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Best bets for the second leg of the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League

Will Atletico Madrid lose the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match against Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United? MB Getty Images/Media

This week, four more second legs of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 will be played, followed by the quarterfinal draw on Friday.

Last week's second legs aren't going to super useful in assessing how eliminating the away goals tiebreaker might directly affect this week's games, because no home team has a commanding lead like Liverpool and Manchester City did, and no road team carries a slim 1-0 advantage like PSG did. I believe we'll see close matches like the one between the two English teams last week, and the one between Real Madrid and PSG during the first hour.

With that in mind, let's get to the games for this week. Always keep in mind that these bets are just for entertainment purposes.

Caesars Sportsbook provided the odds.

Monday, March 15th

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Manchester United was fortunate to come away with a point in Madrid. United only managed seven total shots and 0.6 anticipated goals, with Anthony Elanga's 80th-minute equalizer coming on United's only effort from inside the penalty area.

Don't let Cristiano Ronaldo's Saturday hat trick against Tottenham Hotspur paper over United's attacking flaws. United had a mere 10 shots and 0.9 expected goals, nearly half of which came on Ronaldo's nicely-worked second goal. Against the three best teams Ralf Rangick has faced with United (Tottenham, Atletico, Man City), the Red Devils have averaged seven shots and 0.8 expected goals.

Atletico will try to do what Atletico does: muck up this game in the middle of the field and limit United's chances while looking to sneak a goal on the break or simply get to extra time and penalties. A year ago, Atletico trailed Chelsea 1-0 after the first leg, and attempted this exact strategy, allowing only 10 shots, though Chelsea managed a goal in each half and advanced.

I'll look for more of the same and take the under again. If I didn't already have a bet on Atletico to advance, I'd like the +140 price now too.

Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-160)

Ajax Amsterdam vs. Benfica (1st Leg was 2-2 draw)

Ajax was the dominant side for the first 45 minutes in Portugal, leading 2-1 at halftime and unfortunate not to be up by more, after Sebastien Haller knocked in an own goal and missed a great opportunity shortly before the break. Benfica found its form in the second half, outshooting Ajax 10-4 and leveling the match on Roman Yaremchuk's 72nd-minute rebound.

This is the only UCL match in which goals are anticipated this week, as evidenced by juice on over 3.5 goals (-120), and I think the game will start in that wide-open fashion, before possibly tightening up late. Ajax should come out blazing, particularly with no fear of conceding a fatal away goal -- and that will result in goals, one way or another.

Four straight Ajax games have had multiple goals in the first half, and six of the last seven have had at least 2.0 expected goals. Look for more of the same in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

Pick: 1st half over 1.5 goals (-105)

Wednesday, March 16

Juventus vs. Villarreal (1st Leg was 1-1 draw)

Newly-acquired Dusan Vlahovic scored in the first minute of the first leg, after which Juventus did little offensively the rest of the game, totaling six shots and 0.3 expected goals the rest of the way. Dani Parejo's equalizer came in the 66th minute on Villarreal's final shot of the game, and the two teams totaled just one shot over the final 24 minutes.

As mentioned before the first leg, Juventus has struggled versus good teams all season, going winless in seven games (two losses, five draws) against top-five Serie A teams, with a minus-1.6 expected goal difference and 47% possession across those matches. Getting any combination of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Paulo Dybala back on the field will of course help Juventus both ways. With none of them certain to return on Wednesday, Villarreal should remain optimistic heading to Turin.

With Villarreal cautiously pressing and Juventus selectively attacking, this shapes up like another tightly-contested leg that neither team puts away, so I like a low-scoring 90 minutes that could easily be a draw. I also like the +160 price on the "Yellow Submarine" to get through, though I'm not doubling up after playing Villarreal to advance prior to the first leg.

Picks: Draw (+245), under 2.5 goals (-140)

Lille vs. Chelsea (Chelsea won 1st Leg 2-0)

With Chelsea in control of the series, I expect the second leg to look a lot like the first one. Chelsea did concede 15 shots to Lille at Stamford Bridge, but from an average distance of 21 yards and with an average expected-goals value of 0.04, second-lowest of the 16 teams in the first leg.

In their last 11 games against Premier League and Champions League teams, the Blues have eight clean sheets and a total of three goals conceded, and they've allowed more than 1.1 expected goals only twice in that stretch. In the six Champions League games that have mattered to Chelsea this season, Thomas Tuchel's side has given up one goal, double-digit shots once, and never more than 0.9 expected goals.

In 45 games across all competitions this season, Chelsea has conceded two goals a mere five times, and the underlying numbers are similar. That's trouble for a Lille offense that still isn't clicking, with seven goals (one by Jonathan David) over the last seven Ligue 1 games, and an average of 12 shots per game. Since Lille will have trouble scoring, and Chelsea doesn't need goals, I'll happily play the under again here.

Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-120)

Former ESPN senior researcher Paul Carr is director of content for TruMedia.


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