Real Madrid and Barcelona see form fluctuate ahead of El Clasico

 

Lionel Messi was finished. Barcelona were in crisis. Luis Enrique in trouble. Now, they’re not. Barcelona are the league leaders, they’ve advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Enrique has figured out his best team. So of course, it’s Real Madrid’s turn.

Cristiano Ronaldo is done. Gareth Bale can’t score. Carlo Ancelotti is clueless. Real Madrid are firmly in what constitutes as a crisis these days. Which means that they are second in the league and have also advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. But there is some fire where the smoke is.

 

Barcelona v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Barcelona win 67/100

Real Madrid win 31/10

Draw 16/5

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

 

Real Madrid are struggling where Barcelona are rising. While Barca were rampant in their destruction of Manchester City, Real came deathly close to being knocked out by a fervent Schalke squad. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Leroy Sané especially tried to squeeze the life out of Los Merengues. This after Real lost 1-0 to a suffocating Athletic Bilbao side. The sky was falling.

Then they beat Levante 2-0 to get back on track, and Gareth Bale, maligned throughout the season, scored a brace. Luka Modric, who the team sorely missed, and whose absence create an imbalance in midfield, returned. Even if Sané broke him down during the Champions League game. Ronaldo may be spending most of his time throwing temper tantrums, but he’s still as dangerous as ever. Form is hardly ever an indication in this game.

 

So that brings us to the present. All signs point to a Barcelona win, even if Real is resurgent. Barcelona have seemingly fixed the issues that had them written off mere months ago. The Neymar-Luis Suarez-Lionel Messi trio are playing breathtaking football. While the former BBC of their rivals are finding goals harder to come by. Mixed in with the rumors that there is discord within their ranks and it’s a sure recipe for disaster.

The job on Ancelotti’s hands then is to get his troops on the same page as quickly as possible. This is still the same team that won La Decima a season ago. It’s still the same cast of men who ran out 3-1 winners against Barcelona earlier this season. Even if some of the players have fallen victim to the injury gods, the quality of the group is no less.

 

Barcelona are still fragile in defense and they are still beatable. Even in the game against Manchester City, the English had many chances to claw back into the tie. Chances that you would expect a squad of Real’s calibre to finish. Hope is abundant still. If not for any other reason than for the fact that Los Blancos are immensely talented.

From Barcelona’s point of view, all that needs to be done is to continue down the same path. Messi is in irrepressible form. Unplayable and creative. He’s in the same type of beast-mode that earned him 89 goals in 2012, except now he has more weapons. Not only his improved passing but his cast.

 

Neymar spends as much time scoring as he does embarrassing defenders. Luis Suarez has found his place within the team. Ivan Rakitic is much more suited to Barcelona’s current style than Cesc Fabregas, and he’s much more physical as well. Javier Mascherano is a steel curtain of a man and Gerard Pique has found his brain again.

If they play as they’ve been playing the latter part of the season, things look bright. But if Barcelona take their opponents for granted; if they miss the same chances presented to them against City, Real will punish them. El Clasico is an entity in itself and any mistake or hesitation can easily cost either team.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Barcelona to win and both teams to score is 2.34 with Intertops.eu

 

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

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Real Madrid out for revenge against unpredictable Liverpool

Jay Spearing's cameo was an integral part of Liverpool's most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

Jay Spearing’s cameo was an integral part of Liverpool’s most memorable meeting with Real Madrid

 

‘We made Madrid look like sidemen.’

So went the tweeted verdict of one Liverpool fan reflecting on his side’s 2009 Champions League demolition of the current competition holders. And, it’s true, they did. Liverpool are these days no strangers to making entire teams look like ‘sidemen’, of course; despite a rocky start to this campaign, the last saw sideman after sideman capitulating to the talents of Suarez, Sturridge, Rodgers, and the rest. But there was a greater romance to the feat five years ago: Ryan Babel laid on a goal; Andrea Dossena scored; and in the ultimate indignity for the Spanish side, Jay Spearing replaced Steven Gerrard with fifteen minutes still to play (‘After the skewering, the Spearing’, as Henry Winter so characteristically put it).

Though at least Liverpool had some romance to lose. Their opponents on Wednesday are the antithesis of such an idea. Real Madrid aren’t a team, but a machine – if anything too well oiled – at once both beautiful and ugly. Cristiano Ronaldo spits on your ‘romance’, Pepe headbutts it, and Carlo Ancelotti neatly – but firmly – files it away in a drawer.

They showed it again in Saturday’s 5-0 trashing of Levante. Ronaldo scored his tenth goal in four league games and his fifteenth this season, bringing his Football Manager average rating up to a staggering 9.37 in the process: truly unprecedented. The week before that? Another 5-0 win at home to Athletic Club. Though they sit third in La Liga, their results of late (in all competitions) have been nothing short of ridiculous: since the 2-1 loss to Atletico on September 13, the list reads, 5-1, 8-2, 5-1, 2-0, 2-1, 5-0, 5-0. Gareth Bale will be injured for the away side, and a potential distraction lurks in the background in the form of Saturday’s El Clasico, but even taking both into account, Liverpool ought to be worried.

 

Liverpool v Real Madrid Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 3/1

Real Madrid win 4/5

Draw 13/5

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

 

The English side’s weekend win at QPR was an absurd spectacle; one that you would think had been made up were it not for the eminently plausible event of a Richard Dunne own goal. Absurd, perversely impressive, but far from convincing, it was a performance that will no doubt encourage Real Madrid. Liverpool, remember, have some of their own injury problems – Sturridge is out for another few weeks; Raheem Sterling might well, if he can keep his eyes open, watch from home with some warm milk and a blanket – and their form in Europe has been patchy at best: the last gasp win at home to Ludogorets was concerning enough, but to follow it up with a 1-0 loss to Basel was to put their place in the competition in doubt.

 

It could well be that Liverpool need a tie like this, something to kickstart their stuttering season. There is (rightly) much made of the Anfield atmosphere on big European nights, and Wednesday should be, to quote Rodgers, ‘special’: ‘To see that flag back out in the middle of the pitch and for the supporters to get behind their team, like they do, is going to be an amazing experience.’ Being excited, however, is not the same as being prepared.

There will be no repeat of 2009’s 4-0, not this time. And if you can find odds on Mario Balotelli pulling down Pepe’s shorts, kicking him up the backside, and telling him that he looked better baldy, take them. With such a craaaazy guy – What’s he gonna do next? Dye his hair RED? HAHA! – leading the line, Liverpool have next to no chance. Far better to take a punt on the dependable Rickie Lambert, a man much more likely to terrorise young Raphael Varane than he who dragged his country, kicking and screaming, to the final of Euro 2012.

Otherwise, as a Real Madrid supporting friend of the Liverpool fan we met earlier replied, ‘this time we will see who will be the wasteman.’ It’s up to you, Brendan.

 

Betting Instinct tip Real Madrid to win by two or more goals is 37/20 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS  is a masters student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others. Follow Kieran on Twitter.

World Cup Opener Should be Easy Win for Brazil but Can the Home Team Go All the Way?!

Can the World Cup home team handle the pressure to go all the way?

Can the World Cup home team handle the pressure to go all the way?

Brazil has won five World Cup titles, more than any other country. They’ll also enjoy home-advantage this time around. So the heat is really on Brazil to win the 2014 tourney.

World Cup bookmakers seem confident the home team (-303) will beat Croatia (+900) in the World Cup opening match tomorrow, but they aren’t so sure the Selecao can live up to the enormous pressure to win the title.

————————————————————————-
World Cup Betting Odds – Opening Match June 12th
Brazil -303
Croatia +900

Odds provided by Intertops Sportsbook, subject to change.
————————————————————————-

“Brazil does, of course, have a good chance of going all the way,” observed one bookmaker, “But their South American rivals, Argentina, will also be a big threat, especially if superstar Lionel Messi can find his top form again after his rather disappointing end to the season. Who knows – but I somehow doubt the Cup will be coming back to Europe this year!”

No European team has won the title in South America and several top European players are struggling with injuries that could seriously affect their country’s chances, including reigning World Footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Spain’s prolific goalscorer Diego Costa. Another title hopeful France has already lost the services of Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery with a back injury.

“One European team we’ll really be watching is Belgium,” he said. “They haven’t made a splash in big tournaments since the 1980 European Championships, but have a highly talented team full of players who star for top clubs across Europe. Much is expected of them!”

————————————————————————-
Intertops Sportsbook World Cup Bonus Offers

Risk-free Live Bet
If the first live bet placed on these games isn’t a winner, it will be refunded (up to $100). The opening match will be the first to feature Risk-Free Live Bets.

World Cup Deposit Bonus
20% up to $100
Available June 2nd – 12th

World Cup $200 Free Bet
Customers placing at least $2000 on World Cup bets will receive a $200 Free Bet in time for the final on July 13th.

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Everyone wagering on the World Cup tournament will be eligible to win a no-strings-attached $500 prize on every matchday.
————————————————————————-

______________________________________________

The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness.

Knack of the Bet: Cristiano Ronaldo going for gold in Brazil

Can Lionel Messi transfer his club form to the World Cup stage?

Can Lionel Messi transfer his club form to the World Cup stage?

In a new satirical section, Back of the Net’s John Foster takes a sideways look at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. While the odds are very real, he may have taken some artistic licence elsewhere.

With the 2014 World Cup just days away, it’s time to take a close look at the candidates to be the tournament’s top scorer. In just over a month, a new hero will be leaving Brazil with the coveted Golden Boot, assuming 2010 winner Thomas Müller remembers to bring it with him.

 

Lionel Messi (8.00 with Intertops.eu to end the tournament as top scorer)

Leo Messi has scored just twenty-one goals in his past twenty-three international appearances, leading many to wonder if he will ever be effective for Argentina. The 26-year old is yet to score at a World Cup, having been underused in 2006 by José Pekerman and mistrusted in 2010 by Diego Maradona, who thought Messi was a mystical forest spirit only he could see. Most pundits agree that the Barcelona star cannot truly be considered El Diego’s heir until he shoots a journalist with an air rifle.

Neymar (11.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

Brazil’s golden boy will be carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, despite Hulk’s objections that Hulk’s shoulders would be far better suited to the task. Neymar hasn’t quite set the world alight at Barcelona, having got as far as Xavi’s jacket and Cesc Fabregas’ pants before being told to stop it, and much will depend on whether he can respond to being called ‘the New Pelé’ in the same way that Pelé did in 1958 after being dubbed ‘the Old Neymar’.

Cristiano Ronaldo (15.00 with Intertops.eu)

The Portugal captain will be desperate to display the World Cup Golden Boot next to his Premier League Golden Boot, his Ballon d’Or, his other Ballon d’Or, his three UEFA Golden Shoes, his golden tamarind monkey, and the bust of his own head made from solid gold. It was widely reported last week that Ronaldo had been cursed by a Ghanaian witch doctor, who told him that he would achieve great fame and wealth but never get past the twelfth-level boss in Assassin’s Creed IV.

Fernando Torres (34.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

The Chelsea frontman is having a miserable 2014, following a poor 2013, a bad 2012, and an unsuccessful two-year period before that. He has been included in the Spain squad thanks to his tendency to be top scorer at international tournaments, a record that stretches back nearly two tournaments. Vicente Del Bosque’s side is likely to line up without a recognized striker, a role that Torres has made his own.

Wayne Rooney (41.00 with Intertops.eu)

England’s main offensive weapon has struggled for goals recently, though he continues to be offensive and is clearly a bit of a weapon. The Manchester United man has a tendency to get overheated in big matches, and when playing for England, and in the heat, so expect strike partner Danny Welbeck to take to the field carrying buckets of ice-cold water. Rooney may also be hampered by a massive luxury hamper featuring a selection of cured meats and rich, creamy cheeses, a pre-tournament gift from the Uruguayan FA.

Josip Drmic (3.75 with AllYouBet.ag to finish as Switzerland’s top scorer)

Swiss striker Drmic became a household name at Nürnberg this season despite a crippling lack of vowels. The 21-year old owes his success to a relentless work rate and a lethal instinct for goal, and also to his faithful companion Khyrax, a giant eagle who carries off defenders with her vicious eight-inch talons and consumes them on the stadium roof. Khyrax picked up a beak injury in Switzerland’s friendly with Peru, and Ottmar Hitzfeld will be praying she recovers in time to terrorize the Ecuadorian back four.

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

John_F avatar JOHN FOSTER is a freelance football writer and one part of the Back of the Net team. He has  written for FourFourTwo and The Daily Mash. Follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.

Germany’s Miroslav Klose chasing a second World Cup Golden Boot

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer's tournament

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer’s tournament

The sought after Golden Boot is perhaps the most prestigious and well-known of the individual awards handed out the World Cup. Current holder – Thomas Muller – will be looking to add to his 13 league goals this club season in an effort to retain the cherish Golden Boot. He won the award with a respectable but not quite emphatic 5 goal haul last time. David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan all matched the German’s tally, but Muller was awarded the prize based on having a higher number of assists (3).

Top goalscorer is always difficult to gauge at major tournaments as a player is only as strong as the whole team. The opening games have a massive impact on this too; a hat-trick in the first couple of games makes you – statistically, based on the last 6 tournaments – already at least halfway to the required number of goals to top the charts.

 

World Cup top scorer betting odds:

Lionel Messi – 8.00

Neymar – 11.00

Cristiano Ronaldo – 15.00

Sergio Aguero – 15.00

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

 

So, let’s look at our favourites. Unsurprisingly, Leo Messi is most people’s tip to be the top scorer this year. Last season was widely considered to be his worst in years, yet the mercurial Argentine still bagged 41 goals in all competitions. His form at international level has been questioned, but the Argentinian team itself has a desultory rhythm in terms of form. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by describing how he plays or what he is good at; it’s very much public knowledge. With 10 goals during the qualifying campaign, this could be Messi’s best chance of international glory at a personal and a team level.

Messi’s esteemed fellow countryman Sergio Aguero will also be looking to make his mark. Despite suffering a few injuries during the season, Aguero produced a host of fantastic displays in the Premier League and showed to the English audience that he has a lot more to his game than sheer goalscoring and dribbling. His vision and general awareness of teammates was pivotal in Manchester City’s re-capturing of the league title this year, whilst also showing that he can handle the more potent physical side that the Premier League offers.

 

Another player whom once famously showcased similar attributes and has yet to receive full recognition for his international work is, of course, everyone’s favourite personification of modesty – Cristiano Ronaldo! The Portuguese star was in fine form once again this year for Real Madrid, ending the season by netting a goal in their Champions League final victory against Ateltico Madrid. He even earned a round of applause from fellow shy person Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick against Sweden sealed Portugal’s qualification into the world cup. At the ripe age of 29, CR7 won’t have his devastating pace come the next World Cup (though I dare say he will be no slouch) and will look to add to his ever growing catalogue of individual awards with a WC Golden Boot trophy. It’s unlikely that Portugal will progress to the latter stages of the tournament and with Ghana, USA and Germany in their group, they are far from promised a place out of the group stages at all. That being said, Ronaldo can change games on his own and will be looking to exploit any weakness shown by the two weaker sides (USA and Ghana respectively).

After a relatively expensive and somewhat unremarkable opening season for Barcelona, Neymar will be hoping to continue producing his scintillating displays for the Brazilian national team. The youngster has 31 goals in 49 games for his country already, which is impressive however you look at it. A lot of them are quite spectacular too. He will flourish playing in his homeland and with said host nation being frontrunners to win the tournament, it’s quite easy to deduce that Neymar is likely to score a lot of goals this tournament.

 

Quite often, it can be a bit of s surprise name as to who scores the most goals in a tournament. Particularly at international level. An erudite outside bet can prove very profitable, so let’s analyse some of the players who aren’t quite expected to produce a magnanimous amount of goals. I’ll start with Belgian giant Romelu Lukaku, who showed this season that he has an extremely well rounded set of skills, more so than most other 21 year old strikers. He bagged 15 league goals and orchestrated some fantastic performances for Everton. He is exceptionally strong, but – unlike most powerful strikers – is also very quick to move across the ground. His ability is only going to improve over the next decade, will this year be the year he announces himself amongst the best forwards in the world?

Germany’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose joins us for another World Cup, no doubt eliminating some poor team’s hopes with an obligatory headed goal. Klose has been prolific at international level and is truly one of the those players that can score from any situation. His World Cup experience will be crucial to the younger German players and might well prove to be the differnce in a close match against similarly top opposition. A lot of this depends on how the team is lined up, but you can be sure that Klose will be having his say at some point.

 

For the patriotic English readers, I feel obliged to include an English player. Who better than the highest scoring English player in the Premier League last year? Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since signing for Liverpool. He’s been prolific, consistent and has scored a lot of said goals in spectacular fashion. His curling effort against Peru a reminder as to what he can produce from outside the box. England have a tough group in the shape of Uruguay, Italy and Cost Rica; they will be relying on Sturridge’s performances to help them proceed into the knockout stages. He certainly is capable of scoring against venerable opposition, if he finds his form from the first game in then he could certainly be worth an outsider’s bet.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to top-score offers value at 26.00 with AllYouBet.ag, while Klose (33.00) and Sturridge (51.00) could also be worth a punt

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and 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.

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.

Real Madrid to cruise into the Champions League Quarter Finals?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale bagged four of Real Madrid's six first leg goals in Germany

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale bagged four of Real Madrid’s six first leg goals in Germany

As far as I am, and pretty much every football fan in the world is, concerned this Champions League last 16 stage tie between Real Madrid and Schalke is all but over following braces from Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at the Veltins-Arena three weeks ago before Klaas Jan Huntelaar pulled a consolation goal back for the Germans. Six away goals for the Spaniards, who are looking like one of the favourites to win the Champions League this season, should be enough for them, right? But with the El Clásico at home to Barcelona coming up at the weekend will they believe that a five goal cushion will be enough and will they step off the gas tonight?

The bookmakers do not believe so and the GR88.com Real Madrid v Schalke betting odds reflect these thoughts.

Real Madrid v Schalke Betting Odds:

Real Madrid – 1.23

Draw – 6.40

Schalke – 12.00

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

Not only do Real have a five goal advantage over their German opponents this evening, but when they welcome Schalke to the Bernabeu this evening they have the confidence of a 16 match winning streak in front of their own fans to back them up. On top of this they have recorded nine clean sheets in their last ten home matches, with only Villarreal managing to find the net in this corner of the Spanish capital since Galatasaray managed to score in a 4-1 defeat almost four months ago. With the likes of CR7 and Gareth Bale running rings around the German backline in the first leg, even if they ease up will they prove to be far too good for Schalke tonight?

After their heavy home defeat at the Veltins-Arena to Carlo Ancelotti’s men three weeks ago things did not improve after the match as they had to face German champions Bayern Munich in the next match and they were promptly beaten 5-1. Since then though Schalke have won their last two matches scoring six goals against Hoffenheim and Augsburg, but these two sides sit mid-table in the Bundesliga and Schalke have shown that they are hopelessly outclassed against the best sides in Europe already.

As well as their poor form against the top sides Schalke have scored just one goal in their three away matches in the Champions League this season, while they face a Cristiano Ronaldo that has scored 32 goals in 25 matches in this competition, including having 11 this season alone. Real have not lost in 15 home Champions League ties in almost three years and I cannot see anything but a comprehensive victory for the hosts tonight, even if they rest players, against their German visitors.

Back Real Madrid to beat Schalke by at least three goals (Real -2) @ 2.08 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.