UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
AS ROMA - MANCHESTER UNITED
SCHALKE 04 - BARCELONA
I have had a look at these quarter-final first legs over the past decade, in 40 matches, we had 22 home wins, 15 draws and just 3 away victories.
Obviously, few poor teams reach this stage and away sides are realistic about their targets in the first leg, knowing that they have the home tie ahead of them.The number of goals have definitely increased in recent seasons, but still 24 of the 40, were "under" the 2.5 total.
So, an average game would work out to 1.82 -2.66- 13.33 , the under/over at 1.67 2.50, that is to a 100% ( no profit) book. Obviously, I am not suggesting that United or Barcelona are 12-1 chances, I would be first in the queue to get on, but we should certainly think twice, before taking skinny odds about any away side,at this stage of the tournament.
Roma will be without Totti and Perrotta, but have done well this year in their absence and there is a good case to be made for the argument that Totti's influence is no longer as great, as it once was. They hosted United twice in 2007, last season winning 2-1, ahead of their Old Trafford mauling (7-1) and at the group stage this season, sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
United and especially Ronaldo, 26 goals, from a non out and out striker is incredible, are on fire at present, but I still expect Sir Alex to adopt a cautious approach, qualification is all that matters. I would not be surprised to see a repeat of the group result and a 1-1 draw, the stalemate, looks far and away the best value.
Understandably, after the 7-1 loss in Manchester last season, Roma were not looking forward to the group rematch, but were very unlucky to lose 1-0 and that performance would have given them confidence ahead of this game. A draw.
Barcelona have been very disappointing this season, have won just once in five starts, lost from 2-0 up at the break, to Betis at the weekend and are set to be without Messi, Deco, Ronaldinho and possibly Eto'o this evening.
Schalke have done well on home soil and impressed, especially in the first half in their 1-0 win over Porto and in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea, where they dominated the game. This is another game which looks "drawish" to me, but I am going to side with the hosts, getting the handicap start, Barce will be confident of turning a narrow defeat around in Spain and will surely not take too many needless chances late in the game. They have played two recent away first leg quarter final ties in recent seasons, drawing 0-0 in Benfica and losing 1-0 to Panathinaikos.
4.5 points Roma-Manchester United draw 3.20 exchanges.
4.5 points Schalke +1/4 ball 2.03 asian line.