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The Champions League Quarterfinals Brings Cinderella Stories and Upsets



A Refreshing Change of Pace

It’s March Madness, and it looks as though the Cinderella stories aren’t exclusive to the NCAA Tournament this year. The Champions League quarterfinal draw was the perfect outcome for anybody who dreams of upsets on the biggest stage.

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Manchester City will battle Bayern Munich, while Real Madrid will fight Chelsea. Meanwhile, Napoli get Serie A foe AC Milan while Inter Milan get Benfica. This assures that two of the four “Cinderellas” remaining will reach the semis, while two of the four giants remaining will be sent home.

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While getting three teams to the quarterfinals was already a boost for Serie A, this draw is also a blessing. It guarantees the league — one which has struggled in Europe lately and is still reeling financially from COVID — will get at least one team in the semifinals, and possibly two. There’s also a chance that the Premier League could lose both its remaining teams, which, if we’re being honest, would be a welcome sight to every other league in Europe. It may not close the financial gap, but small victories are victories nonetheless.

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Serie A’s Chances

For a competition that’s felt like a long run to the same teams reaching the end far too often, it’s been a refreshing change of pace.

Recent form has always been a factor in how I handicap matches, but this is a spot where that recent form needs context. On the surface, Lazio haven’t won a match in two weeks. They lost both legs of their Conference League series with AZ Alkmaar and managed a scoreless draw to Bologna between them. Then there’s Roma, which was battered by Sassuolo 4-3 (Sassuolo led the xG battle 3.5-1.5) last weekend before a scoreless draw against Real Sociedad on Thursday put Roma through to the Europa League quarterfinals.

Now for the context: Roma looked past Sassuolo because they were concentrating on finishing the job against Real Sociedad. They held a 2-0 lead after the first leg and were content to sit in a low block and let Sociedad pepper them with hopeless shots. Yes, Sociedad managed 1.8 xG in the match, but they needed 19 shots to get there. Roma parked the crap out of the bus. It was a Jose Mourinho special. As for Lazio, manager Mauricio Sarri told the press this week that if given a choice to concentrate on beating Alkmaar in the Conference League or the Derby della Capitale against Roma, he was choosing the derby every time.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it sometimes feels like the 15-point penalty Juventus was given was the best thing that could’ve happened to this team. It freed them of expectations and allowed this team to enjoy themselves while playing. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Juventus have been the second-best team in Serie A behind Napoli since the penalty was handed down. They’ve won nine of their last 11 matches, and while they’ve been bad away from home overall this season, they’ve been much better recently. They’ve won four of six on the road, and they’re facing an Inter Milan team that hasn’t been consistent all season.

Leicester’s Struggle

A few months ago, when Leicester got off to a slow start, I took a future on them to be relegated at +1000. The biggest factor in the decision was the team didn’t have the money to solve their issues. For a while, it looked as if Leicester would get out of the muck. A 4-2 win over Aston Villa was followed by a 4-1 win over Tottenham, leaving Leicester in 13th place, six points clear of relegation. But then Leicester stopped winning. They’ve lost five straight matches since, including four Premier League matches. They’ve been outscored 10-2 in the span, and they’re the only Premier League team not to manage a point in that time. Now Leicester enter the weekend still on 24 points, outside the relegation zone strictly due to goal differential.

A Payout Parlay

This week’s parlay is only three legs, but it has a pretty healthy payout of +135.



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