Sports Betting Weekly

FC Barcelona v Manchester City

When: Thursday, 19 March 2015 @ 00:45 (FINISHED)
Where: Nou Camp
It’s not often an opposing club can say that four-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, has gifted them a reprieve, but that’s exactly what the Argentine gave Manchester City in Barcelona’s 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium after missing a crucial penalty.

Had the diminutive attacker found a way past Joe Hart’s hands from the spot in the last minute – or even had he not missed the subsequent open goal from the rebound after heading horribly wide – then City would probably be dead and buried in this tie.

As it stands, however, Manuel Pellegrini’s team still have a chance – albeit a very slight one – of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which is something that would certainly go a long way to preserving the Chilean’s job.

It’s been widely speculated that unless Pellegrini delivers either the Premier League title (made difficult by the fact Chelsea are five points ahead with a game in hand) or the Champions League (made just as difficult by the fact they need to win by two clear goals in Barcelona of all places), he will get the axe. In fact, on a side note, if you fancy Pellegrini to be the next Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties, you can get his dismissal at big odds of 33/1.

While City will obviously refuse to throw in the towel on their Premier League ambitions – especially having closed a bigger gap against Manchester United in 2012 – it may be worth Pellegrini considering putting all his eggs in a Champions League-shaped basket at least for the time being.

Unfortunately for those of a sky blue disposition, the bookies aren’t backing City in this one. If the Manchester side win 2-0, they will go through – and this outcome is available at a staggering 55/1. If City win 3-2, they will still progress on away goals (realistically, with Barca’s front three, the Catalans will probably score at least once) and this scoreline can also be had at the exact same odds.

With that frightful trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in mind, City to win by two clear goals probably is a more realistic option than for the English side to win 2-0, and this can be had at 22/1.

By contrast, backing Barcelona to score has probably never been easier. The Catalans to win 3-0 is available at 12/1, while Barca to win 3-1 can be had at the same odds. Having recovered from a slightly inauspicious start to life at the Nou Camp, Suarez has been in dynamite form of late – with 13 goals and 10 assists in 21 games – and the Uruguayan can be had at 4/1 to open the scoring, or evens to net anytime and continue his impressive record against England international, Hart.

As for Messi – who last Sunday broke a Spanish record when he hit his 32nd career hat-trick for Barcelona – he will want to make up for his misses in the dying seconds in Manchester and add to his superhuman tally for the season.

The Argentine has a frankly ridiculous record of 41 goals in 33 games this campaign while also contributing 16 assists to Barcelona’s cause, so Messi to score first remains an obvious choice at 3/1 or you could also back him to score anytime at 4/5.

City are not without brilliant finishers who hail from Argentina themselves, mind. Sergio Aguero holds City’s best chance of bagging one of the now-necessary away goals at the Nou Camp, as shown by his 23 goals in 29 games this season. It was also Aguero that handed City a lifeline going into this tie, with his strike coming after Suarez had done the damage in the first half. The market is tipping him out of anyone in sky blue to notch, as he is 9/2 to break the deadlock and 6/5 to score anytime.