Manchester City (+125) at Dynamo Kiev (+250), Draw (+240)
Manchester City has been beyond disappointing over the past two months, but they have a favorable matchup in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 when they visit Dynamo Kiev today at the NSK Olimpiyskiy in Kiev (2:45 PM Eastern).
City hasn’t done anything to be proud of over the last month or so. They lost key opportunities to gain top position in the English Premier League and, last Sunday, they were embarrassed 5-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup. Of course, Man City did start five teenagers in that game in order to rest up for their Champions League showdown.
“We will have a similar squad to the one that played the last game in the Premier League. We had to make a difficult decision about the FA Cup game against Chelsea [on Sunday],” explained manager Manuel Pellegrini. “We had only 13 first-team players available, and we could not afford to lose more, so we had to sacrifice one of the tournaments. But now we have the intention to continue in all competitions. We won our group in the Champions League, and we’ll try to go as far as we can.”
They’re lacking momentum heading into today’s game, but Man City are still the favorite to win the series. City are -350 to qualify for the quarterfinals while Dynamo are at +275.
Dynamo recognize they are the underdogs, but they’ve had success against EPL teams in Kiev, winning five, drawing six and losing just twice. They squared off with Chelsea twice in the Group Stage, drawing 0-0 at home but falling 2-1 in London.
“City have scored more than any other team in the Premier League [alongside Leicester] and their recent defeats mean nothing,” said Dynamo coach Serhiy Rebrov in his pre-game press conference. “Their squad, even [with all their injuries], includes many top players. In fact, all their players are world class. Their domestic form doesn’t matter as the Champions League is a completely different competition, and we saw their priorities at the weekend.”
Manchester City have never reached the Champions League quarterfinals, and this might be the best chance to date. The Pari-Match League (the Ukrainian local tournament) is in recess due to the East European winter; Dynamo have not played a competitive game since beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv (1-0) on December 9.
Pick: Man City (+125).
(Photo credit: Дмитрий Голубович (soccer.ru) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.)