Europe's elite are getting ready for THAT music to strike up and go head-to-head for a place in the league's quarter finals. Our tipster has been scouring the betting to find some great free picks.
Thoughts are starting to turn to the Champions League again as the big clubs scour Europe for unsettled superstars or promising youngsters going cut price in the transfer window. Headlines beckon as the knockout phase begins and I've been looking high and low for some betting value.
I’ve said in previous articles how impressed I was when Manchester City showed a much more measured approach to Champions League football at Roma. They finally seemed to realise you don't have to go gung ho and get involved in a toe-to-toe goal-fest, you just have to score one more goal that the opposition. Shutting them down helps, and having strikers who can score a goal from two or three chances is invaluable.
We all know Sergio Aguero is one of the best strikers in Europe, that he can grab goals against the run of play and pressure defenders into keeping their distance, pushing the whole team back a yard or two. Obviously his fitness is a worry and City will need him firing on all cylinders to progress past Barcelona.
Even without him they have spent big on Wilfried Bony, the Ivorian who has scored more than anyone else in 2015 in the Premier League. Admittedly he’s untested at the elite European level, but he scored goals for Ivory Coast at the World Cup and has hit 33 goals in 69 games for Swansea against all kinds of opposition, home and away.
City haven’t had too many problems scoring goals, but Pellegrini may look at the home games where they only scored once against Roma and CSKA Moscow and wonder what might have been with better strikers.
Obviously Aguero, Bony and Jovetic or Dzeko bares no comparison to Messi, Neymar and Suarez, but Bony is a physical player and brings something extra to the Mancunians ahead of the knockout phase and I stand by what I said when the draw was made. If they are clever, they can nullify Barca and squeeze past them. They are 11/5 to qualify for the next round, which feels about right and I think they are the value in that particular market.
Will he Costa the bookies?
Chelsea have been really unlucky pulling out moneybags PSG in the next phase of the Champions League despite topping their group. It’s a re-run of last season’s quarter final when away goals won it for Jose Mourinho’s men. It’s undoubtedly one of the ties of the round and a tough one to call. Personally I’d side with Chelsea because of the manager’s know how and willingness to win at any cost. I always think PSG will get carried away like a boxer who has a rush of blood to the head and wants to go to war rather than box clever.
The bet I’m looking at here isn’t anything to do with who wins that tie, it’s about the Chelsea top scorer in Europe’s elite club competition.
Eden Hazard (3/1), Didier Drogba (3/1), Cesc Fabregas (9/2), Nemanja Matic (6/1) and John Terry (12/1) all have two goals so far. Diego Costa is 6/1 incidentally but hasn’t scored a goal yet.
I think there are some really good prices on soccer odds board. Let’s start at the back with the captain John Terry. Realistically the only way you will land the 12/1 is if PSG beat Chelsea over the two legs and he snatches a consolation goal, which I can’t see, but I do think he is a better bet than Matic, just because he will get more chances at set pieces.
Cesc Fabregas won’t get forward enough for me against the better clubs in the latter stages of a competition like this, where control and discipline are everything for Mourinho.
Eden Hazard is very interesting. He is their penalty taker, he is a set piece specialist, he is always looking to get on the end of pull backs from the by-line, finishes very well and has a good record in the Premier League this season with eight goals.
So to the front men. Will Didier Drogba get enough time on the pitch to improve on his tally of two and is he still good enough against the very best in Europe? His two goals came against Maribor at Stamford Bridge (from the penalty spot) and he got the fourth in the 5-0 win at Schalke when they were well softened up.
We’re left with Diego Costa at 6/1 to be the top scorer for Chelsea in this season’s Champions League. This is a man who scored eight in nine matches last season for Atletico Madrid, with four of them coming in the knockout phases against AC Milan, in the last 16, and then his current employers in the semi-final.
He has scored 15 goals in 18 Premier League games and he is having virtually the same number of goal attempts in Europe as he is domestically. I think 6/1 for a striker of his calibre is a great price, especially if Chelsea progress past PSG. He will have a minimum of four games to score in, so you might consider adding Costa to your soccer picks as a top scorer.
Free Soccer Picks: Manchester City to qualify versus Barcelona 11/5 and Diego Costa to be Chelsea’s top Champions League scorer 6/1