Our columnists tip up their best bets for the Champions League semi-final first legs
So here we are, the semi-finals of club football’s greatest competition. Just four teams remain with dark horses Tottenham and Ajax making up the first semi-final, and European giants Barcelona and Liverpool the next.
Let’s waste no time and dive right in, shall we?
Tottenham Hotspur vs AJAX (Tuesday, 8pm)
Spurs (9/2 – Outright) were eventual winners in a fiercely competitive and thoroughly entertaining quarter-final with Manchester City, while Ajax (9/2 – Outright) have continued to take the continent by storm after back-to-back giant killings against Real Madrid and Juventus.
London is the location for the first leg and while Pochettino and co have home advantage in their favour, we think the Dutch side will be too strong for them here so that’s where our pin ultimately lands.
Ajax have shown their class is no fluke and this young side and are clearly playing without any fear. That won’t change here, and Spurs outside of Europe have been in pretty modest form in the latter parts of this season, summed up by their 1-0 loss to West Ham at the weekend.
We’d be very surprised if Erik ten Hag takes a pragmatic approach here and tries to take a draw to the Johan Cruijff ArenA, and if they’re at full throttle it’s hard to imagine Spurs would be able to cope with them.
But ultimately we think Ajax will win this tie, by whatever margin, and for them to qualify (4/5) is looking a very attractive price also.
TIP: Ajax win @ 19/10 (WON)
BARCELONA vs Liverpool (Wednesday, 8pm)
This one feels more like a puzzle. On one hand, Barcelona (6/4 – Outright) are in stellar form with Lionel Messi, of all people, in a world of his own – meanwhile Liverpool (9/4 – Outright) are seemingly finding a way to win at all costs.
Not to sound overly cliched but this one really could go either way. Over two legs it’s usually impossible to back against Barcelona but Klopp and co have been ruthless all season, losing just one Premier League game.
The Reds will need Van Dijk, recently named PFA Player of the Year, at his very best if they’re going to stop the many danger men in the Spanish side’s front line. They’ll also need the talented trio of Firmino, Salah and Mane at their best too.
That being said, based purely on the thought that Barcelona are too strong for anyone right now and have the home advantage here, gun to our head we’re siding with the Spaniards at a very back-able price (9/10).
Expect a cagey affair also, with under 2.5 goals (5/4) probably our next best bet. Sadio Mane to score anytime (2/1) could prove some price given his scoring record – especially in this tournament – this year.
TIP: Barcelona win @ 9/10