Can Juventus come back from 3-0? Can heavy EFL favorites come through? Does massive favorite PSG have the mustard to beat Dijon?
The UEFA Champions League is back, with one tie that looks all but dead, and another that looks close after the first leg. But looks can be deceiving.
Juventus will host Atletico Madrid, with the Italian side still reeling from a 2-0 loss in the first leg three weeks ago at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, which will host the 2019 Champions League Final on June 1. Diego Simeone's Atletico side will want to make sure it stays alive in this tournament and continue its quest to win its first Champions League title on its home pitch, after two devastating losses to Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 finals.
In the other tie, Manchester City heads home with a 3-2 advantage over Schalke 04, after Raheem Sterling scored the late winner, despite City playing with a man down for the final 20 minutes. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks that City will not roll to a huge victory at home, and keep alive its run at four trophies. The odds for this match reflect those sentiments, with the Citizens installed as huge favorites.
The EFL Championship title race is heating up very quickly, as is the race to make the playoff spots, for a chance to reach the Premier League. Leeds United sits in second, and can jump Norwich City (for a day at least) at the top of the table with a win over Reading. Bristol City has a chance to leap into the playoff spots with a win over last place Ipswich Town.
Can both teams take advantage of their opportunity?
In France, PSG is still trying to get over the stunning loss to Manchester United last week. There were reports that the players wanted the season to be over, and wanted to head out on vacation. But there are still two months left in the season, and PSG will get a chance to take out its frustration on 18th place Dijon Tuesday.
(Home teams always listed first)
ENGLAND EFL CHAMPIONSHIP
Bristol City (-175) vs. Ipswich Town (+550), draw (+280), 3:45 p.m. (ESPN+)
Reading (+425) vs. Leeds United (-143), draw (+275), 4 p.m. (ESPN+)
Juventus was in much the same situation last season in the quarterfinal round, against another team from Madrid. Juventus lost 3-0 to Real Madrid at home, then went on the road and took a 3-0 lead. With the match all but headed to extra time, Michael Oliver awarded Real Madrid a penalty, and Cristiano Ronaldo converted in the seventh minute of stoppage time to stun the Italian side.
This time, Ronaldo is with Juventus, and the Italian side is at home. Ronaldo was part of both Real Madrid teams that beat Atletico Madrid in the two finals, and will think that he can drag his new side back into this tie with an early goal.
The problem with ties like this, though, is that if Atletico Madrid scores one goal, Juventus would need five. The Spanish side is also one of the stingiest defensive sides in Europe, and is very unlikely to give up four goals. The first 15-30 minutes will be crucial. If Juventus heads into the break up 1-0 or 2-0, this tie will get very interesting in the second half.
The picks (7):
Bristol City ML (-175)
Bristol City -1 (+160)
Leeds United ML (-143)
Leeds to win and both teams to score (+260)
Juventus ML (-143)
Manchester City -2 (+105)
Three team parlay: Juventus ML (-143), Manchester City ML (-650), PSG (-450), pays +240