City to shine against Schalke

Wednesday sees the final batch of Champions League last 16 first leg ties, with three genuine contenders for the trophy in action.

Arguably the draw of the round went to Manchester City and they should have no issues away at Schalke.

Pep has eyes on the prize

Winning the Champions League is a huge priority for Manchester City this season, with the Premier League champions the 4.20 favourites to go all the way and lift the trophy.

It is no secret that the draw was kind in pairing Pep Guardiola’s side with Schalke, a team who finished second in the Bundesliga last term but currently sit 14th in the table and could only manage a stalemate at home to Freiburg on Saturday.

Die Konigsblauen came through a fairly weak Group D, featuring Porto, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow, and one win in five is hardly ideal form going into a game against the rampant Citizens.

Youth seems to be Domenico Tedesco’s focus this season, although the relatively veteran 25-year-old Matija Nastasic, will look to prove a point after being let go by City in 2015.

Looks for Leroy at former club

City, in contrast, rotated as they beat Newport 4-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday and one man who could keep his place in the side is Leroy Sane, after grabbing the opener at Rodney Parade.

The German international has had to make do with a bench role in recent weeks, as Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva have been favoured in the wide berths.

However, having spent his formative years coming through the ranks in Gelsenkirchen, Pep could give him the start against his former club.

Sane to score at anytime is 2.10 and he and his team-mates will expect a win, an opinion reflected in the betting with the visitors 1.28 favourites.

Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Aguero are likely to be recalled and with the EFL Cup final and the Premier League on the agenda for the English champions, Guardiola will be imploring his side to kill this tie off in the first leg.

City won 2-1 at Hoffenheim earlier in the competition and a repeat of that scoreline might be worth a look at 7.50.

In fact, Guardiola’s side were slow starters in Group F, contributing to them keeping just one clean sheet and an away victory and both to score looks a sensible outcome at 2.65.

Defences on top in Madrid

The other fixture sees Atletico Madrid welcome Juventus and both will have designs on going all the way in this tournament.

Los Colchoneros’ Metropolitano stadium hosts the final on June 1 and it appears now or never for an Atleti side who seem to be coming to the end of their cycle under Diego Simeone.

A typically pragmatic performance on Saturday saw Simeone’s men grind out a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano to keep the pressure on Barcelona in La Liga, and they are likely to be as gritty here.

Winning last season’s Europa League showed there is still life in this team and despite dropping out in the group stage in 2017-18, they have genuine pedigree in this competition, reaching the final in both 2014 and 2016.

Standing firm has been their raison d’etre in recent seasons and it is hardly surprising to read that the last time these two met in the group stages in 2014-15, there was only one goal over both games.

Under 1.5 goals at the Metropolitano on Wednesday certainly looks an option at 2.55, but there is a certain Portuguese who will fancy himself to upset the Atletico faithful.

Ronaldo raring to go

While Atleti’s Antoine Griezmann has four goals in this competition and Juve’s Paulo Dybala five, it is likely to be Cristiano Ronaldo who will take the headlines.

Ronaldo left Real Madrid in the summer and although he has only netted once in the Champions League for Juventus, his tally of 121 goals makes him the competition’s all-time leading scorer.

The 34-year-old, who has 21 for the season, has netted four in his last six Champions League games against Atleti and is 4.50 to score first.

Atleti new boy Alvaro Morata will be looking to get on the scoresheet at 3.75 in the anytime market and in truth, both sides would perhaps take the draw, priced at 3.10.