Champions League soccer returns to action this Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week we saw four shutouts (A.K.A. clean sheets) across four matches. Goals are at a premium. We saw two home victories and two road dogs barking. The race for the European title heats up with four new teams playing.
@BurrOaks' UCL Picks: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid & Frankfurt vs. Napoli - 2/21
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid
Liverpool has managed to get back to back winning results in the EPL recently. It is worth mentioning that one of the wins came against Everton, (who is in a relegation battle), and another against Newcastle, (who’s starting keeper received a red card 22 minutes into the match). Outside of these two recent wins, Pool has had a very difficult season. They will look to build on their momentum heading into this tilt with Madrid.
Madrid is getting hot at the right time. They have won four of their last five matches, they lifted the Club World Cup trophy, and have scored 15 goals in their last four fixtures. Karim Benzema rested and did not travel with the team for our Osasuna match this weekend. However, Benzema is with the squad in London. Tony Kroos is dealing with injury and was unable to travel with the team. He will not be on the roster in London tomorrow. This will impact Camaving the most, but he has looked excellent filling in. Tchouameni also picked up a last minute knock before the weekend and is unavailable for this match. Our midfield will rely on Modric, Camavinga, Ceballos, and Feddy heavily.
Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez was able to break out of a scoring slump and get on the sheet vs Nwecastle. This is important because Nunez has received a lot of criticism for not living up to expectations associated with his transfer price tag. Nunez is a solid player, but has not had the immediate impact Pool fans have been looking for. Cody Gakpo has goals in B2B games and joined Liverpool in the winter transfer window. This transfer came after an outstanding World Cup performance. Gakpo has been Liverpool's best weapon since the break. Mohamed Salah is always dangerous and must be accounted for as well. He has been off form for several weeks, but he is a major problem when he performs. Liverpool also returned star defender Virgil van Dijk. He is a major anchor on the back line and should help Liverpool try to contain this Madrid attack.
Madrid has really had Liverpool’s number the last few H2H. Madrid defeated Liverpool in last season’s UCL final. Madrid handed Liverpool a round of 8 exit in 2021. Madrid again beat Liverpool in the 2018 UCL title match. I would call this a rivalry, but in order to have a rivalry, you have to have some wins. Liverpool has not defeated Madrid since 2009. Madrid’s attack will be led by Big Karim Benzema in the middle with Vini Jr. on the left hand side. Benz has been dealing with a hamstring all season and has not played every fixture for us. He has started 13 La Liga games for us, amassing 11 goals and three assists. Quick math tells us that is over a point per start. Vini Jr. is one of the fastest players on the planet. If he gets the ball in stride down the left, he’s damn near impossible to catch. He also commands a lot of attention. Pulling two or three defenders over to his side. This allows space to open up for our other players. Vini assist is something I look at every match. He creates so many matchup problems for opponents with his scoring and distributing. I have yet to see a team stop Vini. The best you can hope to do is slow him down and frustrate him. I would look at whoever is guarding Vini for a card. In order to slow him down, you are going to be forced into fouling often.
Madrid DNB +120 @ PointsBet
Madrid to qualify -125 @ DraftKings
Benzema AGS +160 @ FanDuel
Vini Assist +440 @ FanDuel
(Full disclosure, I am a massive Madrid fan. I try to look at these matches objectively, but it is impossible to eliminate all biases. That said, Pool is in the mud and has been in the mud most of the season. I don’t see that changing in the next two weeks, personally. Just wanted to be crystal clear on where I stand.)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Napoli
Frankfurt is playing well and is currently sitting sixth on the German table with 38 points. Germany has a three way tie for first place right now between Bayern, Dortmund, and Union Berlin. All those teams have 43 points and the title race in Germany is very closely contested. Randal Kolo Muani has been leading the charge for Frankfurt offensively. He has had seven goals and two assists in seven matches since the return from World Cup action. Kolo’s name only failed to appear on the score sheet in a single game on 2/12/23 vs Koln. He is an excellent target for player props. Another quality Frankfurt player is Daichi Kamada. You may remember the Japanese international from the World Cup. Kamada is a midfield player who is capable of scoring at an extremely high clip. This is great for his player prop value. Kamada has contributed seven goals and five assists for Frankfurt in Germany. More importantly, he has three goals in UCL qualifying. Kamada steps up and finds the score sheet when his team really needs him. Frankfurt will need all the goals they can muster here at home if they hope to survive this tilt with Napoli.
Napoli is playing like the best team in Europe right now. This team is a WAGON. Napoli is at the top of Italian Serie A with 62 points. Their next closest competitor on the table is Inter at 47 points. That is a massive gap and allows Napoli to focus a lot more attention on this competition. Bad news for opponents. Napoli has won their last five matches outright outsourcing the opposition 12:1 in those five games. Napoli has only lost one Italian fixture outright this season. UNREAL numbers from this squad. Napoli did have a troubling moment this Friday at the end of the Sassuolo match. Victor Osimhen, their leading goal scorer, came up a little lame and held his hammy late in the match. He was quickly subbed off, but he is traveling with the team and his name is on the roster. Keep an eye on his availability. Victor has 18 goals and three assists in Italy and is the tip of the spear offensively. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (A.K.A. Special K) is the 22 year old Georgian international that has soccer pundits buzzing. Special K is having a breakout season contributing 10 goals and nine assists across 19 Serie A fixtures. He also had two goals and three assists in the six UCL qualifying games. The man is a menace. All of his props will be worth a look.
Ultimately, I think Frankfurt is in for a long day and an early exit from this tournament. They had an unfortunate draw to get this matchup, and Napoli shows no signs of cooling down. Frankfurt definitely knows how to step up for big games. They are in UCL this year because they won Europa League last season. The Frankfurt faithful will be out in force and they will fill this stadium with energy. Their best shot at advancement is to get up on Napoli early, and try to force them off their game.
Napoli ML +115 @ DraftKings
Osimhen AGS +150 @ Barstool
Special K assist +290 @ FanDuel