Champions League Round of 16: Man United hopes to salvage lost EPL season

champions-league-thumbManchester United’s massive struggles in the English Premier League have turned the defending champs into the laughingstock of England. That’s not a misprint. The English side currently sits at sixth place in the league table, 15 points behind league leader Chelsea and nine points behind fourth place Liverpool. Again, not a misprint.

Suffice to say, David Moyes’ first season in charge of United has been nothing short of a catastrophe, so much so that the team he left to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson – Everton – has an equal number of points as United and with only a two-goal difference between them.

So with pretty much nothing else to play for in England other than a sack of pride, United knows that there’s only one road to next season’s Champions League: win this year’s title.

It’s far easier than done considering how uninspired the team has been throughout the year, but they do have an opportunity to right that ship later today when it takes on Greek champions Olympiacos in the first leg of their Round of 16 encounter. It’s certainly not worth bragging that United is only a 5/4 favorite to win this contest given the supposedly massive disparity in talent between the two sides. But such is the hand the Devils have been given. They’re no longer considered that English juggernaut that plowed through the competition at this stage of the tournament and the team they’re facing has proven to be far more than just sacrificial lambs.

The Greek side, which has remained unbeaten in the Greek league with 24 wins in 26 matches to go with 2 draws, is definitely a live underdog at 3/1 odds with a draw penciled in at 9/4 odds.

Don’t completely think that United is going to overpower Olympiacos despite the former fully understanding that the Champions League is the only tournament they really have to play for at this point in the season. Our expectations call for a draw in Greece with Man U eking out a close win at Old Trafford in the second leg.

Borussia Dortmund vs St. Petersburg

The other Round of 16 match on the day features runners up Borussia Dortmund traveling to Russia to take on Zenit St. Petersburg. While not on the same alarming free fall as United, Dortmund’s Bundesliga campaign has been rife with inconsistencies, at least more than what we would’ve expected from a team considered as one of the best teams in Germany. A 3-0 shutout at the hands of Hamburger over the weekend isn’t going to spell more confidence for Dortmund fans, but even when its struggling, the team is still head and shoulders better than their Russian counterparts.

Give some props to the Russian leaders for what they’ve accomplished so far in the Russian Premier League this season, but do so while understanding that the team actually survived by the skin of their teeth in the Group Stages of the Champions League, advancing only because they had one more draw in their bag compared to FC Porto and Austria Vienna.

But at this stage in the tournament, Dortmund has shown that it can lift up its play to the level that saw it come within a whisker of beating Bayern Munich in last year’s Finals. As such, the Germans have been penciled in as 4/5 favorites on the road with Zenit playing the role of massive home underdogs at 11/4 odds with a draw penciled at 10/3.

All this considered, this should be an easy win for Dortmund if it plays up to its full abilities. The only question is: will they?