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Champions League Preview – Quarter Finals First Leg

Then there were eight, jostling it out for club football’s biggest prize. Here’s what to look out for in UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals first leg.

Benfica vs Inter Milan

Of the eight clubs left in the Champions League, both Milan clubs occupy the longest odds to claim the 2022-23 prize, with only AC Milan ($18) considered a lesser hopeful than rivals Inter ($15). And that is mostly due to the fact that Simone Inzaghi’s side are in torrid form, having won just one of their last eight games in all competitions. There are growing calls for Inzaghi’s head as Inter struggle for any kind of final-third penetration, scoring just five goals throughout this period.

Benfica, by contrast, are humming having won eight on the bounce before defeat to rivals Porto on the weekend. Since the advent of the Champions League they have never made the semi-finals (after a number of quarter-final appearances, the latest of which was last season) and have a distinct opportunity to do so this year. Nicolas Otamendi misses the first leg, a big loss for the Portuguese side.

Tip: Benfica @ $2.15

Manchester City v Bayern Munich

Undoubtedly the most anticipated clash of the four quarter finals. And it features the two most fancied sides to win the final next month — City as $3.25 title favourites and Bayern as $4.50 second-favourites. It’s an encounter which prompts big questions. Is this the season Pep Guardiola finally tastes Champions League glory with the Sky Blues? Or can Tuchel win a second Champions League in three seasons having only just taken over at Bayern?

There’s little doubt Tuchel can have a strong early impact, having done the same at Chelsea. And with a Bayern squad oozing with talent, he has a huge chance to claim a second winners’ medal. Except for one problem; he faces arguably the season’s biggest test now, against a City side in sparkling form. Guardiola’s men have won their last eight on the bounce, and have banged in an incredible 21 goals in their last four games. Erling Haaland has never beaten Bayern in seven attempts, although has a strong record individually having scored five goals. But it’s Jack Grealish, now humming in sky blue, who looms as the key in this one.

Tip: Manchester City & Under 3.5 goals @ $2.70

AC Milan vs Napoli

Head-to-head, perhaps the toughest to pick of all four quarter final first legs. Napoli continue their charge to an inevitable Serie A title, now 16 points clear of Lazio in second. With a whopping 66 goals this season — 18 more than the next-best — they’ve proven themselves as one of the most fearsome attacking units in Europe this season, and are deserved third-favourites (at $5.00 with Palmerbet) behind City and Bayern to claim Champions League glory this season, something they’ve never done. In fact, their run this season is already a best-ever for the Naples club at Champions League/European Cup level.

The considerable spanner in the works of trying to find a winner in this clash is the fact that, a week ago, AC Milan hammered Napoli 4-0 away in a huge psychological blow. Granted, Stefano Pioli’s side have been inconsistent throughout 2022-23, but a win of this magnitude was huge considering the two clubs face each other three times within 17 days. Whether they can repeat that performance at the San Siro, though, is another matter altogether.

Tip: Napoli @ $2.55

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

These two clubs have a very competitive recent history having met in last season’s Champions League quarter finals (which Real Madrid won 5-4 on aggregate) and in the 2020/21 semi-finals, which Chelsea won 3-1 on aggregate before going on to claim the ultimate prize weeks later. Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick in last year’s first leg at Stamford Bridge. And notably, the Ballon d’Or winner has hit a rich vein of form scoring two hat-tricks in the last week, including against Barcelona as Real routed their rivals to reach the Copa del Rey final.

There’s good news and bad for Real Madrid. The bad news is that their form has been patchy all season, and somehow sit 12 points adrift from a Barcelona side that are hardly setting the world on fire this season. The good news is that however bad they’re doing, it’s still nothing in comparison to Chelsea. The Blues, who have reinstated Frank Lampard as caretaker after giving Graham Potter the boot — are currently on track for their first EPL bottom-half finish since 1995-96.

Tip: Real Madrid -1.0 @ $3.05

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