This week the most prestigious European football competition returns from the winter break, as the European season switches into a higher gear. The best sixteen teams on the continent will battle it out over the next two weeks to decide who will progress into the quarter-finals stage of the competition scheduled to take place in April. This week’s fixtures throw up perhaps the most anticipated match of the round of 16, as Manchester United travel to Spain to take on Real Madrid. Elsewhere in Spain, Paris Saint-Germain will travel to Valencia in a game that will decide the fortunes for the big-spending French side’s season.
Below we briefly look at this weekend’s fixtures. The odds you see are from Bet365.com, the best place to bet on the UEFA Champions League online. Bet365 will have all of these markets available, as well as many exciting in-play options playable as the action unfolds.
All games are 20:45 CET/ 10:45 EST.
Celtic vs Juventus (12 February 2013)
Juventus (-118) travel to Scotland to take on SPL runaway leaders Celtic (+375) looking to mark their return to the top echelons of European football by entering the final eight of the competition for the first time since 2006. The Italian Champions topped their group after winning their last three games in the group stages and have the second best defense in the competition having conceded just four goals from their six games. After a difficult start to 2013, the Turin giants have picked up the pace in recent weeks and at full strength will pose a difficult challenge for the home side. Celtic have impressed in this competition this season, pushing Barcelona at Camp Nou and defeating the Catalans in the return fixture to finish second in their group. Being 18 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League, they were able to rest a large part of their squad for this week’s game and will be out to defend their impressive record of having won 21 of their last 23 home games in the competition. The draw pays out at an interesting +260. Juventus drew three of their games in the group stages.
Valencia vs PSG (12 February 2013)
Success in the Champions League will be the litmus test for a PSG side (+225) that has under new ownership reshaped the face of European football over the last two years. The French side have the best defense in the competition, and are unbeaten in their last 13 games, but will be without the services of central stronghold Thiago Silva, who misses the game through injury. Several players were rested at the weekend, including main attacking force Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and PSG will be looking to progress past a stage they haven’t played in since 2001. Although this side don’t have much Champions League experience as a unit, they possess the individual qualities to go far in the competition. Their opponents, Valencia (+140) are at the opposite end of the financial spectrum and have had to sell several of their leading players over the last few seasons. They come into the game sitting in fifth position in the league, but are unbeaten in the last four games – a run which included encounters against Real Madrid and Barcelona. They are also unbeaten in their last nine home games in the competition and are more cohesive as a unit as the newly-formed PSG side, a trait vital for success in the Champions League. If the French side can however get a hold of their nerves and begin strongly, it’s possible to see them running away with this game. The draw pays out at +230.
Real Madrid vs Manchester United (13 February 2013)
With Real Madrid (-163) so far behind the lead in La Liga, their only chance of winning anything of importance this year lies in the Champions League, and they could not have been given a tougher round of 16 tie than a clash against Manchester United (+450). This encounter will mark the first encounter in a competitive game for Cristiano Ronaldo (-150 anytime goal scorer) against his former employers, and the leading scorer of the competition will be eager to mark the occasion with a goal. With talk of discontent within the dressing room, a victory against the EPL leaders will go far in restoring some respectability and belief in the Spanish champions’ faltering season. United enter the game on a high after extending their lead at home by 12 points. Real Madrid have both the best attack and the worst defense of all the teams left in the competition, so goals can be expected in this one, with a minimum of 3 goals in the game paying out at -163.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Borussia Dortmund (13 February 2013)
Shakhtar (+160) caused the upset of the tournament thus far by eliminating holders Chelsea from the tournament in the group stages. The Ukrainians hold a commanding 13 point lead at home, having won 17 of their 18 games played, but with the loss of their Brazilian star Willian in the winter transfer market, their Champions League ambitions may have taken a blow. Dortmund surprisingly won the so-called group of death, finishing above Real Madrid and Manchester City, going undefeated in the process. The lie second in the Bundesliga, behind runaway leaders Bayern Munich, and come into the game at the back of a 4-1 home defeat at the weekend. Striker Robert Lewandowski (+120 anytime goal scorer) is the joint top scorer in Germany and will be looking to add to his four goal tally in the competition on Wednesday.
How To Bet
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Visit the UEFA Champions League website for all team news and game information.