Manchester City must go for the jugular in the Champions League. Serie A is having a great European season

It’s that time of year. Time to set your brackets and make your selections, the same way you do every March. I’m talking, of course, about the fact that the bottom four teams will qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals this week, meaning we’ll all have our UCL bracket ready after Friday’s draw. I’m Mike Goodman, this is the Golazo launch newsletter and we’re here to get you ready for Champions League week

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📺 Champions League on Paramount+

All times USA/East.

Manchester City vs. Leipzig, 4 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
Porto vs. Inter, 4 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

Napoli vs. Frankfurt, 4 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
Real Madrid vs Liverpool, 16:00 ➡️ Paramount+

⚽ The front line

Why City should go for the jugular

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It is Manchester City’s luck in life to be very good and also to have their approach, tactics and strategy. It happens, you have the wealth of a nation-state behind you, Pep Guardiola patrolling the sidelines and a trophy cabinet with no Champions League silverware. But this could really be City’s time to shine… if they can get out of their own way.

Manchester City’s problem is that in the biggest matches, Guardiola tends to play conservatively rather than let them rip and go for the jugular. Of course, what “conservative” means varies from group to group. In City’s case, the result is a team desperate for possession and less concerned than usual with using the ball to score. Take the first leg of City’s tie with Leipzig. This is a team that averages just over two xG per game in the Premier League and takes over 16 shots. City managed just over one xG and 12 shots in the first leg, but completed 635 passes despite “only” averaging 575 passes per game. More possession, less attack.

Put all this together and you can see why in ours This week’s Champions League picks, Chuck Booth has Guardiola’s side winning but not dismissing Leipzig despite being clearly the better side.

  • Shanty: “Goals will be at a premium with the teams going into the match on equal footing. City know that if they are not careful, RB Leipzig will have no problem hitting them on the counter, but a goal from [Erling] Haaland will be fit to see the game out. Choose: Manchester City 1, RB Leipzig 0.”

Booth makes the point that Guardiola certainly seems to have in mind when constructing these highly controlled strategies. Keep teams from counter-attacking by keeping the ball. It’s just that at some point every season, City will get carried away because they’re too busy not being exposed defensively and forget that they’re the best attacking team in the world — with Erling Haaland — and can basically score at will. Ultimately, City will have to try to win some 3-1 games if they want to win the tournament. Playing everything so close to the vest is just asking for some bad breaks. It may not happen this week, but eventually City need to start going for the jugular or they will once again find themselves picked to death as they fall short of Champions League expectations.

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Serie A clubs are having a fantastic season in the UCL

Inter and Napoli have a chance to make it past three teams from Italy in the Champions League last eight (Roma and Juventus are both favorites to make the Europa League quarter-finals as well). If that happens, then Italy will field the most teams in the quarter-finals of any nation (barring Liverpool making a miraculous comeback and going past City, which would also give the Premier League three teams). It is a remarkable achievement for Serie A, a league that has not produced a UCL quarter-final since Atalanta in 2019-20.

And now let’s go to some links:

🔗 Arsenal will not stop believing. They just keep marching towards a title as Gabriel Jesus returns, writes James Benge.
🔗 The time has come for Tottenham to move on from Harry Kane if they can get a big check from Manchester United, writes Booth.
🔗 See all of us Champions League picks for the week.
🔗 Barcelona is in very, very hot water for payments to an arbitrator’s private company.
🔗 Roma completely lost the plot this weekend with Marash Kumbulla sees red in the 4-3 defeat by Sassuolo.
🔗 It’s official, the 🏔️ The Utah Royals are returning to the NWSL.
🔗 Before the Champions League starts, check out our power rankings 📈 from Benge.
🔗 With Chelsea’s form changing, Booth ranks how their winter signings are doing.
🔗 Attack Three: The Orlando Pride are next on the NWSL season preview list 📝.
🔗 House of Champions: It’s a 🇪🇺 Champions League preview extravaganza.
🔗 Don’t forget we have CBS Sports Golazo Network will premiere on April 11
🔗 And remember, all your soccer needs — from Champions League to Serie A to NWSL and more — are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free using the code: ADVANCE.

💰 The back line

💵 The best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times US/Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend’s best bets.

  • Champions League: Manchester City v Leipzig, Tuesday, 3pm
    💰 THE CHOICE: Under 2.5 (+130) — We talked about this early in the newsletter, Pep Guardiola is sacrificing his team’s electric scoring prowess for increased control in big spots. City are big enough favorites to qualify, and they should be, but with 1-1 going in, neither team will want to take any chances here, with City ultimately freeing up the big man in the area to Haaland scored the goal. they need
  • Champions League: Porto – Inter, Saturday, 3 p.m
    💰 THE CHOICE: Inter (+160) — Inter’s loss to Spezia on Friday was a colossal misfortune. Somehow they conceded three open shots on goal, while also conceding penalties and missing a penalty of their own. Inter are fine and better than this year’s version of Porto.

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