The Champions League Round of 16 is fast approaching and with it the hopes and dreams of Europe’s best football teams. Based on the current market it would appear that we will see a changing of the guard in 2018 with Real Madrid struggling with form and injuries and Juventus and Barcelona mid table in the overall betting markets.
We take a look at the players to watch as the Champions League re-starts on February 14th.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The defending champions are struggling with injury concerns to key players and inconsistent form which means that the pressure on the Portuguese striker has never been greater to deliver Los Blancos a second consecutive Champions League title.
Ronaldo sits alone as the top goalscorer in the Champions League and is a short price favourite to remain in that position at the end of the competition. The key of course will be Madrid remaining alive, with their biggest test coming against PSG. The Parisians have recruited incredibly and Madrid face them as a result of their failure to qualify top of the table in the group stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo to be Champions League Top Scorer ($1.80)
Nationality of Champions League winner – Spain ($4.10)
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Salah is in red hot form in the Premier League and when Liverpool face Porto at the Estadio do Drago they will look to him to guide them towards victory. The key for the Reds in the first leg of their Round of 16 clash will be to get through in a position that allows them to capitalise on their home ground advantage at Anfield to finish the tie.
It has been written that Salah is the personification of Jurgen Klopp’s ‘thrillingly aggressive’ football philosophy. His two goals against Tottenham show that he can score in big games and adds to his tally of an incredible 22 in 25 games.
Wayne Rooney describes Salah’s impact at Anfield as ‘taking them to the next level’ and it is hard to argue with him. Alongside Firmino and Mane they form an attacking trio that we feel is as good as any in Europe.
Mohamed Salah to be Champions League Top Scorer ($34.00)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The Citizens are in pole position to claim the domestic/European double with victory in the Premier League and current favourites to win the Champions League under Pep Guardiola. Whilst they are streets ahead in the EPL, there is still plenty of work to be done in Europe, particularly when De Bruyne has come out himself and complained of how tired he is this week.
City have been burdened by a heavy workload over the Christmas/New Year period and into January with EPL and Cup football now joined by their European commitments. Whilst they have a favourable draw against Swiss side FC Basel, it will be De Bruyne’s impact for Manchester City that is largely the most influential of a superbly talented line-up including Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Leroy Sane and David Silva.
Manchester City to win the Champions League ($3.75)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Tottenham went into the Champions League with ambitions to progress through the Group Stage, although drawing defending champions Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund must’ve shaken Mauricio Pochettino’s ambition in Europe to the core.
Kane delivered in spades during the group stage scoring a brace against Dortmund at Wembley in the Spurs 3-1 win and a hat-trick against APOEL Nicosia during a rich vein of form where he was on fire for the Spurs in the EPL and Champions League and scoring for England in their World Cup Qualifiers.
Alongside Deli Alli and Christian Eriksen the Spurs have a world-class attack and with recent wins over United and a draw against Liverpool they have shown they can match it with the best teams remaining in the Champions League.
Tottenham to win the Champions League ($26.00)
Nationality of Champions League winner – England ($2.05)