I’VE heard it said Atletico Madrid are the best available outright Champions League bet at 18-1 with Coral and I know what they mean.
On their day they’ve proved they can beat Spanish rivals Real and Barcelona who are one and two in the betting and should certainly take care of Bayer Leverkusen to reach the last eight.
I’m pretty convinced the Champions League trophy is staying in Spain and on the anteposts tipped Real to make history by retaining their crown.
But when you consider probably only five teams have a chance of going all the way – Bayern Munich and maybe Chelsea being the others – then 18-1 is big for a side who finished runners-up last time out and who no longer have an inferiority complex when facing city rivals Real.
Bayer have won just one out of six – and one of their last seven at home – and while a draw would be fine for Atletico tonight I’m on them to win at 6-4 with McBookie, BetVictor and William Hill and they are 4-11 at Paddy Power and Coral to qualify.
Arsene Wenger loves playing French sides so must have jumped for joy when his men were paired with Monaco in the Champions League last 16.
Wenger won a title with the principality in 1998 and at Arsenal has lost just two of 16 matches against clubs from his homeland.
He has come out on top in all four two-legged ties versus French clubs and the Gunners are massive favourites at 4-11 with sportingbet tonight.
To take a first-leg lead to Monaco it’s 8-15 with BetVictor and William Hill. Arsenal have recovered well from their late loss at Spurs to win three in a row while Monaco’s form is patchy and they’ve fallen 11 points off the pace in the league.
They’ve been hit hard by the loss of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao last summer and top scorer Dimitar Berbatov has just six league goals and none in Europe.
Monaco kept five clean sheets in the group stage but first-choice centre-backs Ricardo Carvalho and Andrea Raggi are out along with defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.
Deputy centre-backs Wallace and Aymen Abdennour are likely to start and Abdennour looked a nervous wreck as he was sent off in last Friday’s 1-0 win at Nice.
I can see a win to nil for the home men and that pays 6-5 at BetVictor and McBookie.
Unlike Monaco the Gunners have two class hitmen in the shape of Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud. Sanchez is 9-2 with Coral to break the deadlock but Frenchman Giroud will be keen to impress and I’m on him at 9-2 with Paddy Power.
(6-4, Paddy Power, Coral)
Arsenal to win to nil
(6-5, BetVictor, McBookie)
Giroud to score first
(9-2, Paddy Power)
Arsenal/Atletico Madrid to qualify