foul of referees domestically, and we think there is a great chance that the destroyer will get his first European yellow card for Liverpool against Bayern.
The anchorman was booked 6 times in 2 Champions League campaigns for his previous club Monaco, and with his defensive workload expected to be sizeable on Wednesday, bet365’s 6/4 odds on Fabinho getting booked this week look well worth considering.
A 5-fold accumulator based on our Champions League player special betting tips above pays out at a huge 28/1 with bet365! You can back our acca by clicking the banner below.
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