Champions League first leg predictions

February, 20, 2012

The UEFA Champions League knockout stage continues this week, so let's take a look at each team's chances of winning its first-leg matchup. Using ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI), we calculated the offensive, defensive and overall rating of each team and used those to simulate each matchup 10,000 times.

Here's a look at this week's quartet of games:

Napoli vs. Chelsea

Napoli brings an 11-match home unbeaten streak in European competition into its first-ever meeting with Chelsea on Tuesday. The last team to claim a victory at the San Paolo was Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1994.

Further bad news for Chelsea is its poor record in Italy, posting a 1-3-3 record all-time, including a 2-1 loss away to Inter Milan in last season's round of 16. Chelsea also struggled away from Stamford Bridge in this year's group stage, going 0-1-2 and scoring three goals, compared to a 3-0-0 record and 10 goals scored at home.

CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid

Real Madrid, the only club to win all six of its group-stage matches, is a heavy favorite away to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, winning nearly 70 percent of the simulations according to SPI. Real Madrid was also the second highest-scoring team in the group stage with 19 goals and conceded only twice, fewest among all teams. CSKA Moscow conceded eight goals in the group stage, tied for second-most among teams in the knockout stage with AC Milan and Bayer Leverkusen.

It's not all bad news for CSKA, however, as it has never lost to a Spanish side in five European meetings; its record is 3-0-2, including a victory over Sevilla in the round of 16 in the 2009-10 Champions League. It should be noted that CSKA Moscow was eliminated in the quarterfinals that year by Inter Milan, which at the time was coached by current Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.

Basel vs. Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich is this week's biggest favorite according to SPI, winning 73.2 percent of simulations even as the away side. These two teams were in the same group in last year's Champions League group stage and Bayern won both encounters, including a 2-1 victory away in September 2010. Bayern has the competition's second-leading scorer in Mario Gomez, who scored six goals in the group stage, which could be bad news for a Basel side that has conceded 10 goals, more than any other team that reached the knockout stages this season.

Marseille vs. Inter Milan

Inter Milan is seeking its third straight berth in the Champions League quarterfinals, but SPI perceives the Nerazzurri to be a big underdog away to Marseille in Wednesday's first leg. This matchup features two teams that struggled at home during the group stage -- both teams earned only three points, losing twice. The only other club in the round of 16 to lose twice at home in the group stage was CSKA Moscow. Inter had success on the road in the group stage, earning seven points (2-0-1) away from Italy en route to finishing atop Group B. Marseille enters this match looking to move one step closer to its first trip past the round of 16 since winning the Champions League in 1993.



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