2019 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals wrapped Leg 1 fixtures today, as Ajax drew Juventus 1-1 and Manchester United OG’d their way to a 1-0 loss to Barcelona.
While there were no real surprises (those will probably come next week in Leg 2), that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything.
Here are five takeaways from Leg 1 match-ups.
- Ajax fans are all kinds of bonkers. First, they did this to Real Madrid. Ratty, yes. Harmless (unless Jason Pierre-Paul is involved), yes. However, getting hosed down to “prevent unsafe” conditions against Juventus? Let’s take a deep breath, Ajax fans. Maybe they need to bring back Frank de Boer so they don’t have to worry about making deep Champions League runs again.
- None of this matters to Ronaldo. All Cristiano Ronaldo does is
avoid media attention for his very credible rape allegationsscore Champions League goals. He yet again was 100% of Juventus’ offense, putting them up 1-0 in the 45th before Ajax’s David Neres equalized in the first minute of the second half.
- Manchester United are by no means out of it. The eye test and the game stats line up here. Yes, Barca out-possessed Man U by a 67-33% margin. That was more or less expected. However, Man U created 10 shots on goal to Barcelona’s 6 and did a good job stiffling Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez (Philippe Coutinho does a good job stifling himself). Yes, they’d be feeling a lot better going to Camp Nou 1-1 rather than 0-1, but they came back from longer odds against PSG.
- Liverpool are deservedly considered most likely to win the 2019 UCL… Sure, Liverpool’s offense still isn’t firing on all cylinders. But they’re potentially the most balanced squad remaining, especially if they finally happened to have stumbled upon a potent midfield combo of Fabinho-Henderson-Keita. FiveThirtyEight gives them the best probability of winning the UCL at 29% (Barcelona is at 27%). Oddsmakers have them second, closely behind Barcelona.
- …because Manchester City are no longer favorites! City’s annoying march toward soccer immortality and the Quadruple hit a temporary speed bump, as they lost 0-1 away to Tottenham. While that’s not a poor result by any stretch, it can be a concern if the Spurs manage to net one at the Etihad. Of course, Spurs will be without future NFL field goal kicker Harry Kane, but they’ve managed well without him this campaign. Regardless, City have been dropped by FiveThirtyEight to 21% and oddsmakers have them as third favorite now.
On that note, here are the updated futures as listed on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Barcelona _230||Liverpool +280||Manchester City +300||Juventus +390|
|Tottenham +1400|| Ajax +2800||Manchester United +3100||Porto +10000|
MLS Matchweek 7 Game OddsAs always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet MLS or how to bet soccer. All listed odds from April 10 on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Wednesday, April 10|
|Colorado Rapids +194||Draw +240||Seattle Sounders +140|
|Friday, April 12|
|Chicago Fire -145||Draw +320||Vancouver Whitecaps +350|
|Saturday, April 13|
|Montreal Impact +115||Draw +250||Columbus Crew +220|
|Houston Dynamo -180||Draw +350||San Jose Earthquakes +440|
|Seattle Sounders -120||Draw +270||Toronto FC +320|
|Minnesota United -115||Draw +280||New York City FC +280|
|New England Revolution +145||Draw +240||Atlanta United +180|
|FC Dallas -155||Draw +310||Portland Timbers +390|
|Colorado Rapids +185||Draw +250||D.C. United +140|
|Real Salt Lake -115||Draw +280||Orlando City +280|
|Los Angeles FC -270||Draw +410||FC Cincinnati +650|
|LA Galaxy -105||Draw +280||Philadelphia Union +250|
|Sunday, April 14|
|Sporting KC +100||Draw +270||New York Red Bulls +250|
Odds and Ends
- In our marquee match-up, Sporting KC (+100) vs New York Red Bulls (+250) battle it out in Sporting’s backyard. Looking at both teams the past weekend, Sporting is coming off a tie away against FC Cincinnati (not to mention their tough loss in CCL) while the Red Bulls come off a loss at home to Minnesota United where the Red Bulls were seen to be struggling. In fact, the Red Bulls have only picked up 4 points in their last 5 matches. Pretty tragic so far. BUT, can anyone remember 2016 when Red Bulls were 1-and-6 and then ended up winning the Eastern Conference? We wouldn’t count them out just yet. Both teams need the points — for morale and conference standings.
- The match of the weekend in terms of current conference standing goes to Seattle Sounders (-120) vs Toronto FC (+320). With Sounders coming off a win at home while Toronto FC struggled for a tie at home last weekend against Chicago Fire, who currently sit at the bottom half of the table of the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see why Sounders are the favorites. With all this being said, both teams sit in one of the top 3 spots in their conference…if I were Toronto, I’d be a bit offended by the value they were given. Toronto at +320 deserves a longer look.
- A value play worth taking a look at is Minnesota FC (-115) vs New York City FC (+280). Currently, Minnesota have accumulated the most away points (9 points) out of any MLS team in 2019. On top of that, they are about to play in their new home stadium for the very first time. Meanwhile, New York City FC are sitting second to last in the Eastern Conference which makes sense considering they’re currently without a win in their first 5 matches and can’t seem to score (statistics show that they’re averaging LESS than a goal per game). With all this being said, a value favorite is Minnesota FC.
- Another match to look out for is Atlanta United (+180) vs New England Revolution (+145). Both teams are sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It’s still quite early to make a judgement call based on standings but, needless to say, both teams need a win. ATL UTD are returning fresh after a weekend off while New England are returning home after coming off a loss away at Columbus Crew.
You know that saying about history repeating itself?
If you’re an Atlanta United fan who wants to take a spork to your eyeballs this season as you watch your once dynamic and exciting team be the exact opposite of dynamic and exciting, this Tactics Explained video on Frank de Boer‘s struggles at Crystal Palace will not make you feel better.
You can simply replace a lot of “Crystal Palace” with “Atlanta United” and some player names and it’s the exact same video.
Gotta score to win
FdB’s post-Ajax teams have all had problems putting the ball in the back of the net. While I’m not a scientist or mathematician, last I checked the best way to win at soccer is by tallying more goals than your opponent.
Frank de Boer’s recent teams don’t do this.
You could over-simplify this issue by saying, “Makes sense, he was a center-back, and is more concerned about building from the back, backline organization and solid defensive tactics.” Ooooorrrrr… you could say that he’s married to a style of possession and play that’s outdated and he’s unwilling to adapt his unsuccessfully philosophies to his successful personnel.
Atlanta United was a well-oiled goal scoring machine last year.
In exactly zero MLS games this season have the Five Stripes produced more shot-based xG than their opponent. They have produced more non-shot xGs in two of their games, meaning their movement around their opponent’s penalty area should be creating scoring opportunities, but there’s a disconnect between their movement and forward-progression to shots on goal. It’s a small sample size, and maybe Miguel Almirón’s departure and skill-set are part of the reason for that disconnect.
But! If you go back to de Boer’s time at Palace and Inter, the same bottomline problems existed. His teams don’t score when he’s there, and then do score more the rest of the season when he leaves.
|Inter w/ FdB||Inter post-FdB||Palace w/ FdB||Palace post-FdB|
|GPG Avg: .84||GPG Avg: 2.18||GPG Avg: 0||GPG Avg: 1.3|
So how about ATLUTD this year compared to last year?
|ATL with Tata ’18 GPG||ATL with FdB ’19 GPG|
Ball don’t lie…
As we’ve written before, de Boer cheerleaders point to his time at Ajax as evidence that he’s a capable coach. However, Ajax will always be a dominant team in the Eredivisie. They’ve literally never finished lower than fifth IN THE HISTORY OF THE CLUB, and that’s only happened twice.
While there were certainly higher-level issues at Inter, the team improved from 12th to 7th in Serie A after FdB was sacked (in 85 days). In the four (!!!) Premier League games he coached before getting sacked at Crystal Palace, his team scored exactly zero goals. They improved from 20th (last) in the Premier League table to 11th by season’s end.
Atlanta United is currently last in the Eastern Conference table.
The lack of an offense and overall results are more than just a trend. This is who Frank de Boer is as a coach.