Despite the group stages of the Champions League proving to be relatively predictable, there was hope that excitement levels would go up a notch in the last 16. That optimism has turned into reality with surprise wins and goals featuring in over half of the ties, including Porto's 2-1 triumph over Italian giants Juventus. Only Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain - last season's finalists - can claim to have more than one foot in the quarter-finals, and we do not expect to discover with any real certainty which of Atalanta BC and Real Madrid will progress further in the competition after Wednesday night's fixture in Italy.
Just like punters take calculated risks when placing bets, many will be predicting that Real are capable of scoring an away goal at the Gewiss Stadium. That is despite Zinedine Zidane's side being far from impressive in the final third of late, just eight goals coming in their last five fixtures and failing to score more than twice in any of those games. However, we feel that punters should be placing bets on an away win, taking advantage of Real being available at rare betting odds of 2/1. Although Los Blancos have gone almost seven halves of football without conceding a goal, punters should avoid taking a bigger chance on Real emerging victorious with a clean sheet, showing respect to what is a quality, yet unpredictable, Atalanta outfit.
Gian Piero Gasperini's outfit have suffered just one defeat in their last 20 matches in all competitions, which came by a 3-1 scoreline at home to Serie A rivals Lazio. However, Atalanta have responded by scoring at least three goals in all but two of their last five fixtures, including at the weekend when netting four strikes in 27 second-half minutes to dispose of Napoli. Real Madrid are not known for being involved in high-scoring thrillers under Zidane's watch, but punters will get at least 6/4 if they choose over 3.5 goals. With each team looking to ensure that they remain in the tie ahead of the reverse fixture in Spain, there is no getting away from the fact that it is a risk, but that mentality has not mattered in half of the other last-16 ties played over the last week or so.
If predicting goalscorers is your thing, you may struggle to make a decisive decision for this contest. Gasperini is not shy in rotating his players in the final third, while Zidane is having to make do without top goalscorer Karim Benzema. If push came to shove, we would be going with Atalanta frontman Duvan Zapata to score during 90 minutes, the 29-year-old having recently ended a barren spell without a goal with two strikes in three games. Even at betting odds of 5/4, there is more value in going with Zapata than taking a gamble on Real's Mariano Diaz, who has recently been brought in from the cold to take the place of Benzema.
Punters should also take an interest in the yellow cards market for this contest with Real Madrid's midfield no strangers to picking up cautions. Casemiro has eight yellow cards in 21 La Liga games this season, while Toni Kroos has collected five over the same period. As expected, Casemiro is only available at short betting odds of 6/4, but Kroos is a no-brainer at a minimum of 3/1. We like the chances of at least one of these landing on Wednesday evening, which would ensure that you make a profit.