Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen – Vicente Calderon at 19:45 live on BT Sport 3
Back to serious business in the Champions League today and I found some Asian Handicap value to get stuck into.
I am not sure if any football match will ever eclipse the drama that Barcelona v PSG produced last week.
However, Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen delivered an action packed game in their first leg match.
The game ended 4-2 to the visitors, which surely puts qualification beyond the plucky German side.
But this time around they are led by new manager Tayfun Korkut, who was installed as Roger Schmidt’s replacement just over a week ago.
Diego Simeone has driven Atleti onto perhaps their greatest period of success over the past six years. That is no small feat when competing against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid domestically.
Plus Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris St Germain and the money laden clubs of the Premier League in European competitions.
Simeone’s side play in their manager’s image and are a nightmare draw for any of the traditional European super powers.
However, this season they have not been at their best consistently enough to challenge for the La Liga title.
But, in this competition they have been almost perfect so far, just a 1-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in the final dead rubber match in Group D, blots their copybook.
The main worry this season has been the number of goals they are conceding and although not evident in the group stages. Bayer Leverkusen did score twice against them in the first leg match in Germany.
In La Liga they have conceded 22 so far, which is actually already more than they did last season. To win the Champions League, they are going to need their defence at their very best.
Leverkusen did very well to reach the knockout stages of this season’s competition ahead of Tottenham.
But their disappointing Bundesliga campaign, which sees them sitting in 10th place led to Korkut’s appointment as their new manager.
The Turkish ex-Leverkusen player comes into the Bay Arena after a short and unsuccessful spell with Kaiserlautern in Bundesliga 2.
After their first leg defeat, it looks like their journey is going to end here against Atletico Madrid.
Unless the new manager can literally perform miracles such as keeping a clean sheet at the Vicente Calderon. Then there is very little chance that we will again see drama approaching the level of Barca v PSG last week.
Asian Handicap Prices and Recommendation…
Obviously the home side are priced up as strong favourites to win the match and progress to the quarter final stage.
You can back Atletico Madrid at 2.12 with a -1 Asian Handicap, while the Asian Total Goals market has set a line of 2.75.
On the face if it these lines look a little generous to me because Atletico are a very formidable team at home, with their raucous fans cheering them on.
Although they have not been as strong defensively as last season, they do hold a +18 goal difference in their La Liga home matches.
Plus, 45% of the goals they have conceded at home were scored by either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Outside of playing the top two, Atleti have conceded just 6 goals in 11 games and kept 7 clean sheets.
Looking at their Champions League home record only increases my confidence in Simeone’s team. Their recent record of W17 D2 L1 is true elite level performance and keeping 16 clean sheets over those 20 games, is incredible.
On the other hand, Leverkusen are not often beaten by a big margin, even when playing away at this level.
Manchester United were the last team to win by more than a single goal, when hosting Leverkusen in this competition. That 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford was over three ago and the visitors will surely be competitive again tonight.
They have also scored in each of their last six away games in the competition. Including goals at Monaco, Tottenham, Roma and at the Camp Nou against Barcelona.
I honestly can’t see anything other than a home win tonight, but it could be qute a tight affair.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Atletico Madrid -0.25 First Half at 1.86 and Atletico Madrid -1 at 2.13
Prices correct at time of writing.
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