The glitz and glamour of the Champions League returns this week, with 4 Last 16 first leg fixtures scheduled to be contested over two nights of compelling action on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As always, supporters across the continent will be hoping that their team can hit as many high notes as the competition’s famous anthem, though some will more confident of success than others.
In the first pair of Last 16 contests on Tuesday evening, Liverpool host Bayern Munich at Anfield and Lyon take on the mighty Barcelona at the Groupama Stadium.
Each fixture comes heavily wrapped in intrigue, with each of the competing quartet capable of emerging from their respective games with a first leg lead.
Both games are covered extensively by online bookmakers with a whole host of potentially lucrative betting markets available and waiting to be explored.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of player specials for Tuesday’s Champions League fixtures. Take a look at our selections below:
Sadio Mane (LIVERPOOL vs Bayern Munich) – Over 0.5 shots on target – 4/6
Liverpool’s Senegalese attacker Sadio Mane has been searching in vain for his goal-scoring touch in the Champions League this season, though it hasn’t been for the want of trying.
Mane has scored a healthy 12 times in the Premier League for Liverpool so far this term, however the 26-year old has only managed to register once in the Champions League for last year’s finalists.
The former Southampton star has however, had 1.8 attempts on goal per game on average in the competition, 0.7 of which have been on target.
It’s worth noting that Mane’s average jumps to a lofty 3.3 shots per game when you isolate Liverpool’s European matches at Anfield, 1.3 of which have been inside the posts.
On Tuesday, Mane will come up against a Bayern Munich defence that has conceded 12.7 shots per Champions League away game on average in 2018/19.
If Mane can maintain his Anfield attempts average and test Manuel Neuer just once this week, bet365 will pay out at 4/6 odds. We think that looks a cracking price.
Andrew Robertson (LIVERPOOL vs Bayern Munich) – Over 52.5 passes – 5/6
It might surprise you to learn that all-action Scottish left-back Andrew Robertson regularly sees as much of the ball as any of his Liverpool teammates.
Robertson ranks 3rd in Liverpool’s squad for average passes played per game in the Premier League (68.3), and 4th in the Champions League for the club in the same metric (62.5).
In a system where a large chunk of Liverpool’s attacking support play comes from the full-back positions, Robertson has a key role in taking possession and instigating attacking moves from the left-hand side.
The Scottish international is certain to be central to Liverpool’s build-up play again against Bayern Munich on Tuesday and with that considered, bet365’s odds of 5/6 for Robertson to play over 52.5 passes looks great value.
Lionel Messi (Lyon vs BARCELONA) – under 5.5 shots – 4/5
Lionel Messi, the one-man Argentine attacking artillery unit, has been relentlessly laying siege to defences again this season.
Messi has already passed the 30-goal mark in all competitions for Barcelona this season, and when you look at his shots per game figures, it’s easy to see why he rattles the net with such regularity.
The 5-time Balon d’Or winner has had 5.1 attempts on goal on average in La Liga this season, and 5.3 shots on average in the Champions League – a figure only eclipsed by his teammate Luis Suarez and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, on Tuesday Messi and Barcelona travel to France take on one of the Champions League’s most dangerous outliers and tournament dark horses in Lyon.
The French side took 4 points from 2 games against Manchester City in the Group Stage of the competition and earlier this month, they became the first Ligue 1 team to beat runaway leaders PSG.
Messi and his Barca teammates are unlikely to have things all their own way against Bruno Génésio’s exciting young charges this week, and even though he is ultimately likely to affect proceedings in one way or another, we think it’s highly improbable that he will have enough opportunities to pepper the Lyon goal.
With Barcelona’s number 10 set to be kept a little more quiet than usual in Lyon on Tuesday, bet365’s price of 4/5 for Messi to have under 5.5 shots against Les Gones looks a fabulous price.
Tanguy Ndombele (LYON vs Barcelona) – over 2.5 tackles – 11/10
Even though he isn’t short on combative qualities it would be unfair to categorize Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele as a defensive midfielder, and the statistics seem to back that train of thought up.
The in-demand 22-year old has averaged just 2 tackles per game on average in Ligue 1 this season, while his equivalent figure in the Champions League stands at a slightly less aggressive 1.8 – respective numbers that make him the 6th most potent tackler at Lyon in both domestic and continental competition.
It is interesting to note however, that Ndombele’s defensive workload considerably increases when Lyon play in games of greater magnitude against higher level opponents.
Ndombele made 3 tackles at the Etihad Stadium in November during Lyon’s hugely impressive 2-1 win against Man City, though that number dropped back to 2 in the return fixture the same month.
Against PSG in Ligue 1 however, Ndombele made 4 tackles for Lyon in each of their two meetings with the French champions.
Ndombele will likely have more ball-retrieving tasks than usual against a possession hungry Barcelona side on Tuesday, and that should ensure that his tackle stats explode vertically.
You can back Ndombele at 11/10 to make over 2.5 tackles for Lyon against Barca, which looks a price well worth considering.