Atlético have Real Madrid’s number ahead of Champions League revenge mission

 

And so they meet again. Twice in the league, twice in the Copa Del Rey and twice in the Spanish Super Cup. Yet still, arguably the biggest of their meetings this season is still to take place.

Atlético have undeniably man-handled los Blancos this season. Through their six clashes during the current campaign, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have failed to pick up three points on every occasion, losing on a collective aggregate score of 12-4. Some have been utter savageries from ‘Cholo’s’ warriors, some have been close encounters. But few doubt that Atlético thoroughly have Real’s number.

 

 Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid First Leg Betting Odds:

Atlético Madrid win 7/4

Real Madrid win 8/5

Draw 43/20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Their most recent meeting provided the best evidence of it, as the European champions were beaten well past the brink of embarrassment. “They were better than us in every aspect”, Ancelotti said, after Atlético pulverised his team by four goals to nil. It had been 17 years since los Rojiblancos had beaten Madrid at home, and 38 years since they had scored four or more in a derby on home soil.

The fact that Tuesday night’s clash comes in the Champions League makes it all the more interesting. It’s the competition that captures Real’s imagination like no other; the one which Madridista’s feel is ‘their’ competition. Nobody has won it more, and their hunger for it will never fade. As well as that, it’s the platform in which Real were last victorious over their feisty neighbours.

When they met in the final in Lisbon last summer, Real captured ‘La Decima’ to devastating effect. Atlético had been on the brink of a fairytale league-and-cup double, until Sergio Ramos’ 93rd minute header took the game to extra-time. The blow proved to be too strong for Simeone’s team, who eventually fell to a crippling 4-1 defeat.

If Ancelotti’s men are going to end their miserable streak against their rivals, it seems like the Champions League will be the most likely platform in which they can do so. It’s a competition in which they can bear confidence, knowing their prestige and recent success in, as well as the fact they have the opportunity to win back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1950’s.

And in terms of the spectacle of Tuesday night itself, the stars have aligned as we edge nearer to show time. It’s expected that both coaches will be able to field full-strength eleven’s for the first leg, with the likes of Diego Godín, Mario Mandžukić, Gareth Bale, Pepe, James Rodríguez and Luka Modrić all timing their returns from injuries nicely.

So, on the verge of their most pivotal clash of the season, the question becomes: How long can Diego Simeone prolong this dominance over Real? His opposition have been buoyed dramatically in recent games by the return of James Rodríguez, while Cristiano Ronaldo has hit fine form ahead of the derby. If ‘El Cholo’ can manage it again, it might just be his team’s most impressive triumph of the lot.

_____

Juventus vs. AS Monaco

Elsewhere on Tuesday night, Max Allegri’s flying Juventus (11/25 to win the first leg with Intertops.eu) welcome Monaco (15/2) to Turin for their own Champions League quarter-final meeting. The Italians breezed past Borussia Dortmund en route to this stage, and look to boast Serie A’s most promising European threat for some time.

Many had doubted Juve’s credentials following the managerial switch from Antonio Conte to Allegri, but the veteran boss has done remarkably well since taking the reigns at the club. Speaking in midweek, Carlos Tevez praised the impact of his manager, and insisted that they can match anyone in Europe. “We are a more relaxed team now thanks to the calmness of Allegri,” he said, “I think now instead what we have is a team. We are very difficult to beat, much like Atlético Madrid a year ago.”

In their French opponents, Monaco sprung the shock of the previous round when they dumped out Arsenal. Not many had tipped Leonardo Jardim’s side to make it to the quarter-final stage, but now they are here, their lack of pressure could be a dangerous weapon that Juve will need to be mindful of.

They also lay claim to having the best defence in Ligue 1 under the Portuguese boss this season, and might well have the credentials to frustrate the Italians at the Juventus Stadium tomorrow night.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Atlético Madrid and Juventus to both win their first legs is 3.96 with Intertops.eu

 

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP is a Freelance Football Writer and the Senior Editor at Inside La Liga. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

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Barcelona and Atléti hope to continue Spanish dominance of Champions League

 

Ahead of the weekend, Barcelona had won eleven consecutive games in all competitions, and Luis Enrique was on the verge of breaking Pep Guardiola’s best winning streak in his time at the club. Meanwhile, Premier League champions Manchester City had won just once in their last six games, including two comprehensive losses on the way.

However by the time weekend was over, the landscape for their Champions League meeting had taken a rather surprising turn. The Catalans were beaten 1-0 at home by Málaga on Saturday, in what was one of the Blaugrana’s worst performances of the season. Over in Manchester just an hour or so later, Manuel Pellegrini’s team obliterated Newcastle United by five goals, while it could easily have been more.

 

Manchester City v Barcelona Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 9/4

Barcelona win 11/10

Draw 9/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

These two teams faced each other in the same round last year, meaning their impending reunion has been met with considerably less enthusiasm than last time. Barcelona won 4-1 on aggregate on that occasion, which came as a surprise to few. And considering the form of both sides coming into the weekend, a similar outcome wouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone.

Luis Enrique’s time in the Barça dugout has been interesting to say the least so far. At times, the magnitude of the job has looked daunting for him. On occasions, almost as if the role was feeling like a chore. But from faltering against the likes of Getafe and Real Sociedad over the turn of the year, Barça had begun to carve the figure of a team capable of winning honours through January and February. The Camp Nou had even begun to sing Luis Enrique’s name on match days – an often-clear sign that things are certainly going well.

The Málaga defeat has drawn flashbacks to a duller time in his tenure, however – a time when the machine was not working as it should. Knowing the furor that can quickly envelope a team with such a spotlight, one loss can rapidly turn into much more. “The losses hurt and it takes effort to get over them. We have a spectacular challenge ahead of us in three days,” said Enrique on Saturday evening.

A flicker of doubt has begun to ember again, and it’s Barça’s job to ensure it doesn’t become a fire. They have more than enough to do so. Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez may very well be the best front three in world football, and not just on paper.

But for Manchester City, it’s their job to add fuel to that Barça ember tomorrow night. If the Catalans’ reaction is half-hearted, Manuel Pellegrini’s side may have enough to ignite it on home soil.

_______

2010 was the last time, and only time, Atlético Madrid (3/2 to win the first leg with AllYouBet.ag) and Bayer Leverkusen (37/20) have met in their history. They faced each other twice in the Europa League group stages that year, playing out 1-1 draws on both occasions. The Germans topped Group B in the competition, while the team from the Spanish capital missed out on qualification behind Greek side Aris Saloniki. Atlético compounded a Europa League exit with a 7th place league finish in the 2010/11 campaign. Over in the Bundesliga, Leverkusen finished 2nd above Bayern Munich.

Cut to present day and the Diego Simeone-led Atlético are a different beast entirely. Only Real Madrid could halt them in Europe last season, and even then, they were less than a minute away from Champions League glory. At this stage last year, they swept past AC Milan by five goals to one on their route to the quarter-final. Leverkusen were hammered 6-1 by Paris St-Germain.

The Germans have quite arguably been handed the most daunting draw of all. Not the most dangerous, but quite certainly the toughest. Getting a result at the BayArena is near imperative for Leverkusen, considering Atlético haven’t lost a Champions League game at home since Simeone arrived. And unfortunately for Schmidt’s side, November was the last time they won at home in any competition.

Many had seen the losses of Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa as the beginning of Atlético’s downfall: the end of their flutter at the helm of European football. But Diego Simeone and co have kept the show rolling at the Calderón, with new stars being impressively embedded. The strike duo of Mario Mandžukić and Antoine Griezmann has been a resounding success so far – with the latter bringing immeasurable ability to the capital, as well as a new-found hunger and work rate. 14 goals in his last 14 games means the diminutive Frenchman is indeed the man to watch in this tie.

“The Champions League is always special. Now we begin the challenging part – it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a game we’ve been waiting for for weeks,” said Atlético goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyá over the weekend. Last year’s finalists are back to accomplish what they couldn’t last year, and Leverkusen are in their way.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Atlético Madrid to take a 1-0 lead back to the Spanish capital is 6/1 with Intertops.eu

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP is a Freelance Football Writer and the Senior Editor at Inside La Liga. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

Champions League – Three Key Moments

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

Might things be different had Zlatan Ibrahimović not picked up an injury?

As Lisbon’s Éstadio da Luz prepares to welcome Madrid’s biggest clubs for this season’s Champions League final, Betting Instinct takes a look at some of the flashpoints which have defined this season’s competition.

 

Champions League outright betting odds:

Real Madrid – 1.48

Atlético Madrid – 2.52

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

  1. Henrikh Mhkitaryan hits the post, 8 April

Last year’s finalists Borussia Dortmund had all but been written off as long-term defensive injuries left them fighting an uphill battle since the early stages of the season. They edged a three-way tie at the top of their group and managed to sneak unconvincingly past Zenit St Petersburg in the last 16, meaning a 3-0 first-leg defeat in their quarter final first leg in Madrid was disappointing but not unexpected.

Real Madrid were themselves not at full-strength for the return game at Signal Iduna Park, with Cristiano Ronaldo only fit enough for the bench and Marcelo also missing, but few expected the Germans to cause too many problems. That was until two first half goals from Marco Reus shook things up.

There was always a sense that a chance for an equaliser would arrive, and when that moment came it fell to record signing Mhkitaryan, a replacement for last year’s star Mario Götze. The Armenian showed great composure to round Iker Casillas but could only find the foot of the post with a shot from a narrow angle. Real held on and didn’t receive anything like as big a scare in their comprehensive semi-final victory over Dortmund’s domestic vanquishers Bayern Munich.

 

  1. Adrián keeps calm, 30 April

Atlético Madrid’s phenomenal season has largely been attributed to the two Diegos – manager Simeone and 36-goal forward Costa. However it was one of the club’s less illustrious names who played a big part in their progress to the final.

In discussions of Atlético’s firepower, Adrián is essentially ‘the other one’. The former Deportivo forward has just one league goal this campaign, and both Costa and Spanish record scorer David Villa have claimed more of the plaudits. The first of his Champions League goals this campaign – the opener in a 1-1 draw with Zenit – was just the appetiser for one far more significant.

After a goalless semi-final first leg against Chelsea, Atléti went behind to their former star Fernando Torres in the return leg. However just a minute before half time Tiago floated a ball to the back post, Juanfran reached it and as Chelsea’s goalkeeper and defenders panicked Adrián kept his cool to direct the ball low into the corner of the net. It came at a perfect time for Simeone’s side, who then went on to score twice more after the break to seal their place in Lisbon.

 

 

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimović injures his hamstring, 3 April

While there is little doubting that the two remaining teams both deserve their place in the final, it’s always fun to adopt a Butterfly Effect approach to a certain player’s absence from a key game.

Despite Sweden’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, 2013-14 has been a sensational season for Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has scored 40 times in 44 games, winning Ligue 1 player of the season as he led Paris Saint-Germain to a second successive title. However the club will ask themselves whether they might have got further in Europe had he not been injured in the first leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea – indeed The Guardian‘s Daniel Taylor described the injury as “the most encouraging news [for Chelsea] from the first leg”.

PSG won that game 3-1, but the absence of the Swede for the return game in London prompted an overly cautious approach from coach Laurent Blanc, without a comparable attacking outlet to take the game to their opponents or even just to relieve some of Chelsea’s pressure. Ultimately a timid PSG went out on away goals and missed the chance to take on Atléti for a place in the final – who knows what kind of difference a healthy Zlatan could have made.

 

Betting Instinct tip – in what looks likely to be a tense encounter in Lisbon, less than 2.5 goals can be backed at 1.69 with GR88.com

If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or less in Saturday’s final then GR88.com will refund selected losing bets which were winning before the goal went in. For full details, visit http://www.gr88.com/promotions.

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Champions League Final – Atletico Madrid Hope to Benefit from Underdog Status

Can Cristiano Ronaldo (left) find a way past Thibaut Courtois?

Can Cristiano Ronaldo (left) find a way past Thibaut Courtois?

 

I’ve been to Madrid. I went in 2010, not 2014. I went in January, not June. And I went to Madrid, not Lisbon, and that’s where my stumbling lead-in towards serious analysis of the Champions League final, this season held in the Portuguese capital, falls apart. Onwards and upwards. Well, onwards, anyway.

To try and cut down on the narrative, it’s Real Madrid v. Atletico Madrid this year, and— huh? They’re both from Madrid? Oh, so they are! This is actually a big deal – Atletico have only won two of their last 30 games against Real one of those wins coming this season. Real have lost in four of the five Copa Del Rey they have played against Atletico. Atletico won La Liga this season, and Real finished third. And Atletico are looking to win their first ever Champions League, and Real want to win their tenth. It’s a real shame it’s not being played in Madrid – my first paragraph might’ve been better, too.

 

Champions League Final Betting Odds:

Real Madrid to win in 90 minutes – 1.92

Atletico Madrid to win in 90 minutes – 4.00

Scores level after 90 minutes – 3.20

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

There was a point in this season’s competition when things started to feel pre-determined. It might’ve been after Atletico upset some sort of odds to beat Milan, and Real rolled over a German team, or maybe when Atletico upset actual odds to beat Barcelona, and Real rolled over another German team, or maybe it was when Atletico half-upset the odds to beat Chelsea, and Real rolled over another German team. Diego Simeone will worry that their stunning La Liga victory might be overshadowed if the trophy sits in the Real bus back to the Spanish capital, and Carlo Ancelotti will worry that there are no more German teams left to play.

A little unsure of what to make of this game, I asked my Chelsea-supporting friend Michael to give me the tactical lowdown. Here’s what he thinks: “Expect Atletico’s main attacking outlet to be early/diagonal crosses into the box which shows how stingy this team is – attacking without any major commitment forward. They’re like those vines in Harry Potter, the more you struggle the worse it gets. If Real can keep a balance for 90 minutes and not lose their heads should they go a goal down, there’s no reason why they can’t produce the quality to beat Atletico.”

 

Time will tell if Michael knows what he’s talking about, but I like his ideas, and a rare Harry Potter reference in the world of tactical analysis. Atletico have come this far doing generally the same thing – pressing hard when play is high up the field, then locking things down when it crosses the halfway line. Real, the fastest football team this side of a football team of racing cars (someone should make one of these if it doesn’t already exist – ed), will be given more of the ball as Atletico look to sit deep and hit on the counter, which might frustrate them until everyone remembers Cristiano Ronaldo can do anything, and is always a decent shout to score. Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema look likely to make up the front line, with Xabi Alonso the notable absence in Ancelotti’s squad due to a suspension.

Across the city, Atletico are in a bit of trouble. Arda Turan is struggling for fitness, and Chelsea-bound Diego Costa is holed up in Serbia having afterbirth being rubbed up and down his leg – without going into too much detail about a procedure in which placenta fluid is massaged onto the skin around the affected area, things aren’t great. But look, nobody expected Atletico to make it this far, and if you know someone who says they did, then you know a liar.

 

Selection headaches aside, it’ll be tense as hell and twice as Spanish. Diego Simeone doesn’t present himself as the kind of guy who’d accept defeat, and fans of Real Madrid expect a win – and this might work in Atletico’s favour. Leading the underdogs again, Simeone must know that a defeat for Real would be more disastrous than a defeat for his side, and Atletico could well frustrate their way deep enough into the game that Los Merengues lose their nerve.

I’d lean towards a narrow win for Real – Atletico will miss Costa if he doesn’t play – but given what these sides have offered already this season, it’s hard to call with any certainty. Is there a market for a winner from Madrid? That’d be way easier to predict.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Either team to win by a one-goal margin is 2.32 with GR88.com

 

Max avatar MAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has  given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is  ashamed for doing so. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Will Atletico Madrid be the new Bayer Leverkusen?

Will Atletico Madrid get the draw they need at Camp Nou?

Can Atletico Madrid get the draw they need at Camp Nou?

Liverpool v Arsenal. Lewis Hamilton v Felipe Massa. Scott Pilgrim v Gideon. There’s nothing like a great winner-takes-all battle.

 

This weekend Atlético Madrid travel to Camp Nou to face Barcelona, knowing that their destiny is in their hands over the coming weeks. Less than 10-days from now they could be La Liga and European champions against all the odds. Alternatively they could be trophiless and poised to lose their most prized asset Diego Costa.

As Diego Simeone’s Rojiblancos prepare for the double-header against Barça and Real Madrid, parallels can be drawn with Klaus Toppmöller’s famous Bayer Leverkusen side of the 2001-02 season. At this stage in the campaign they were still on course for a potential treble – top of the Bundesliga and with domestic and European finals around the corner – but they lost it all.

 

Barcelona v Atlético Madrid Betting Odds:

Barcelona win – 1.79

Atlético win – 4.10

Draw – 3.50

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The last decade and a half in German football has not quite been dominated by Bayern Munich, but when the Bavarian club have been at there best it has been tough for anyone to stop them. The likes of Stuttgart and Werder Bremen saw off an under-par Bayern during the 2000s, but only two sides have come close to stopping the 24-time champions: Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund and Toppmöller’s Leverkusen.

Captained by Germany international Carsten Ramelow, Leverkusen would have five players in the Nationalmannschaft the World Cup and a further six (Yıldıray Baştürk, Frankie Hejduk, Lúcio, Diego Placente, Jurica Vranješ and Boris Živković) also involved in Japan and South Korea over the summer. Atlético are likely to have just one fewer going to Brazil this year, if you include on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

 

With four games remaining the title looked sewn up – a penalty from goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt set up a 2-0 win over local rivals 1. FC Köln, leaving them four points clear of second-placed Dortmund, and the following week the gap would extend to five. Two years prior an own goal from midfielder Michael Ballack in the final game had cost Leverkusen the title, but surely it couldn’t slip again, especially with Bayern out of the picture.

However a dramatic collapse, highlighted by defeats at home to Werder Bremen and away in Nürnberg, meant Dortmund could even afford to lose a game en route to stealing the title from Toppmöller’s men via a nervy final-day win. However all was not lost for the runners-up – they still had finals coming up in the DFB-Pokal and Champions League.

First came the domestic cup and a 4-2 defeat to Schalke, with a first-half goal from young striker Dimitar Berbatov being cancelled out by Jorg Böhme on the stroke of half-time before three second-half strikes ended the contest. However if Leverkusen were partly responsible for their own domestic failings, defeat on the European stage was hardly their fault. A majestic volley from Zinedine Zidane clinched a 2-1 victory for Real, handing the Spanish side their ninth European Cup, and they will continue to chase that elusive Decima this month against Atlético.

 

 

Like Leverkusen in 2002, if Simeone’s side are unable to clinch the title they will only have themselves to blame. They have been top since late March but have recently begun to slip with defeat to Levante and a draw at home to Málaga. A point will be enough to help them stumble over the line, but failure to do so may well impact upon the following weekend’s encounter with Real Madrid in Lisbon.

As with Leverkusen, there is danger of this Atlético side being dismantled after the season ends. They had already lost Falcao last summer but Diego Costa and David Villa have proved more than capable of filling the Colombian’s shoes. Whether they will be able to start again if Costa completes a mooted move to Chelsea this summer is the question on everyone’s lips.

Both Ballack and Zé Roberto moved to Bayern after the 2002 World Cup, while the next couple of years also saw talismanic striker Ulf Kirsten hang up his boots and Lúcio and Živković also depart. Similarly, Atléti may well lose out-of-contract midfielders Diego and Tiago this summer in addition to Costa.

 

While this is unlikely to be the end of the road for the individual members of the squad, 2014 could be Atlético Madrid’s last chance to break up the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have the ability, but can they pull out the performances when it really matters?

 

Betting Instinct tip – Diego Costa to sign off with the first goal in what could be his last La Liga appearance is 5.00 with GR88.com

 

GR88.com will refund selected losing pre-match bets in La Liga if the game in question ends goalless. Full terms and conditions can be found at http://www.gr88.com/promotions.

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Champions League semi-finals: Goals on Tuesday, tight and tense on Wednesday

Chelsea's Fernando Torres will hope to feature against his former club

Chelsea’s Fernando Torres will hope to feature against his former club

 

Four teams are just one match away from the 2014 UEFA Champions League final. Neither of the first legs were riveting affairs as the teams made sure they didn’t lose the tie before it had really begun. That should lend itself to more attacking football in both of this week’s return matches.

Real Madrid are the only team with a telling advantage over the two clashes. Having never lost to Bayern Munich as manager of AC Milan, winning four and drawing two of the six previous clashes, Carlo Ancelotti had a clear and evident game plan for stopping the reigning European Champions. The Madrid side kept bodies at the back, restricted Munich’s space on the ball and looked to hit them on the break.

 

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Bayern Munich to qualify – 2.42

Real Madrid to qualify – 1.60

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The pace in the Madrid side, exemplified by a swift move that lead to a chance for Cristiano Ronaldo in the first half, will be a real worry for Bayern Munich. Madrid can move up the pitch in a matter of seconds, having made no more than a handful of passes.

Teams arriving to the Allianz Arena and setting up to frustrate Bayern Munich is nothing new. The German giants have been gifted the lion’s share of possession by many visitors in recent seasons. However, they don’t usually have to worry about the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale being poised and ready to do damage at the other end.

 

Bayern Munich have to score. Real Madrid will be licking their lips at the prospect of an away goal that will leave Guardiola’s side needing three. Both teams will attack and we should see the goals that were missing from the first leg. Bayern playing on the front foot will play nicely into Madrid’s hands. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that the Spanish side will want to soak up as much pressure as they can, while breaking at speed when given the chance.

An early goal then it could spark the two teams into playing out a goal fest. Otherwise, we may just have to hold on for a frantic finish.

However, I think we might be lucky to see more than a couple of goals in Wednesday’s decider between Chelsea and Atlético Madrid.

 

Chelsea v Atlético Madrid Betting Odds:

Chelsea to qualify – 1.93

Atlético Madrid to qualify – 1.88

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

José Mourinho’s team went to Spain last week with the intention of nicking a 1-0 win. However, after losing both Petr Cech and John Terry to injury, the plan was re-evaluated to focus purely on retaining their clean sheet.

The result retained Chelsea’s recent unbeaten run in the Champions League against Spanish sides. They have won six and draw 10 of their last 16 against teams from La Liga. However, a draw won’t be good enough for the Blues on Wednesday night.

Without an away goal, Mourinho needs to mastermind a victory. Although don’t hold your breath hoping for a rip-roaring, rampaging brand of football.

 

In the last week Mourinho has employed tactics in two matches that have been all about earning the result. Tuesday’s 0-0 draw was followed up by a near perfect display on Sunday as Chelsea secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Liverpool in a match that blew the Premier League title race wide open. Neither performance has been the prettiest but Mourinho has never been a manager to be expansive in a clinch contest.

The Blues’ record at Stamford Bridge in Europe is exceptional. They have never lost a semi-final leg in any European competition at home, winning eight of 12.

Atlético Madrid should expect a frustrating evening. Chelsea will be well drilled and concentrated. The La Liga leaders, who may just have on eye on a potential title win this weekend, won’t be able to create too many chances against the London side. They’ll need to take at least one of them, and as early as possible, to force Chelsea into something other than shutting the game down.

 

Whereas we’d think the game in Germany could produce a hatful of goals, the clash in London will be settled by the odd goal. Jose taking on his former club in the final is our bet but with armfuls of match winners on show, all four teams will feel confident of getting the result they need.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Wednesday promises to be a tight affair, and Chelsea to win 1-0 is available at 6.20 with GR88.com

 

Ryan avatarRyan Keaney (ryankeaney) is a huge sports fan who spends most of his week toying around with sports data. He is the editor of www.thefootballproject.net and a co-editor for In Bed with Maradona.

Atlético favoured to reach the Champions League Final ahead of Chelsea

Will Diego Costa be the striker that separates Atlético and Chelsea in these semi finals?

Will Diego Costa be the striker that separates Atlético and Chelsea in these semi finals?

And then there were four! We’re down to the final four sides in the Champions League and this week sees the first leg matches of these Semi Final games, with Atlético Madrid v Chelsea at the Estadio Vincente Calderón first up this Tuesday evening.

The Spaniards are favoured to both progress overall to the final and claim victory over the Premier League side who were upset by the bottom of the table team Sunderland at the weekend.

Atlético Madrid v Chelsea – To Progress:

Atlético – 1.88

Chelsea – 1.92

Atlético Madrid v Chelsea – First Leg Odds:

Atlético – 1.90

Draw – 3.10

Chelsea – 4.20

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Atlético have been one of the outstanding teams of the season in Europe this season with them top of the La Primera Liga table and just two matches away from the Champions League final. They also reached the semi finals of the Copa del Rey title but had a defensive breakdown against their big city rivals, Real, as they were defeated 5-0 on aggregate. That was one of few defensive horror shows they have had this season as they bring the best defensive records in both Spain and Europe to this final four stage match with 22 goals in 34 league matches and just five in ten Champions League conceded. They have outscored visitors to the Estadio Vincente Calderón 14-3, including keeping clean sheets against Porto and Barcelona, in the Champions League this season and they will be confident of another advantage this week.

Chelsea will be concerned about their lack of goals from strikers Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba this  season as they come to one of, if not, the most difficult place to score goals in Europe. Their last three Champions League away games have seen them beaten by PSG and FC Basel as well as drawing with Galatasaray. The French and Turkish sides were faced in the knockout stages and Chelsea used their super weapon of Jose Mourinho’s tactical knowledge to turn the games around at Stamford Bridge, but with Atlético conceding so few and having the lethal goal scorers of Diego Costa and David Villa at their disposal will Mourinho’s brain be enough to see them through?

In my opinion, it will not be enough as Chelsea, although they may have the experience at this stage of the Champions League that Atlético do not thanks to winning the title two seasons ago, do not have the quality to unlock the Spaniards back line to score enough, possibly even any, goals to win this first leg. As such, I am backing the home side to secure the spoils and the advantage from this Atlético Madrid v Chelsea first leg game this Tuesday evening.

Back Atlético Madrid to beat Chelsea in this Champions League Semi Final first leg in Madrid @ 1.90 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Champions League semi-finals – The Key Battles

Diego Costa will hope to round off a great season by firing his club to the Champions League final

Diego Costa will hope to round off a great season by firing his club to the Champions League final

 

There is little doubt that the final four in the Champions League represent the elite of European football.

Last year’s champions Bayern Munich are aiming to become the first side to go back-to-back, while Chelsea – the side that beat them in the 2012 final – can give manager José Mourinho a third win with three different teams. However they will need to get past the top two in Spain, Atlético Madrid and their domestic rivals Real.

Ahead of the first legs, we take a look at a few of the key battles.

 

Champions League Outright Betting Odds:

Bayern Munich – 2.26

Real Madrid – 3.50

Atlético Madrid – 4.30

Chelsea – 5.20

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Gareth Bale v Philipp Lahm or Rafinha

Welsh international Bale has had the eyes of the world on him this season after swapping Tottenham for Real Madrid in a world record move last summer. While he has impressed in La Liga, hitting double figures for goals and assists, a stunning winning goal in the Copa Del Rey final has helped him fully announce himself in the Spanish capital.

Bayern manager Pep Guardiola has given captain Philipp Lahm a new midfield role this season, using Rafinha – a squad player under Jupp Heynckes – more regularly. However the Brazilian’s lack of experience at the highest level could make Guardiola hesitant to risk him. Javi Martinez may well be used in a holding midfield role as he returns from suspension, leaving Lahm with the responsibility of keeping Bale in check.

 

Diego Costa v John Terry

A year ago, you may not have known much about Diego Costa unless you closely followed La Liga. The striker had never scored more than 10 league goals in one season, while his international career amounted to two appearances for Brazil in friendly matches.

However this all changed in 2013-14, with 26 goals for Atlético Madrid in the league and seven in the Champions League putting Costa on the radar of clubs such as Atlético’s semi-final opponents Chelsea. Furthermore, after he was granted Spanish nationality last summer, the striker earned a call-up for his adopted country for the first time and could well lead the line for La Roja at the World Cup.

One of his opponents on Tuesday, Chelsea captain John Terry, has unfinished business in this competition. He missed a crucial penalty in the 2008 final and was suspended for his club’s triumph in 2012, and he will be as determined as any of the other 21 players on the pitch.

 

Domestic form v European form

Three of the four remaining sides are still very much in their domestic title race, while the fourth, Bayern, have seen their form slide somewhat after clinching the Bundesliga title.

Chelsea have the biggest conflict of interest, taking on title rivals Liverpool between the two legs of their semi-final, but the two Spanish sides may also feel the pressure as they reach crunch time in La Liga. Fatigue and concentration could well come into play, particularly for Atlético, who have not reached this stage of the competition since they won the European Cup some 40 years ago.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Real and Atlético have lost just three home matches between them in all competitions this season. Both Spanish teams to win their first leg match is 4.53 with GR88.com.

 

With tired legs towards the end of a long season, we could well see late goals in either of the first-leg games. If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later then GR88.com will refund selected losing bets. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

 

 

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of  sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

 

Barcelona favoured to send Atlético crashing out of the Champions League tonight!

Neymar celebrates scoring the equaliser in the first leg of the Atlético v Barcelona tie

Neymar celebrates scoring the equaliser in the first leg of the Atlético v Barcelona tie

Talk about finely poised, this Atlético Madrid v Barcelona Champions League Quarter Final could not be tighter if it tried! Tonight’s match between these two sides will be the fifth meeting of the sides sitting first and second in the La Primera Liga in Spain, and all of the previous four matches have ended level. Two of the games have ended 1-1, including the first leg of this Champions League last eight stage tie, while two have seen the games end without a goal scored.

Barcelona claimed the Super Cup from Atlético at the start of the season thanks to their away goal at the Vincente Calderón, but their second visit saw them fail to find the net. If they cannot find the net in this third match in the Spanish capital this season then Atlético will have their revenge this evening. However, the visitors and four time European Cup/Champions League winners are favoured to overcome the Spanish league leaders. Will they do so or will tonight see another Atlético upset?

Atlético v Barcelona Betting Odds:

Atlético Madrid – 3.15

Draw – 3.25

Barcelona – 2.16

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The first leg of this tie saw an utter domination of the ball by Barcelona at the Camp Nou as they finished the match with 74% possession and they completely outstripped the capital city visitors in chances too. Barcelona managed 12 shots, half of which were on target, while Atlético could manage a total of just two in the entire match. Yet it was the visitors who were more clinical despite losing their key player in Diego Costa after just 30 minutes of the game.

The Brazilian born player, who will be part of the Spanish national side for the World Cup in his homeland this summer, has been named in the squad for tonight’s game but he is still a doubt to play in front of his own fans. Midfielder Arda Turan is definitely out for the hosts this evening. Despite these injuries issues, Atlético will feel that they can still progress this evening thanks to a defence that has seen them concede just 22 times in 32 league games and just five times in nine Champions League matches, giving them the best totals in both competitions.

They have also shut out Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi on all four occasions that they have clashed this season, while their backs to the wall defensive performance in the second half of the first leg will have given them massive amounts of confidence and belief that they can reach the Semi Finals this evening. Barcelona have lost two of their four away games since beating Manchester City 2-0 on their way to this Quarter Final berth in Europe’s top club football competition.

They were beaten 3-1 at Real Sociedad and 1-0 at relegation threatened Real Valladolid, but have bounced back with a 4-3 El Clásico victory at the Bernabeu over ten man Real Madrid and a 1-0 win over local rivals Espanyol, who also finished with ten men, in their last two away games. With the way that Atlético defend, it may be essential that the Madrid side see a red card if Barcelona are to progress too!

I, personally, believe that, even with the close odds between these two teams, that this match will be closer than the odds suggest and the game could be settled on the first leg score or by a single goal in what promises to be a cagey and tight game. As a result of this, my money is again on few goals between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona this evening.

Back 0/1 goals in the Two Goals No Bet Market on this Atlético Madrid v Barcelona match this evening @ 2.62 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Barcelona heavily favoured to beat Atlético in the Champions League

Will Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi make the difference at the Camp Nou?

Will Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi make the difference at the Camp Nou?

While the Manchester United v Bayern Munich Champions League Quarter Final clash will attract plenty of attention as the transitional Premier League side take on the all conquering Bundesliga champions at Old Trafford this evening, the all La Primera Liga  Barcelona v Atlético Madrid clash at the Camp Nou is going to be the more intriguing clash of the night.

These two teams have already faced each other on three occasions this season and all three matches were draws. The 1-1 draw at the Estadio Vincente Calderón in the Super Cup was followed by a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou so it was Barcelona who claimed that particular trophy on away goals. Their first meeting in the league was also at the home of Atlético and that saw no goals between the two teams, yet despite the lack of goals and ability for either side to claim a winner the bookmakers clearly see Barcelona claiming the advantage in front of their own fans in this Champions League Quarter Final.

Barcelona v Atlético Madrid Odds:

Barcelona – 1.51

Draw – 4.00

Atlético – 6.40

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Although they managed to draw with AC Milan and lose to Ajax in the Champions League this season, Barcelona have managed to win each of their home games so far scoring 15 goals and conceding just three in their four matches so far. In fact their overall home form at the Camp Nou, even when they were slipping up on the road, has been outstanding. Since drawing 0-0 with their opponents in this Champions League match at the end of August they have won 21 out 22 matches in front of their fans, losing only to Valencia.

This makes Atlético just one of two sides to avoid defeat at Barcelona this season and with them having the psychological advantage of leading them in the La Primera Liga title race this season they will fancy their chances in this first leg Quarter Final. Atlético, along with their city rivals Real Madrid, are unbeaten in the Champions League this season having won five of their six group matches, as well as drawing with Zenit St Petersburg in Russia, before booking their place in this last eight stage game by doing what Barcelona failed to do in beating AC Milan as they followed up a 1-0 win at the San Siro with a 4-1 thumping on home soil.

Can either of these sides actually win this match following three straight draws? If either side is to do so I feel that Barcelona’s experience at this stage of the competition will be a massive advantage, as will the scoring ability of Lionel Messi. The Argentine striker has eight in this competition so far, but Atlético have their own star striker this season in the Brazilian born Diego Costa. He has played 75 minutes fewer than Messi, but has just one fewer goal and with 25 goals in the league, he has bagged two more than Messi in that competition.

Will there be goals from these two star strikers? Will there be a winner? The two sides have cancelled each other out all three times already this season and I feel that this match will be another close one. As a result of this, I am backing Atlético to get something from this match to bring to the Estadio Vincente Calderón for the second leg.

Back Atlético/Draw Double Chance in this Champions League Quarter Final match against Barcelona @ 2.58 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.