Roma v Barcelona Tuesday April 10 19:45 Live on BT Sport 3
Disastrous last week for Roma
Roma picked the worst possible time to lose their form. They were of course massive outsiders to go through against Barcelona but a 2-1 deficit (which is probably what it should have been after the first leg) is very different to a 4-1 loss. They'll be particularly annoyed about conceding two own goals because they weren't necessarily under the cosh and at times in the first-half matched Barcelona blow-for-blow. At least they got an away goal but make no mistake: this is as big a task as you'll see in football.
And they'll arguably be even more cross at the fact they lost 2-0 at the weekend to Fiorentina. Not only has that reverse cost them in the Serie A table but it's deprived them of any momentum at all coming into this second leg.
Valverde eyeing up a treble
Barcelona are exactly where they'd want to be at this stage of the season. They've booked their place in the final of the Spanish Cup, are way ahead in the league and in pole positionto progress to the semis of the Champions League.
And credit to Erneste Valverde. He lost Neymar in the summer and saw the Brazilian's initial replacement Ousmane Dembele miss most of the season through injury. And he was without his other big signing, Philippe Coutinho, for the Champions League as the former Liverpool man was cup-tied.
Don't expect Barcelona to rest any big-name players here. That's not the Barca way and with the league all but sewn up and the Cup final still a couple of weeks away, there's no need to.
Barcelona's odds-on price justified
Barcelona are 1.69 and would have to do something they've never done before if that odds-on price is going to be turned over: win in Rome. But they've only ever had two goes at winning in the Italian capital so it's hardly a large sample. Further ammunition for hitting the lay button is that Roma have kept five clean sheets in their last six Champion League games, winning the last three (also Opta).
But I'm happy to ignore both of those stats. It's also not the Barca way to just manage a lead. They're set up to play the same way rain or shine and irrespective of the circumstances. It's possession football aimed at finding the opening and making the most of it. Lionel Messi and co will go out to win this game and send a warning message to the Real Madrids and Bayern Munichs. I'd rather be a backer than a layer at that price.
Roma can score in defeat
But we can do better than just a back of Barcelona. In five times Barca have played Roma in the Champions League, the Italians have scored in five of them. And the last two times they played each other, admittedly in Spain, Barca beat them 6-1 and 4-1. That away goal was a nuisance by the way because we had a 4-0 home win at 12/1 ahead of that game.
So here we have an obviously superior team who could score freely again against one who will have to go for it at some stage and has a good record of scoring against the Spanish giants. All of a sudden the 2/1 on Barca to win and both teams to score looks attractive.
Dzeko can do his bit for the cause
Just because this match promises goals doesn't make it any easier to try to predict who might get them. Messi is 8/15 to score but bizarrely failed to get any in that 4-1 first leg. Although he made up for that at the weekend by scoring a hat-trick in La Liga. But that price is too short for someone with a poor record on Italian soil. He's scored just twice in nine away games in Italy, as Opta tell us.
Luis Suarez is 5/6 and that looks a little on the short side, too. I flagged up Gerard Piqueas a lively contender at 8/1 ahead of the first leg and he duly scored. He's 12/1 this time round.
But the other man I mentioned was Roma's big gun Edin Dzeko. He was 3/1 last time out, was Roma's scorer on the night and is 2/1 this time round which is understandable given he's on his own patch. That's not a bad price at all and a good alternative to the recommended bet.
1pts Back Barcelona to win and both teams to score @ 2/1