Benfica managed to navigate their way through a tricky but wide open Champions League group in the first half of this season, finishing second in their group behind winners Napoli but ahead of fellow contenders Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev with eight points from their six matches.
Things have been going rather well for them since that qualification. They followed their final group game defeat to Napoli with a run of eight straight victories and eventually went 11 games unbeaten in all competitions. They did then lose back to back games in the Taca da Liga and the Portuguese Primeira Liga back at the end of January, but they have managed to bounce back with consecutive 3-0 wins at home to Nacional and Arouca in the past couple of weekends.
Benfica’s home form has been almost impeccable this season though. They have lost just once there all season in that final Champions League match against Napoli. Apart from that they have won 14 times and drawn three to take them to the top of their domestic table with a point advantage over Porto in 2nd and a huge 13 point gap between them and Sporting CP.
Borussia Dortmund will be no pushovers here though. They surprisingly managed to top their Champions League group ahead of Real Madrid and went unbeaten through the group stages. Domestically things haven’t gone to plan for them, with RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt upsetting the apple cart and leaving them 4th in the Bundesliga. However, this will only serve to place even more emphasis on a successful Champions League campaign.
They do come into this game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Darmstadt at the weekend though, with that ending their 12 match unbeaten streak. They have only won six of their last 13 games though, so they are by no means invincible.
Away from home just three of their last nine outings have ended in victory, with two defeats and four draws making up the rest of their results. They haven’t kept a clean sheet on the road since their 6-0 thrashing of Legia Warsaw in their Champions League group stage opener, conceding in all 14 of their games since then. They have scored in all but one of those matches as well though.
PREDICTION: DORTMUND WIN 2-1
PSG received a very much unwanted punishment for slipping up in their final Champions League group game. They went into the match at home to Ludogorets in prime position to top their group, but a 2-2 draw allowed Arsenal to take the top spot and resulted in the runners up being drawn against Barcelona for their first knockout round match.
The reigning French champions have improved since that stage of the season though. Their 3-0 win over Bordeaux on Friday made it 11 wins from their last 13 matches, with their only falter being a 1-1 draw with Monaco in January.
They are unbeaten since the middle of December and have closed the gap at the top of a tight Ligue 1 table to just three points between them and Monaco. For a team so used to walking the league title this does place an added bit of pressure on them, as they are not only behind in the title race but also have Nice breathing down their necks in 3rd. Usually at this point they have the title all but wrapped up, but now their attentions must be divided between European and domestic duties.
Barcelona are also embroiled in a title race at the top of La Liga, with the Catalan giants trailing Real Madrid by a single point but with the leaders having two games in hand on them. However, they are still one of the best club teams in the world and they are used to being involved competitively in both their domestic league and the Champions League.
They showed their class at the weekend with a 6-0 drubbing of Alaves away from home as Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi, and Neymar all found the back of the net. Between them they now have 55 goals and 29 assists in La Liga and the Champions League. Messi is the man to watch out for in this competition though, with the Argentinian forward bagging ten goals in the group stages and coming in at 5/6 to score anytime, I think he’s the best choice for our goalscorer predictions.
Barcelona’s comprehensive win at the weekend made it eight wins and three draws since their last defeat in all competitions, and they topped their Champions League group with a 15 point total from their six games. Their only dropped points came in their 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City.
Away from home they do tend to drop more points in general. They have won six, drawn four, and lost one of their last ten trips away. They have managed to score in every away game of the season so far, but have only kept eight clean sheets in their 21 away games.
PSG are unbeaten at home in almost a year though, and this season have won 13 and drawn six of their 19 home games. They have scored in all but one of these and conceded in seven of them, but they did concede in five of their six group games in the Champions League.
PREDICTION: BARCA WIN 3-1
Real Madrid took another step closer to a La Liga title on Saturday as they beat Osasuna 3-1 away from home to take themselves a point clear of 2nd placed Barcelona with two games in hand. This victory makes it three wins, two draws, and two defeats in a difficult period of games for the Madrid giants, but it does take them a step closer to Barcelona’s record of finding the net in 44 consecutive games.
It’s not just been the odd goal that Real Madrid have been snatching either. They have netted at least twice in 22 of their last 25 games in all competitions, but their rather poor defensive record saw them finish 2nd in their Champions League group behind Borussia Dortmund.
At the Bernabeu Real Madrid have won 11 of their last 13 games in all competitions, losing just one competitive game this season and scoring and scoring three or more goals in nine of these 13 games. Napoli’s defence will certainly have to be wary.
Unsurprisingly it’s been Cristiano Ronaldo who has been finding the net most often. He has scored 16 goals in his 22 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League this season, but at odds of 8/15 to score anytime I think there’s most value to be found in the anytime goalscorer market.
Real Madrid have conceded 13 goals in their last 13 home games and are facing a Napoli side who have scored an impressive 21 goals in their last six away days. Dries Mertens has been in phenomenal form this season, scoring 20 goals in his 28 appearances, only 20 of which have been starts. Half of these goals have been on the road too, so odds of 2/1 for him to score look the best value for our anytime goalscorer predictions.
Napoli made it 18 games unbeaten with their comfortable 2-0 win over Genoa on Friday, and that followed on from an emphatic 7-1 thrashing at Bologna to make it 11 wins from their last 13 matches. Away from home they have won five of their last seven games and haven’t been beaten since a 2-1 Juventus win back in October. In the Champions League group stages they beat off competition from the likes of Benfica, Besiktas, and Dynamo Kiev to take the top spot.
PREDICTION: MADRID WIN 2-1
Bayern Munich have had a rather rocky season by their standards, finishing 2nd in their Champions League group, three points behind Atletico Madrid, and trailing the recently promoted RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga for a significant period of time in the first half of the campaign.
That has changed in the past few months though. Their last defeat was their shock 3-2 loss at Rostov in the Champions League in November, and since then they have won 11 and drawn one of their 12 games in all competitions. This has been enough to take them back to their usual place at the summit of the Bundesliga, with them leading RB Leipzig by six points after 20 games of the season.
At home they remain almost impossible to get the better of. They have won 12 and drawn three of their 15 matches at the Allianz Arena this season and haven’t lost in almost 12 months. Arsenal will have their work cut out here.
The visitors managed to edge into the top spot of their Champions League group with a 4-1 hammering of Basel in the final group game, which when coupled with PSG’s shock failure to win at home to Ludogorets saw The Gunners nick it at the final hurdle. A draw against Bayern Munich won’t have been their top choice, but considering PSG now have to face Barcelona Arsenal can class it as a success.
Arsenal managed to end their two match losing streak on Saturday with a rather controversial win over Hull at the Emirates. This follows from defeats to Watford and Chelsea to make it seven wins, one draw, and two defeats in their last ten games. This does leave them ten points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea though, so all of their focus will be on the Champions League.
Despite Arsenal losing three of their last seven away games, their attacking ability hasn’t faltered. They have scored in each of their last 17 away games in all competitions and have only failed to score on the road once in 18 matches this season. They have only kept five clean sheets in this period though, and they’re facing a Bayern Munich side who have scored in all of their home games this season, keeping a clean sheet in about half of them.
PREDICTION: BAYERN WIN 1-0