THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE quarter-finals continue on Wednesday evening. We asked Tom Love (@TomLove_18) to source the best bets from Manchester United's match-up with Barcelona.
Manchester United v Barcelona | Wednesday 10th April 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport
What a game we have in prospect at Old Trafford on Wednesday as the irrepressible Barcelona come to town. Two heavyweights of the European scene battling it out for a semi-final spot up, it’s going to be entertaining, for sure.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has recently been made permanent manager by the Manchester United hierarchy and it looks merited; that amazing and unexpected turnaround in Paris went a good way to confirming his full-time appointment. He will be hoping to go to the Nou Camp with something to play for so it will be interesting to see what kind of approach the Norwegian opts for.
Many fancy Barcelona to stroll through this tie and Solskjaer may have to summon on the spirit of ’99 when the United side he was party to claimed a dramatic 2-1 win against Bayern Munich in the Catalan capital. It was of course himself who managed to sneak that 93rd minute winner 20 years ago.
In all honesty though, the Red Devils were extremely lucky to progress against PSG. Outplayed and out-thought in the home leg, and largely battered in the second leg at the Parc des Princes, they utilised their pace on the break. And with a depleted squad managed to run out 3-1 victors courtesy of a late Marcus Rashford penalty. Nevertheless, it looked like a special night for United fans and they’re memories that will last a lifetime.
To be able to recreate that will be a challenge though, especially against a Barcelona side with a frighteningly in-form Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. The thought of those two coming up against this home defence must send shivers down the spine of the Stretford End, and that alone is reason enough to back Barca to win this one at odds-against.
Take a goals-based approach
However, I’m more inclined to take a goals-based bet at a similar price given Barca’s unconvincing record on the road in this competition’s knockout phase.
We can back Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 21/20 (William Hill) and it looks a decent price, in my eyes. Domestically, United games this season are seeing an average of 3.30 goals per-game and that tallies up with the Expected Goals (xG) figure.
It’s not just down to United’s scoring prowess though, defensively they’ve been far from watertight, conceding on average 1.40 xG per game. This gung-ho approach has been conducive to goals at both ends with 72% of their games seeing BTTS cop and 75% seeing three goals or more. What’s more, 22 of their 32 Premier League fixtures have seen this bet land.
Despite being comfortably at the top of the tree in La Liga, 18 of Barcelona’s fixtures have seen BTTS pay-out with 61% seeing Over 2.5 Goals reward punters on native soil. Their recent match up with Villarreal was simply a breathtaking watch with it ending four apiece.
It highlighted the Blaugrana’s attacking potency but also their defensive vulnerability, as the Catalans gave up a 2.17 xG figure and it’s not as surprising as you may think after looking at their season-long data. Ernesto Valverde’s side are averaging 1.00 goal against in La Liga however the trends suggest they’ve been a tad lucky in that regard because their xG against average is at 1.30. Basically, United should be getting on the scoresheet.
Magical Messi can strike
Finally, It would also be rude not to look at the little magician, Lionel Messi, to get on the scoresheet. He’s managed to improve even more this season, hitting new heights.
It’s testament to his personal drive to continue to operate at optimum levels. His statistics are just insane; 33 goals in 26 La Liga games and eight in five starts in this tournament. His last eight WhoScored.com ratings out of 10 are 10, 7.26, 9.53, 10, 10, 9.85, 7.30 and 9.10. He remains the most influential player for any side on the planet.
I expected Messi to be odds-on across the board to notch but Unibet go even-money and that simply has to be snaffled up. I don’t like backing Anytime Goalscorers at these kind of quotes usually, but I’m happy to make an exception here.
Manchester United v Barcelona – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (21/20 William Hill)
Manchester United v Barcelona – Lionel Messi to score at anytime (1/1 Unibet)