Champions League Round of 16 Best Bets For 2/21/23: Liverpool Vs. Real Madrid, Eintracht Frankfurt Vs. Napoli
Champions League Best Bets (2/15/23)
With half of the Champions League Round of 16 matchups already through their first legs, there’s still eight teams who haven’t kicked off yet. Let’s take a look at those clashes and talk about some best bets as Europe’s best spring back into action.
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid Best Bet
I’m tempted to call this the best recent rivalry in the Champions League- after all, it’s been the final twice, in 2018 and a year ago, with a quarterfinal mixed in between the two. But it’s hard to really declare something a rivalry when it’s only ended one way; with a Real Madrid victory. The incredible streak is alive; only teams based in Madrid have knocked Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool out of Champions League play, but the Reds are finally finding their form and will be looking to reverse the trend. In just two weeks, they’ve risen from the ashes of what looked to be a truly lost season, and now have a realistic chance of securing a Champions League berth for next season.
What changed? Put simply, health. The team is almost back to 100%, with the most notable exception being the continued absence of talented Colombian winger Luis Díaz, who may be ready for the second leg of this tie at the Bernabeu, but he will not be in uniform at Anfield for this edition. Madrid have had some minor struggles throughout this season, but they’ve picked up a pair of easy victories in the league in recent days. They’re ready to go in their favorite competition, with the notable exception of Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema, who is an injury question for this match.
I’ve got a handful of bets I really like in this game, the first of which is the simplest; Liverpool on the moneyline, as they’re favored at +135 at home. I do think Madrid are most likely to go through, but I see them as pulling that off at home, via another signature comeback. A week or two ago, this would never have been my pick, but I like where this Liverpool team is at. It’s important never to overreact to a couple of good matches, but the reasoning here is key- they didn’t randomly start playing better, they got key players back from injury and started getting better results, including this weekend’s 2-0 win at Newcastle, who had previously been unbeaten in the league since August.
Pretty logical, and I think the Reds can keep it up at home, where of course they have always excelled in European competition. The next wager I’m a fan of is the under; the Liverpool defense is getting back into the swing of things, and I’m not sure if Madrid’s attack is going to be firing on all cylinders in Benzema’s absence. The Reds are also not exactly a scoring juggernaut these days, and I could see a cagey, low-scoring competition like others we’ve seen between these two things. Lastly, I love Mo Salah’s chances of bagging a goal- he’s gradually re-finding his top form, and he is the goalscoring leader in this year’s Champions League. Let’s see if he can score another against his least favorite opponent.
Best Bets: Liverpool +135, u2.5 goals (+120), Mohamed Salah anytime goalscorer (+180)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Napoli Best Bet
This matchup, while not stuffed with marquee names like some others, is one of the more interesting ones of this round. Napoli have of course been one of Europe’s best clubs all year, and have essentially already secured their first Italian league title since Diego Maradona’s tenure with the club. In Serie A, they’ve only lost once all season, and that match is their only non-win since the start of September, a streak spanning 19 matches. In this competition, they absolutely blew through their group, winning all games except the group finale against Liverpool. Frankfurt haven’t been quite as excellent, but they’ve picked up some interesting results such as a big road draw against Bayern not too long ago. They also navigated a very even and challenging UCL group to get here, so we’ll be seeing a clash of two battle-tested sides.
The long and short of this one is that even on the road, I can’t possibly bet against the hottest and potentially best team in this competition. Frankfurt’s stadium provides a formidable atmosphere- they proved as much en route to their Europa League triumph a year ago- so this is going to be anything but an easy test. Still, Napoli’s high-flying attack should be enough to get the team over the hump, and in a great position going back home. Speaking of the attacks, I also see over 2.5 goals in slight minus odds as a no-brainer; both of these sides can seriously score, and while Napoli have had a stout defense in domestic competition, they’ve given up a few in Europe.
I have a goalscorer bet for this match too, but it’s neither one of Napoli’s breakout star forwards; it’s too hard to guess which one will be the hero on any given day, which is part of what makes them so lethal as a duo. Instead, I’m going with another recent breakout, Randal Kolo Muani, who announced himself as a force to be reckoned with after a strong World Cup performance with France. I wish I could bet anytime goal contribution, because his playmaking has been as strong or even stronger than his goalscoring output- I’d also be interested in that wager for Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. But with 7 goals in his last 8 games, I’ll take plus odds on the man in form.
Best Bets: Napoli +120, o2.5 goals (-135), Randal Kolo Muani anytime goalscorer (+185)