Bottom teams impressive

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am

Liverpool proved last season that strong domestic form and Champions League success do not necessarily go hand in hand, and again current form didn't count for much when the Champions League resumed last week.

The bottom eight of the 16 teams won four, drew three and lost only one of the first knockout legs. The top eight in the ranking, meanwhile, could manage only one win between them - Barcelona's victory at Chelsea.

Liverpool themselves were the only loser from the bottom eight - away to Benfica, another team in that group - and they face another tough battle in next week's home leg at Anfield.

The holders have a great home record in Europe (six wins and three draws in nine Champions League games since the start of last season) and the odds are that they will go through. There is a doubt, though, because of their low-scoring attack - they never had to turn around a first-leg deficit in last season's competition and they failed to score in two of their three home group games this season.

Benfica were stubborn opponents in low-scoring Group D and they should make this a tight encounter. Low goals seem likely. The best bets for home wins are Arsenal, Lyon and Barcelona. All three hold one-goal leads from the first leg and, with their opponents forced to attack, there will be plenty of chances on the counter-attack.

Villarreal should beat Rangers but the odds will be short. Two of the toughest games to unravel are the Italy v Germany clashes - Milan v Bayern Munich and Juventus v Werder Bremen. Bayern may have missed their chance when they drew 1-1 in the home leg, but they are and are sure to cause problems for Milan. This could be another close game and Bayern are the handicap pick. Werder confirmed their standing as one of Europe's most entertaining teams with a thrilling 3-2 home win over Juventus. Juve should win, but this could be another high-scoring game.

Best homes: Arsenal, Lyon, Barcelona.

High goals: Juventus v Werder.

Low goals: Liverpool v Benfica.