Juventus v Real Madrid a very different prospect 12 years on from last Champions League semi-final meeting

This week sees Juventus and Real Madrid go head-to-head for a place in the Champions League final, with the tie delicately poised after the Italian champions held on for a 2-1 first-leg win in Turin.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side is looking to become the first ever to retain European football’s top trophy, following last year’s extra-time victory over Atletico Madrid, but if they want another shot at glory they will need to get past the side which ended their hopes of back-to-back victories in this competition 12 years ago.

 

UEFA Champions League – Outright Betting Odds:

Barcelona 53/100

Real Madrid 3/1

Juventus 11/2

Bayern Munich 33/1

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

 

Back in 2003, Vicente Del Bosque’s Real Madrid were locked in an unlikely title fight with a Real Sociedad side inspired by Darko Kovacevic and a young midfielder by the name of Xabi Alonso. Del Bosque had added just one player to the squad which edged past Bayer Leverkusen to win the previous year’s Champions League, but what a player – Ronaldo returned to Spain fresh from securing Golden Boot honours at the previous summer’s World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

While the Spanish title race would go right to the wire, Juventus had already secured the Serie A title by the time the two sides met at the Stadio Delle Alpi for the second leg of their semi-final. It may have been that lack of domestic pressure which allowed Marcello Lippi’s side to play without fear.

 

The first leg in May 2003 produced a comparable outcome to the equivalent tie this year, with a 2-1 home win keeping Real Madrid’s dream of La Decima well and truly alive. Indeed Graham Hunter suggested the winner from Roberto Carlos left the Spanish club “on course for their fourth Champions League final in six seasons.

However the gulf in quality and spending power between the Spanish and Italian leagues was nothing like it is now: the Bianconeri could boast such talents as David Trezeguet, Lilian Thuram and Pavel Nedved, while the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Gigi Buffon were approaching their respective peaks.

 

Indeed Lippi’s side would go on to meet AC Milan in an all-Italian final after playing what Del Piero described as “the perfect match” in the return leg. Trezeguet, who had scored an important away goal at the Bernabeu, put Juve ahead within the first 15 minutes. Madrid sorely missed Ronaldo, only fit enough for the bench on his return from injury, and Del Piero doubled the lead before half-time.

Del Bosque’s side still had plenty of their other Galacticos on show, and Ronaldo – introduced early in the second half – gave Luis Figo the chance to level things up on aggregate when he was brought down in the area by Paolo Montero. However Figo saw his spot-kick saved by Buffon and the Portuguese was made to pay not long after when Nedved added Juventus’ third. A late strike from Zinedine Zidane against his former club would not be enough to keep the Spaniards’ dream alive.

 

The game – and the season – would prove momentous for both clubs. Juve lost on penalties to Milan in the final and went a decade without getting as far as the semi-finals again, losing their Serie A status in the Calciopoli scandal in the intervening period.

Madrid, meanwhile, parted ways with Del Bosque and midfield anchor Claude Makelele that summer, leading to a sustained run of underperformance in Europe. They would not reach the semi-finals again until 2011, while they had to wait until last year for La Decima.

 

This week both clubs enter the game with the awareness that the winner will likely go into the final as an underdog against a Barcelona team which brushed aside Bayern Munich in their first leg, however that ought not to matter too much.

Madrid enter as reigning champions of Europe and as such are expected to progress, while Juve – without any high-quality competition domestically – have done well even to make it this far. Their goalscorers in the first leg, Carlos Tevez and former Real Madrid youngster Alvaro Morata, while both undoubtedly talented, are only in Italy because richer clubs decided they were surplus to requirements.

In contrast, their opponents parted with more than €100m last summer, bringing in the likes of James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Lucas Silva. They cruised through their group with six wins from six and after edging past local rivals Atletico in the quarter-finals they will feel like this is a tie they should win.

 

For Juventus it is a chance to return to the glory days of the early 2000s, while Real have the chance to exact revenge for a painful defeat. But in truth this game is only comparable to that famous 2003 meeting on a superficial level.

 

Betting Instinct tip Real Madrid to win by two goals is 7/2 with Intertops.eu

 

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.

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Carlo Ancelotti’s World Champions primed for tricky Mestalla trip

Jesé scored the winner for Real Madrid in last season's corresponding fixture

Jesé scored the winner for Real Madrid in last season’s corresponding fixture

As is customary in Spain, the winter break allowed a brief cooling-off period for all twenty La Liga teams. But it’s now back to full throttle for a select few. While fellow top four clubs Atlético Madrid and Barcelona resume with games against bottom half clubs in the form of Levante and Real Sociedad respectively, the resumption of play in the Primera División looks a little less comfortable for Valencia and Real Madrid.

Valencia v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Valencia win 17/4

Real Madrid win 53/100

Draw 16/5

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

The pair are set to clash at Mestalla on Sunday evening, in what looks sure to represent matchday 17’s tastiest fixture. Carlo Ancelotti’s side haven’t faced a top four team on the road this season in La Liga – and with their 22 game winning streak on the line once more, victory at one of the toughest grounds in Spain would send another devastating statement of intent for Los Blancos. On the other hand, a Valencia team who have dwindled a little in recent months need no better motivation than a victory over the untouchables from the capital as they prepare for a renewed Champions League push in 2015.

Many have been scanning Madrid’s upcoming schedule for games that could prove a little more problematic for the European Champions, and there aren’t many that rival this one. Although Valencia’s early season form hasn’t been quite been as well maintained through the winter months, their exploits on Mestalla soil very much have. Despite taking a relatively disappointing 12 points from a possible 24 since the beginning of November, their home form remains impressive. Visits from Barcelona, Athletic Club and champions Atlético Madrid among others have seen their defence surrender just 4 goals in 8 games, while a 3-1 win over the latter in October shows exactly what they are capable of on their day.

Another factor likely to be putting fire in the bellies of those associated with Valencia, is the contrasting nature of their winter break. By the time the game comes around, the home side will have had 18 days of rest and preparation time ahead of the game – about as good a time as any to welcome the European Champions if you’re Nuno Espírito Santo. And if the Valencia boss wasn’t already satisfied with the favourable circumstances of the schedule, he’ll have enjoyed receiving the news that Real Madrid had some air miles to clock up during that time. Their opponents arrived in Morocco on December 14th for the Club World Cup, with games against Cruz Azul on the 16th and in the final against San Lorenzo on the 20th. From there, they had time for a short breather, before then setting off for Dubai on the 29th for a friendly against AC Milan. A game which Ancelotti later referred to as little more than a nuisance when he assured their surprise 4-2 loss “didn’t hurt at all”.

Of course, Los Blancos’ fate isn’t already sealed for their Mestalla trip. Madrid’s winter break wasn’t all a nuisance by any means. They picked up their fourth trophy of 2014 with their Club World Cup triumph over San Lorenzo, which officially (but rather unofficially) makes them the best team in the world right now. The defeat against Milan will have been forgotten by the time they boarded the plane, in what represented more of a ‘fatigue-preserving’ fixture, rather than a ‘competitive’ one. As far as Ancelotti was concerned, his team’s winter break objectives were signed and sealed back in Morocco. The Italian will assumedly remain as happy as a manager could be, and a friendly defeat matters little to him. When the lights are on and it’s time to compete, his team have decimated nearly all that have stood in their way. But taking on a well-rested (to say the least) Valencia, who have spent over two weeks transfixed on the task in hand, is a fresh challenge that should be well considered. A game far removed from the environment in which they took on Milan in Dubai – one in which even Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid team were humbled. If anyone is going to halt the European Champions in the league, few look to have a better chance than Valencia on home turf.

Spotting chinks in the armour will have become a leading pastime for La Liga bosses up and down the country in recent months, and Real Madrid’s opposition have had a generous amount of time to achieve that. An 18-day break is a lifetime in the midst of a league campaign, and assuming Nuno Espírito Santo has fine-tooth combed his preparation during that time, his team are in line for the next shot at the king. A shot that, even with the best intentions and the best preparation, might produce a few gulps on the Mestalla terraces come kick-off time.

Betting Instinct tip – Valencia to avoid defeat is 2.33 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 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+.

Champions League: Returning Ronaldo can give Real first-leg lead

Can Cristiano Ronaldo add to his 14 goals in 8 Champions League games this season?

Can Cristiano Ronaldo add to his 14 goals in 8 Champions League games this season?

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to return for the first leg of Real Madrid’s semifinal match against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The 29-year who missed the Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona has been suffering from an apparent hamstring injury but returned to full training a few days ago. Gareth Bale, the hero of the final against Barcelona, was reported earlier this week to be suffering from the effects of the flu, but he has also seemingly recovered in time to welcome Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich to the Bernabeu.

 

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Betting Odds:

Real Madrid win – 2.38

Bayern Munich win – 2.74

Draw – 3.30

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

 

Real Madrid enter the game aiming for their first Champions League final berth in 12 years, though they have famously won the trophy nine times so far. History is not on the side of Los Blancos as they have lost four out of the last five semi-final matches against Bayern and Guardiola was also responsible for breaking the stranglehold of Real Madrid in Spain –not losing in any of six visits to the Bernabeu– during his time at Barcelona. Though most of the team is healthy for Madrid, Marcelo is set to miss out, leaving Fabio Coentrao to start in his place and Álvaro Arbeloa’s injury woes means that Daniel Carvajal will retain his starting spot. These issues leave Real Madrid vulnerable in Bayern’s strongest position, the wings, where Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry ply their trade.

Real Madrid’s last match in the Champions League suggests that they will have a hard time dealing with the pace of Bayern, as they were exploited by Borussia Dortmund’s pace numerous times as they went on to lose 2-0 to the Germans in the second leg of their quarter-final. While they were able to hold on and progress, the loss against Dortmund was a shock as they were able to dispatch their opponents very easily during the first leg, and in the second leg, completely collapsed as Dortmund threatened throughout, with only the width of the post preventing them from forcing extra-time.

Bayern are to all intents and purposes a better team than Dortmund, and have more weapons while retaining the same intense pace. Ronaldo’s return and Bale’s good health will be welcome news for Real but the more important factor will be if their defence can stand up against their German opponents.

 

Bayern are also welcoming back a talisman of their own in the form of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was serving a suspension for a red card offense in the last round. The Germans were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United in the first leg of the quarterfinals before coming from behind to eventually run out 3-1 winners in the second leg. They wrapped up the Bundesliga title in record time but have become complacent in the league in recent weeks, suffering uncharacteristic losses to Augsburg and at home to Dortmund, though this seems to have been remedied by their most recent performances, winning 5-1 against Kaiserslautern and 2-0 against TSV Eintracht Braunschweig. This suggests that they are over there complacency issues and are back to their winning ways, something that should be concerning to Real Madrid fans everywhere.

If the Bavarians have a weakness it is their response to counter-attacking play, something that Dortmund feasted on as they ran out 3-0 winners recently, and something that has been a running problem in Guardiola teams. Their defenders push up very high and the fullbacks do a great deal of attacking, leaving them exposed if their opponents are able to form a quick, incisive counter. This plays into the hands of Real Madrid who are the best counter-attacking team in Europe, with the triple threat of Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema. Angel Di Maria’s resurrection in the midfield will always be critical to the match-up, the energy of the Argentine is a big reason for Real’s effectiveness on the counter and his energy is essential for hassling midfielders and retrieving possession –all while he is still able to create chances with his dribbling skills.

 

Bayern will most likely dominate possession and with arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, will be bailed out a few times when they are caught on the break. Real Madrid however, will look to break quickly when Bayern do concede possession and with their ferocious attack, they should be able to muster a few clear cut chances and test Manuel Neuer. His opposite number Iker Casillas, meanwhile, is having a record-breaking season as the cup keeper for Madrid and will be on hand to thwart the efforts of the Germans who are always a safe bet to manage a few shots on goal.

The game will likely come down to which defense breaks first, with both teams having topped 100 goals this season in all competitions. If both teams’ attacks behave as they have for the season, the game will be a goal-fest and the winner might come down to whoever has the last shot on goal.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – With two of the most formidable forward-lines in world football going head-to-head, we can expect goals. More than 3.5 goals can be backed at 2.60 with GR88.com.

 

BdykNApCQAEQ_-t ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol,  and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter.

Dortmund need some magic in Madrid!

Will Dortmund past their Real test?

Dortmund need a superhuman effort to leave the Bernabeu with a result!

A year after losing out to Borussia Dortmund in the semifinals of the Champions League, Real Madrid have been handed the perfect opportunity to take revenge when the two teams get it on at the quarterfinal stage of this year’s competition.

After losing El Clásico and then going down to Seville, Real have lost the initiative in the three-way race to the Primera Division title, and so will all the more keen to give their fans something to cheer about on Wednesday.

Dortmund, who have been erratic to say the least in the Bundesliga this year and only just scraped past Zenit St. Petersburg in the last sixteen of the Champions League, travel to Spain needing to compensate for the massive handicap of losing suspended striker Robert Lewandowski. The Pole, who will be making the Bayer Munich squad even stronger next season, scored all four BVB goals in their 4-1 home thrashing of Real last season and there is little doubt that Carlo Ancelotti will be extremely happy at his absence. Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp could well choose a defensive strategy at the Bernabeu in the knowledge that Lewandowski will be available for the return leg next week. Germany international Marco Reus, who bagged a hattrick at Stuttgart at the weekend, is likely to be the visitors’ main man up front as they hope to catch their hosts on the break.

It is, however, going to need a superhuman effort to leave Spain with anything other than a defeat, but with a full house at their backs in Dortmund, a narrow loss would still give the Germans every chance in the return!

Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund, Odds

Real Madrid                        1.35
Draw                                     5.0
Borussia Dortmund         7.0

Odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct as of today, but subject to change.

chrisives-50CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

El Derbi madrileño – They played for both

Raúl joined Real Madrid from their rivals' academy and never looked back

Raúl joined Real Madrid from their rivals’ academy and never looked back

Atlético Madrid take on city rivals Real this weekend in the most significant Madrid derbies in recent years.

Diego Simeone’s Atléti have emerged as shock title contenders this season, starting the campaign with eight wins from eight including a 1-0 victory at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the only time Carlo Ancelotti’s Real have failed to score in the league this campaign.

Helped by the goalscoring form of Diego Costa they moved top with a 4-0 win over Real Sociedad at the start of the month, however defeats to Almería and Osasuna have seen the club lose ground to Real, who moved three points clear at the top last weekend.

While the rivalry between the two Madrid clubs has played second fiddle to Real’s battle for supremacy with Barcelona in recent years, only a handful of players have represented both clubs. However those who have done so include some of the game’s biggest names.

Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid Betting odds

Atlético to win – 3.45

Real to win – 2.04

Draw – 3.20

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

Bernd Schuster

One of the most gifted players of his generation, West Germany international Schuster spent the bulk of his career in La Liga at the competition’s three most successful clubs.

After making more than 200 appearances for Barcelona, the creative midfielder switched to the white of Real in 1988 in one of the most contentious transfers until Luis Figo made the same move more than a decade later. However he was rewarded with back-to-back league titles before moving across the city for a three-year stint with Atléti where he helped the club end a six-year trophy drought under the stewardship of big-spending chairman Jesús Gil.

Schuster’s enigmatic talents on the pitch were reflected in his managerial career, where he won La Liga in his only full season in charge of Real before quitting the following December. He is currently in charge of struggling Málaga.

José Antonio Reyes

Just like Schuster before him, Reyes is a player likely to look back at his career with a nagging feeling that it could have been so much more.

As a teenager he burst onto the scene with Sevilla, earning a club-record move to Arsenal in 2004. However a failure to settle in London saw the winger loaned out to Fabio Capello’s Real Madrid for the 2006-07 season before joining Atlético the following summer in a permanent deal, ironically after Capello was replaced at the Bernabéu by Schuster.

Reyes’ four seasons at the Estadio Vicente Calderón came either side of a loan spell at Benfica and brought two Europa League winner’s medals. Now 30 years of age, he finds himself back at Sevilla, chasing European qualification while his former team-mates battle it out for the league title. Even more spookily, his international record of 21 appearances and four goals is identical to that of Schuster.

 

Raúl

For half of the Spanish capital, Raúl González Blanco is a hero. For the other half he’s the one who got away.

When Jesús Gil closed down the Atléti youth academy in 1992 it acted as an open invitation for Real to pick up the Rojiblancos’ most prized talents, and that number included a 15-year-old Raúl. It is not quite on the scale of Leeds United’s sale of Eric Cantona to Manchester United that same year – Gil could not have known what Raúl would go on to achieve – but it comes close.

In more than a decade and a half with Los Merengues the Madrid-born player clocked up north of 500 league appearances, breaking club records for overall appearances (741) and goals (323). Spells in Germany and Qatar followed an emotional departure from Real, and he is still going strong with Al Sadd at the age of 36.

Betting Instinct Tip – Real Madrid to win and both teams to score is 3.41 with GR88.com

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.