Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg Preview: Chelsea-PSG and ZSP-Benfica (plus more with Gamblin Matt Mortensen
It’s time to talk some football! And no, I’m not talking about the football that kills brain cells, dreams and Roger Goodell’s credibility. We’ve reached leg two of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, meaning it’s time for the remaining sixteen top clubs in the world to pull away, come back or go home and wonder what things might’ve been like if Arsene Wenger didn’t manage your team. And because we like you so much, Matt Mortensen and I have a little preview of the tomorrow’s leg two match ups. Originally it was supposed to be a preview of today and tomorrow’s games, but alas we ran out of time. So here’s what will happen; Gamblin Matt will break down the odds for today’s games between Real Madrid-Roma (Real Madrid leads 2-0 on aggregate) and Gent-Wolfsburg (Wolfsburg leads 3-2 on aggregate), followed by myself extensively breaking down tomorrow’s matches (with Mortensen adding his thoughts on the odds at some point today). Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s waste no more time; Mortensen, take it away!
Gamblin Matt and the Odds for Real Madrid-Roma and Gent-Wolfsburg: This season Real have conceded multiple goals in a match only three times. The magic number of three goals was only accomplished by Barcelona. We all know Barcelona is better than Roma. As far as Roma winning this goes they have no hope. In Real's home games this season they have scored one or few goals on 5 occasions and for the rest of their home games they've scored three or more each time. I haven't looked at any of the squads so my predictions could be off for all these games but I doubt Real don't put out their best squad cause this is really all they have to play for. If they can score two on the road they'll score two here. So 2-0 is $8 and 3-0 is $10. I'm leaning towards 2-0, personally. If Roma somehow win then I guess 1-0? $21 that is.
I'm not sure what to make of this Wolfsburg vs. Gent match up. Certainly was a tale of two halves. Wolfsburg showed how much better they were for the majority of this match. I don't know what happened, perhaps they lost concentration being 3-0 up but Gent shouldn't have been let back into this game. Wolfsburg has too much speed for Gent. That really showed in the first game. I don't see any way that Gent can progress here. Three away goals for any team should put them straight through to the next round and I see no reason as to why that won't happen here. But perhaps I'm underselling Gent's comeback late in the second half. I'll stick to my gut and I'm feeling Wolfsburg 1-0. All they need to do is score one goal and they can then just shut up shop and play defensive. They can lose 2-1 and still progress. 1-0 is $8. But if they decide not to shut up shop this could easily be 2-0 or 3-0. $7.50 and $10 for those. Gent need to score two and hope Wolfsburg doesn’t so Gent 2-0 is $41. Wow. Wasn't expecting that much! If Wolfsburg does score then Gent would need to win 3-1 which is $56.
Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Benfica (Benfica leads 1-0 on aggregate)
Major Storyline: Is an upset in the works? You’re going to see a recurring theme from both March 9th games, which is that two underachieving squads will take on two heavy favorites while inexplicably having a chance to win. Zenit Saint Petersburg (who I’m calling ZSP from here on in because why not?!) is the first of those two. It’s been a rough year for ZSP, who have gone from the kings of the Russian Premier League to a fifth place club with little to no chance of catching leaders CSKA Moscow or second place Rostov. Thus, the only hope for Champions League qualification next year is to win this year, a tall task that isn’t out of the question considering they held Benfica (a well oiled machine both last year and this year) to just one goal in Benfica during the first leg. Yes it could’ve been 0-0 instead of 1-0 if Benfica’s Jonas hadn’t gotten that dramatic game winner following a ZSP red card and yes that’s the kind of loss that leads to depression and spending weeks on your couch watching melodramas. In the words of Dave Chappelle, so the bleep what?! That result (a hundred times better than what ZSP likely expected from said game) is enough to give the Russian club some hope coming home and while the results in the RPL aren’t there for ZSP, the talent still is. Will there be a miracle in Saint Petersburg? Would this even constitute as a miracle? Why am I still asking questions?
Secondary Storyline: Possession, possession, possession! The biggest reason Benfica won the first leg and is still favored here is because they absolutely walloped ZSP in possession last game with a 64.1% edge to ZSP’s lame 35.9%. Some of you may think that’s not a big deal, until you realize that ZSP isn’t exactly a counterstriking group ala Leicester City and needs to ball in order to generate shots. The possession numbers have to come up here in the home game for them if they want a shot. It doesn’t have to even be higher than Benfica, but it needs to be up enough that ZSP can generate some shots and create opportunities, something that hurt them severely in leg one.
ZSP Player with the Most to Prove: Hulk. I won’t claim to be incredibly familiar with ZSP’s side, but I do know enough to know that Hulk is one of (if not) the best offensive player on their club and an overall underrated world talent. It’s not enough to hope that the Brazilian is the man tomorrow; he HAS to be the man if they hope to win. All eyes will be on Hulk.
Benfica Player with the Most to Prove: Julio Cesar. Leave it to Benfica to have me pick a former member of my favorite English Football club for this spot, a guy who meant so little to QPR that they didn’t want him around. What the hell should it tell you when QPR doesn’t want you around?! Yes I know Cesar was a really good keeper once upon a time, but it’s not exactly the mid 2000s anymore is it?! Alas, because I do think ZSP will create more opportunities for themselves in this game, goaltending will be the most important aspect for Benfica. And well, Cesar is the keeper and he has done enough to keep the team atop the table of the Primeira Liga. As long as he keeps ZSP to just one goal, Benfica should be sitting pretty. Then again, putting your faith in the hands of a man who Queens Park Rangers deemed unworthy is like hiring an actress who Uwe Boll didn’t think was good enough. Enter at your own risk!
Gamblin Matt and the Odds: Coming soon!
Winner: Benfica 5-3 in penalties. Yes, it’s going to penalties; I think ZSP will indeed get one goal on Benfica and their defense (which again, held pretty firm against Benfica in leg one) will do enough to keep it 1-0 through regulation. From there we’ll have a scoreless extra time and then penalties, where the lack of firepower on ZSP’s side will lead to Benfica moving on to the Champions League quarterfinals.
Chelsea vs. PSG (PSG leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Major Storyline: How the hell is this only a 2-1 advantage for PSG? Seriously; if you were to take one glance at the PSG roster and then at Chelsea’s (not to mention a look at their respective campaigns this year) and you would’ve thought leg one of this match up would’ve ended in Mortensen breaking every piece of furniture in his living room. Instead, Chelsea managed to steal a goal in Paris and, while the odds aren’t great, is returning home with some confidence. And hey, the Champions League is a place underachieving Chelsea teams who have sacked their manager midseason love to prosper. Perhaps there’s cause for concern after all for PSG!
Secondary Storyline: Chelsea’s added weapons. Not to give Mortensen and Chelsea even more hope but…no wait, this is just going to give them more hope. You’ll notice in the first leg between these two clubs that Chelsea was missing captain John Terry (who, if nothing else, is a valuable leader for Chelsea’s last line of defense) and the recently acquired Alexandre Pato, while only having Oscar on the pitch for the final twenty minutes of the game. That’s three big pieces Chelsea will presumably have for this match either as starters or off the bench. Dammit all, why am I making a case that they could actually win this? Is Mortensen invading my brain Being John Malkovich style?!
Chelsea Player with the Most to Prove: Willian. You could make the argument that it could be anyone on Chelsea considering they’re loaded with talent top to bottom. But the dirty little secret about these underachievers is that they play at their best when the their best player is the 27 year old Brazilian, whose speed, creativity and striking ability (be it for free kicks, corners, penalties or just in general) is off the charts. Every time I’ve watched Chelsea do well this year, Willian has been the key to it. Even with Oscar, Terry and Pato likely playing bigger roles tomorrow and Diego Costa (as insufferable as he may be) likely involved, that won’t change. Chelsea will live and die on the performance of Willian.
PSG Player with the most to Prove: David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Much like Chelsea, you can pretty much go anywhere here. What was most glaring to me about the first leg however wasn’t PSG’s offense (which was fine, but needs to be better); it was that they allowed Chelsea to so easily get a goal that quickly turned this match up from a no brainer to “so you’re saying there’s a chance…” That’s unacceptable; yes it’s only one mistake, but when you have two of the best center backs in football and are expected to roll over the competition, giving them any sort of life (especially a side like Chelsea with all those weapons) isn’t a good idea. Luiz and Silva have to be perfect for this game, especially with Chelsea having more pieces back.
Gamblin Matt and the Odds: Coming soon!
Winner: PSG wins 3-1. I know, I talked all about Chelsea during this piece and I’m going to go against them? At the end of the day, even the returning weapons doesn’t measure up to the squad PSG will put out tomorrow and unlike last time I believe PSG’s back line will hold up throughout the game to blank Chelsea. Considering the expectations PSG has, they almost have to here. One last thing; on the off chance Chelsea does somehow pull this out, be very afraid. There will be a 99% chance they find a way to win the Champions League, knocking out West Ham United and leaving everyone but Mortensen depressed. Come on PSG!
That’s a wrap folks! I’ll be back later with…something. And it’s good too! Till then, some Vardy meme to help the medicine go down. Who gets burned today?!