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.
Real Madrid – 1.48
Atlético Madrid – 2.52
(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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+.