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Back Manchester City with a -1.5 handicap in the Caesars sportsbook.
Diego Simeone’s side can be a tough nut to crack at times, but Pep Guardiola’s side should be able to break them down.
It is almost 10 years since Pep Guardiola left Barcelona and the Catalan is still waiting to win the Champions League with another club.
There is no doubt that Guardiola is a managerial genius and one of the best coaches of this and any era. He will go down in the history books regardless of what happens from now until the rest of his career. At the same time, it would feel like something is missing if he did not win a Champions League with Manchester City.
He came close last season. Guardiola reached his first final since 2011, and City were the favorites to overcome Chelsea in Porto. Yet the Premier League champions fell to a 1-0 defeat by their domestic rivals, with Kai Havertz scoring the only goal of the game. It was a major blow for City, who are striving to go one better this time around.
For all his acumen, Guardiola tends to overthink things in the Champions League. Last season he bizarrely opted to omit both Fernandinho and Rodri against Chelsea, who took full advantage of the absence of a natural holding midfielder.
In the previous campaign, City switched to a back three against Lyon despite having little experience with the system. In 2018/19, Guardiola made a surprise call-in leaving Kevin De Bruyne out against Tottenham Hotspur.
Guardiola is a deep thinker about the game and his intensity sometimes leads him to make curious decisions in a bid to preempt his opposite number’s own tactical moves. City will hope he sticks with the tried and trusted on Tuesday.
Atletico Madrid got the better of Manchester United in the round of 16, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in the Spanish capital.
In truth, Atletico’s triumph in Manchester had more to do with United’s deficiencies than any brilliance of their own, although they did well to keep their opponents at arm’s length after taking the lead.
Atletico Madrid were out of the La Liga title race a long time ago, but they can still salvage their season by going far in this competition. The Colchoneros, like City, have never won the Champions League despite reaching the final in 1974, 2014, and 2016.
Simeone is an expert at putting together game plans to frustrate opponents with more talent at their disposal.
That is not to say that Atletico’s squad is short of gifted players, but they are the underdogs in this tie and will only go through if they can stop City from operating at full capacity. That will be a tall order, although it is also Atletico’s specialty.
Remember, although Champions League knockout ties are played over two legs, from a betting perspective we tend to treat each game as a standalone match.
That is not to say you should pretend there is not a second leg taking place next week. The fact that Tuesday’s match is only half of the tie will influence both managers, and bettors should take it into account too. However, we are not predicting which side will go through to the semi-finals, but rather forecasting the outcome of this game at the Etihad Stadium.
Realistically, Atletico’s best chance of progressing to the last four is by winning the second leg at home and either avoiding defeat in Manchester or suffering a narrow loss that can be overturned.
The abolition of the away goals rule means there is less incentive for them to attack on Tuesday, so we will probably see Simeone’s side sit behind the ball and try to frustrate the hosts. They will waste time whenever possible and look to take the sting out of City’s attacks. There might be a few breaks forward from the visitors, but they will certainly not overcommit and leave themselves exposed at the other end of the field.
If Atletico can get to half-time at 0-0, they will be a step closer to causing an upset over two legs. However, it is extremely difficult for visiting teams to keep the score down at the Etihad.
City usually creates an abundance of chances and they will probably do so here, especially as this is not a vintage Atletico backline. Go for City with a -1.5 handicap in this one.
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|Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid Information
|Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
|The Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
|Tuesday, 5 April 2022, 3.00 PM EDT
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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