The Champions League is back. The last 16 begins Tuesday on CBS All Access with the big Barcelona vs. PSG clash, while Liverpool also face RB Leipzig. Now, this competition always has its fair share of upsets. Just look back at last season where RB Leipzig and Lyon made the semifinals, stunning the soccer world in the process.
This season, we saw Shakhtar Donestsk do the double on Real Madrid, while Istanbul Basaksehir got a win over Manchester United.
Now, as the teams enter a new level of importance with two legs to decide who moves on, which teams need to be on upset watch? (All odds via Willam Hill Sportsbook)
You can stream every match on CBS All Access (soon to be rebranded as Paramount+) and select matches will air on CBS Sports Network. The May 29 final will be broadcast on CBS.
PSG (vs. Barcelona)
To advance to quarterfinals: Barcelona: +100; PSG: -137
Lionel Messi and Barcelona as underdogs? 100 percent, but careful here in a potential upset. Barca have been so inconsistent and are coming off a really poor showing against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semifinals, so where does anybody see a path to victory against a loaded PSG? Well, that changed with the news that Neymar is out of the first leg with an adductor injury — and injuries to Neymar have contributed to PSG’s lack of success in the competition in recent years, aside from the run to the final last summer.
PSG have also shown massive inconsistency, losing recently to Lorient and not even leading Ligue 1, where they are heavy favorites.
These are two teams with talent, though PSG have more, but they are also quite inconsistent. PSG have already lost five Ligue 1 games, and while Barca have been hot in the league, they haven’t been convincing in the slightest. On paper, PSG are the stronger side, but without Neymar, a potential first-leg victory could set up nicely for Barca to once again deliver in the French capital.
Atletico Madrid (vs. Chelsea)
First leg: Atletico Madrid: +160; draw +210; Chelsea: +190
This one’s all about that first leg. Chelsea are narrow favorites to advance over La Liga’s current leaders but the Spanish side remain small favorites in the opening leg, despite the match having been moved from Atleti’s home turf to a neutral stadium in Bucharest. While Atletico Madrid appear to be running away with La Liga, and Chelsea have struggled to the point where Frank Lampard was sacked and Thomas Tuchel was brought in to replace him, appearances can be deceiving. Since Tuchel signed, the Blues have not lost a single match, winning four of their last five heading into Monday’s clash with Newcastle.
The Blues have improved on their possession, which has been key to not giving up as many chances. In Lampard’s last 13 games in charge, where the Blues lost five of the last eight, they recorded 57.9 percent possession on average. They conceded 12 goals in those last eight games.
Since Tuchel took over, Chelsea have improved their possession by over 10 percent, recording 68.45 percent on average and conceding just once. That possession, continuing to improve upon it, will be crucial against a team like Atletico that loves to press. Chelsea have improved in their passing as well, and playing smart and keeping the ball on the ground could make all the difference against Atletico. That possession can help overcome what is at times an inconsistent backline as they look to get Thiago Silva back from injury.
Real Madrid (vs. Atalanta)
To advance to quarterfinals: Atalanta: +163; Real Madird: -225
This one is all about Real Madrid just failing to be consistent, especially in this competition this season. Those two losses to Shakhtar were stunning as Real were outclassed for most of the 180 minutes in which they faced the Ukrainian side. Without Sergio Ramos, Real’s defense can be quite average as Nacho struggles to fit in alongside Raphael Varane. If Ramos can’t go, watch out, because Real are facing one of the best attacks in Europe in Atalanta.
The speed with which the Italian side gets forward, combined with Real’s system that gives up space down the wings as their fullbacks get forward, will likely mean Atlanta get their fair share of looks. If they’re even remotely precise in front of goal, nobody will be stunned to see the most successful team in this competition’s history get bounced early.
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