Following the conclusion of all European domestic leagues, UEFA’s European competitions finally get back underway and BetVictor brand ambassador Michael Owen gave us his thoughts on all the action.
Manchester United to win to nil
Manchester United v LASK (5-0)
United have already qualified for next season’s Champions League, by way of their third-place finish in the Premier League.
They were very comfortable winners in the first leg of this tie when they thrashed LASK 5-0 in Linz way back in March.
LASK were very impressive in the group stages of the competition, when they finished top of their group. They then dispatched AZ Alkmaar comfortably in their round of 32 tie but the wheels have fallen off somewhat since and they finished their 2019/20 league campaign, losing six of their last ten Austrian Bundesliga matches.
The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last 13 UEFA Europa League home games and have registered four wins out of four at Old Trafford this season, scoring 13 goals and conceding none.
It’s difficult to see anything other than another tough night for the Austrian team and I am going for another clean sheet and easy victory for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men in this one. Manchester United to win 3-0.
Under 2.5 goals
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Rangers (3-1)
Leverkusen dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, behind Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
With Rangers 2-1 down, the first leg tie was delicately balanced when, in the 88th minute, Leon Bailey scored Leverkusen’s third to tip the tie firmly into the German team’s favour.
Rangers are the only club to reach this season’s round of 16 after beginning their UEFA Europa League journey in the first qualifying round and they are already underway in the new Scottish Premier League season.
They have looked impressive since their return from lockdown, having won their last five games, scoring eleven goals and conceded none.
However, I think terminal damage was done in that first leg at Ibrox. Rangers have never won a UEFA tie after losing the first leg at home and although I can see it being a close match in Germany, I fancy Leverkusen to go on and secure their place in the quarter-finals. 1-0 to Leverkusen for me.
Wolves to win
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Olympiakos (1-1)
Wolves earned a very creditable draw in Piraeus in the first leg of this round of 16 tie against Olympiacos, another team who have dropped down from the Champions League competition.
Nuno Espirito Santo will have been a touch disappointed at the way his team finished their Premier League campaign as several costly defeats mean that they finished seventh and one place below the 2020/21 European qualification spots.
However, they will now be focusing on securing a place in next season Champions League with the small matter of winning the Europa League needed in order to achieve that!
Olympiacos extended their record number of Greek League titles to 45 at the end of June and managed the feat with six games to spare.
Despite the newly re-crowned Greek Champions seeing off Arsenal in the round of 32 back in February, I fancy the Wanderers to get the job done at Molineux with a solid if not spectacular 2-0 win.
Other Europa League Match Predictions
FC Copenhagen v Istanbul Basaksehir (0-1): Predicted score 1-0
Shakthar Donetsk v VfL Wolfsburg (2-1): Predicted score 2-0
Inter Milan v Getafe: Predicted score 3-1
Sevilla v Roma: Predicted score 2-1
FC Basel v Eintracht Frankfurt (3-0): Predicted score 1-0
Juventus to win and both teams to score
Juventus v Lyon (0-1)
Juventus are going to have to stage another memorable comeback if they are to progress to the quarter-finals. Few of us will forget their comeback against Atletico Madrid last season when a second leg hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo over-turned a 2-0 first-leg deficit.
Lyon have only lost 4 of their last 19 European matches but having lost out on penalties to PSG in the French League Cup final, they will need to win the Champions League outright if they are to be playing European football next season.
All in all, this is a difficult tie to call but I think the Ronaldo factor could well be the difference between the two sides and I’m going for a 3-1 win to Juventus.
Both teams to score
Manchester City v Real Madrid (2-1)
This tie was turned on its head by a couple of Manchester City goals against the 13 times champions, in the last 15 minutes of the first leg at the Bernabeu in February.
Since lock-down restrictions were eased, Manchester City have had one or two surprisingly poor results and performances. That said, they were already certain of second spot in the Premier League and perhaps Pep Guardiola and his players have had half an eye on this upcoming second leg clash.
Real Madrid on the other hand, have been in excellent form since the lock-down and won 10 of their last 11 La Liga matches, en-route to winning La Liga for a record 34th time.
To my mind, the winner of this clash is most likely to go on and lift the trophy on August 23rd.
As difficult as it is to predict, I think it’s a huge advantage for the Citizens that the fixture will take place at the Etihad and not a neutral ground.
I also think Sergio Ramos will be sorely missed by Los Blancos as a result of yet another suspension and I take City to win 3-1 and set up a potentially mouth-watering clash against Juventus in the quarter-finals.
Barcelona -1 on the handicap
Barcelona v Napoli (1-1)
Barcelona haven’t lost a UEFA Champions League match at home for over seven years and will be confident of reaching the quarter-finals for the 13th successive season.
Napoli have never progressed beyond the last 16 so are looking to reach unchartered territory in this competition.
Despite Napoli earning a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Stadio San Paolo, I think that Antoine Griezman’s 57th minute equaliser will have dented the belief of the Italians. They finished a lowly seventh in Serie A and with Barcelona desperate to finish their own somewhat disappointing season in style, I can see a comfortable 2-0 win for Quique Setien’s men.
Bayern Munich to win 2-0
Bayern Munich v Chelsea (3-0)
After a goalless first half at Stamford Bridge in the first leg back in February, Bayern took total control of the tie with three second-half goals.
Chelsea’s manager, Frank Lampard was captain of the Blues back in 2012 when they beat Bayern in Munich on penalties, to win the Champions League for their first and only time.
One glimmer of hope for Chelsea is that Bayern have lost three of their last five Champions League home matches in the knock-out stages but surely a three-goal deficit is too much to overturn.
Not only do Chelsea need to score at least three times, but they also need to stop the Munich goal machine, Robert Lewandowski, from adding to the 11 goals he’s already scored in this season’s Champions League competition.
As much as I would love to see another British team progress into the quarter-finals, I can’t really make a case for it happening. Chelsea’s players will still be feeling the disappointment of losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend and I see Bayern bringing the Blues season to a disappointing end with a 2-0 win to the German champions.
Other Champions League Match Predictions
Atalanta v PSG: Predicted score 1-2
RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid: Predicted score 1-1