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+.

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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.

Will Real’s 1-0 lead over Bayern be enough to see them reach the Champions League Final?

Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the winning goal in the first leg of this semi final.

Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the winning goal in the first leg of this semi final.

While the Champions League Semi Final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid was expected in many parts to be an explosive goal filled extravaganza, the first leg at the Bernabeu last week was far from that. Real scored early through French striker Karim Benzema, but no more goals appeared in the final 70 minutes of the game as the Spaniards claimed the advantage with a 1-0 win. The big question is will a one goal advantage be enough to bring to the Allianz Arena this Tuesday night?

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid Odds:

Bayern – 1.70

Draw – 3.90

Real – 4.30

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

Although they failed to score a goal in the first leg of this final four match in the Champions League last week, Bayern were the dominant side as they controlled much of the possession during the match in the Spanish capital. However, their final ball was completely missing and they rarely tested Iker Casillas in the home goal. They will feel that they cannot play much worse in the final third this week and the only way is up. Bayern have, however, suffered defeats on home soil to Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena this season, albeit in dead rubber games, and Real are certainly a better side than both of these teams. With it do or die time for the opportunity for retain their Champions League crown how will the hosts fare in this must win game?

Real will be reasonably happy with their endeavours last week as their performance sees them ahead at the halfway stage of the tie. They were second best in the ball retention area last week as they finished the match with just 36% possession yet they were better in every other area. They created three clear cut chances in the first half and converted one of these to secure victory while they prevented Bayern from creating any serious chances too. With both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale likely to start for Real this Tuesday evening Carlo Ancelotti’s men will fancy their chances at progression, but can their defensive unit survive a 90 minute German onslaught?

With this tie poised the way it is at the midpoint, I believe that this second leg is more likely to see the goals that were lacking last week. Real know that pushing for a goal will see the Germans needing three to progress if they do find the net, while Bayern will want to keep things tight at the back while improving on their performance in front of goal. The game will see Bayern dominant possession once again and likely win this match, but whether they can win by enough to progress is the big question and is one that I feel could go either way by the full time whistle.

Back Bayern to beat Real and there to be at least 2.5 goals in the match @ 2.40 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.

Chelsea set to field a weakened manager against Liverpool

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

Is José Mourinho on the verge of a Napoleonic downfall?

In seasons gone by, the threat of rocking up to a title decider with a purposefully depleted hand—enfeebled in protest at having to play on a Sunday—would have been celebrated as classic José Mourinho. He strode the Premier League like Banksy spitting up something pithy onto an unguarded wall, or Marcel Duchamp plonking down a toilet in an art gallery and declaring it a fountain.

 

English football  had found a new crown prince-cum-arch satirist, who was bent not only on winning everything he could but doing so while fiddling with the well-worn levers of the British manager’s identity, much to the amusement of the game’s cossetting, chattering classes. “Oh, José!” they squealed, rocked back into their writing chairs, as he fired off yet another belter of a sound bite or tugged at yet more of the tropes set down by the likes of Brian Clough, Don Revie, Bill Shankly & Co.

Yet something has changed on his return to Stamford Bridge. It’s hard not to think that compared to the man who previously terrorised the establishment with both his flamboyant antagonism and trophy count, that come Sunday Chelsea will be fielding a weakened manager as much as a weakened team.

 

Liverpool v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Liverpool – 1.63

Chelsea – 4.80

Draw – 3.85

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

 

For all his absurd, syrupy nonsense and motivational envelopes, Brendan Rodgers looks like a man composed, calm and in his element at present. By contrast, Mourinho has at times appeared trite and perhaps even desperate.

The usual jibes and mind games have never quite come off for him as they used to. His ploy to write off his team’s chances at every opportunity became flat and old in a way that wouldn’t have seemed possible during his more electrified tenure back in the early days of Roman Abramovich’s reign.

 

Of course, momentum can often be everything when it comes to the dubious art of mind games, and perhaps too there is more than a hint of over-familiarity with his methods that has generated a considerable about of contempt for him of late. However, from day one something didn’t feel right about his return. He announced himself to be happy rather than special in what was an oddly subdued press conference—vibes that some put down to him feeling aggrieved at having not been granted a shot at the Manchester United job.

Though his ego surely yearned to be a feature of the intrigue that has swept through Old Trafford this season, it seemed more likely that the scars of the past were weighing heavy upon him rather than jealousy for the future.

 

It’s not often that Mourinho has tasted failure since his ascendency to the top of the game with Porto in 2004. At Chelsea and Inter he achieved the vast majority of his objectives and sometimes over-reached even his own expectations with a record points tally and treble win respectively.

His years in Madrid changed all that however. While the location of the biggest job in football is an argument that will never be settled, it’s hard to think of a more demanding post in the game than taking up position in the home dug out of the Bernabeu.

The manager of Real shares the same average life span and political workload as an average Game Of Thrones protagonist (could have given us a spoiler warning – ed.), and yet faces even greater demands that stretch beyond simply amassing trophies. Real must win in style, to some self-styled ideal of false-modesty, with the most glamourous players in the world, constantly bettering themselves like gentlemanly aristocrats charged with civilising others through their own great works.

 

It’s a level of pressure and pedantry that broke José, who has become a figure of self-parody; his pronouncements now sounding just off-key enough to scan as slightly hackneyed and irrelevant. The Premier League almost feels as if it has left him and his kind behind when in the past it seemed as though Mourinho himself controlled English football’s zeitgeist.

Now reports abound about Mourinho fielding a weakened line-up for Sunday’s trip to Anfield, and with it throwing away his chances of snatching a seemingly impossible title from Liverpool’s grasp: is it a hardnosed protest or an act of sheer petulance?

 

It’s hard not to think that the Mourinho of old would have come up with something more cutting, original and, well, effective. He looks like a man feeling the impact of having to compromise his chances of winning to make a point. The ruthless master of his own destiny who once looked set to force Alex Ferguson into (relatively) early retirement surely would never have told the public of his intentions to give up on a chance of silverware.

Yet Real got to him, with his demands for the likes of Iker Casillas to wage total war against Barcelona turning into an internal conflict against his own authority and methods. Without the ends to justify the means—only one La Liga title and a Copa del Rey to show for three years of viciousness that never seemed to bring Real any closer to La Decima—he was ultimately rejected. Like Napoleon’s downfall after failing to overcome the Russian winter, he has now been exiled to an island off the mainline for his failings.

 

Mixed up in all of this are the intentions of Abramovich himself, who may well have re-hired Mourinho in order to hand him enough rope to implode his rival personality cult as much as benefit from his gift of winning trophies.

If the Portuguese is unable to rediscover the edge that he enjoyed in England prior to 2007, then his own defeat at Waterloo—and the popular and political backlash that brought upon his historical likeness—may well come sooner than many might think. Having faced off against opposition of his own from Jose loyalists in the past, reappointing his former champion to destroy his own legacy, so soon after tilting in Madrid, is a Machiavellian move that will play right into Roman’s hands even if he achieves the opposite.

 

Until then, Liverpool look set to be denied their final, title-clinching triumph, not they’re likely to care too much. With Atletico Madrid readying themselves for a second-leg raid of Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s determination to appear as though he never wanted the win at Anfield—rather than losing at full-strength to a superior rival—will also double up as a handy excuse should the worst happen against Diego Simeone’s men.

Yet it may not be Chelsea who are too tired to rise against the Argentinean’s rampaging La Liga chasers or Rodgers’ surprise Premier League title favourites, but the special one himself who is now at risk of becoming all-too-ordinary.

 

Betting Instinct tip – If Chelsea do give the likes of Nathan Aké and Andreas Christensen a run-out on Sunday, it could well be worth backing Liverpool to be winning at half-time and full-time at 2.64 at with GR88.com

 

Greg avatarGREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football blog and podcast.

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.

Ronaldo and Bale to fire Real Madrid to victory over Bayern Munich?

Will the firepower of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale give Real a first leg advantage over the European champions?

Will the firepower of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale give Real a first leg advantage over the European champions?

This Wednesday sees the clash of two of the biggest names in European football as this Real Madrid v Bayern Munich clash in the Champions League Semi Finals sees a meeting of two sides that have lifted the European Cup on 14 occasions. Real have won the title on nine separate occasions, but are without a win since 2002, while Bayern have five wins including lifting the title at Wembley last season. Both teams will be desperate to claim a first leg advantage in an attempt to book their place in Lisbon for the Champions League Final at the end of May, but who is favoured for victory at the Bernabeu?

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Odds:

Real – 2.30

Draw – 3.30

Bayern – 2.88

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

Real come into this final four match of the Champions League as one of just two sides to have gone unbeaten throughout the tournament, with their city rivals Atlético Madrid the only other team to match this feat. They will come into this match boosted having not played a match in a week since securing the Copa del Rey title over Barcelona with a stunning winning goal from Gareth Bale. Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is likely to return for this clash following a spell on the sidelines with injury, have scored 19 goals between them in this competition so far and they will be hunting for more goals on home soil tonight. Real are especially impressive at the Bernabeu this season with 20 wins in their last 21 games in all competitions, including scoring three against German sides Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, so will CR7 and Bale fire them to victory again?

It will not be easy for Real as they face a side that has swept the board as they have taken every trophy they have contested over last season and this. They have taken two Bundesliga titles, the German Cup, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in this time. They do not have the standout firepower of Real Madrid’s star players and world record breaking purchases, but they have a much more rounded and balanced side overall. The question is, will this better team play see them able to neutralise the firepower of the Spanish team?

Since wrapping up the Bundesliga title early this season, Bayern’s concentration has seemed to waver with losses to Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund in recent weeks as well as managing to draw only 1-1 at Old Trafford with a subpar Manchester United despite dominating possession too. I feel that Bayern are likely to once again dominate possession in this Champions League Semi Final, but you can sure that Real will be more direct and lethal when they get the opportunity to attack Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal.

As a result of this, I can see this match being a close but high scoring clash in the Spanish capital with both sides finding the net. However, the edge that the home support will give Ronaldo, Bale and the rest of the Real Madrid side leads me to believe that Real will just edge this first leg tie setting us up for a fantastic second leg at the Allianz Arena next Tuesday.

Back Real Madrid to beat Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu in this Champions League Semi Final first leg @ 2.30 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.

 

Barca or Real to claim the Copa del Rey in tonight’s El Clásico?

A Lionel Messi hat-trick inspired a 4-3 Barcelona win in the last El Clásico, can the Argentine do the same tonight?

A Lionel Messi hat-trick inspired a 4-3 Barcelona win in the last El Clásico, can the Argentine do the same tonight?

The 2014 Copa del Rey tournament comes to a close this evening at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestella where Barcelona and Real Madrid will re-enact their 2011 Copa del Rey Final at this venue that saw a tight game with Real snatching victory in extra time to claim a 1-0 win. Last year saw Real beaten on home soil by city rivals Atlético Madrid and with Diego Simone’s men beaten 5-0 aggregate in the Semi Finals, they’ll be desperate to finish off what they started last season.

However, it is not the capital city side that are favoured to take victory in this evening’s final despite a crushing win over Atlético, who eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League over two legs recently, thanks to them missing talismanic attacker Cristiano Ronaldo through knee and hamstring issues. Will they upset the odds to win tonight without the Portuguese striker?

Copa del Rey Final Betting Odds:

Barcelona – 2.28

Draw – 3.40

Real – 2.58

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

Although Barcelona are favoured to beat Real Madrid this evening, are they really deserving of this favourites tag just because their opponents are missing their most important player for the match? The bookmakers clearly think so, but with away losses at Atlético Madrid and Granada in their last two games seeing them out of the Champions League and slip four points off the top of the La Primera Liga table are they now passed it? The last five games have seen Barca score more than a single goal in just one match and they are without a goal in two games before tonight. With Messi, Sanchez, Neymar, Iniesta, Xavi and the rest they still have more than enough to win any match, but with them not doing it regularly enough will they be defeated tonight and see them end the season with no silverware?

Real are not going to be as potent without CR7 in their ranks this evening, but he has not played a part in any of the sides last three matches and they have managed to score eight goals in this time. They defeated both Real Sociedad and Almeria 4-0 while also losing 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund in their second leg of the Champions League Quarter Finals. The Portuguese attacker was missed in Europe, but will the other star players in the side step up and put in the extra work. Players like Benzema, di Maria and Bale have been hit and miss at times this season, but they will just as desperate as Barcelona to win this trophy tonight in Valencia.

With the possibility of both sides matching each other in both the performing well or performing badly stakes tonight, how they have played in recent El Clásico matches could be the key to working out the winner tonight. The last six meetings between these teams have seen two wins apiece and two draws, with Barcelona winning the last two games between them, including taking a 4-3 win at the Bernabeu less than a month ago.

If the sides are equal in consistency and El Clásico performances, what could possibly separate the teams tonight? For me, Real have the better manager in Carlo Ancelotti and, while Barcelona have a perfectly good ‘A’ game if Ancelotti can outthink Martino, which he had done in March until Sergio Ramos’ red card, then this match is wide open for a Real Madrid victory. This is where my money is going on this evening’s Copa del Rey Final.

Back Real Madrid to beat Barcelona in this El Clásico and win the Copa del Rey Final @ 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.

Can Dortmund repeat last season’s home win over Real to reach the Champions League Semis?

Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record for most Champions League goals in the first leg, now can he break it in the second leg?

Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record for most Champions League goals in the first leg, now can he break it in the second leg?

The first leg of this Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid Champions League Quarter Final blew away the horrific memories of last season’s Semi Final clash between these teams for Real Madrid as their 3-0 win, courtesy of goals from Gareth Bale, Isco and the Champions League top scorer for this season Cristiano Ronaldo, saw them put one foot into the final four stage. However, this week sees them return to Signal-Iduna-Park where they suffered a Robert Lewandowski led 4-1 hammering last season so will they completely banish these nightmares with a second leg victory?

Dortmund v Real Betting Odds:

Borussia Dortmund – 3.15

Draw – 3.45

Real Madrid – 2.10

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

The first leg of this tie saw Dortmund hampered at the Santiago Bernabeu due to the fact that last season’s key player in the meetings between these two sides, Robert Lewandowski, was missing through suspension. However, he is back and will start this match as the focal point of the German side’s attack, but can he bag another four goals to see Dortmund progress at the expense of the Spaniards yet again? He did score in the 2-1 home win against Wolfsburg at the weekend, so he will be confident of being on target, but with Sebastian Kehl suspended and first choice goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller doubtful do they have enough to overturn a three goal deficit?

Real are having injury issues of their own with Cristiano Ronaldo missing the weekend 4-0 demolition of Real Sociedad as he was rested due to a knee injury and that Sociedad game saw Gareth Bale leave the field after taking a knock on his knee. Both are doubtful for this match, although Ronaldo is back in training, and if one or both of these two key players are unable to make the match day squad for this Dortmund v Real match then it will certainly give the hosts a massive boost before a ball has been kicked.

However, despite the injury concerns that Real may have for this match they are still the stronger of the two teams and with them unbeaten in the Champions League this season while Dortmund have suffered losses to Arsenal and Zenit St. Petersburg on home soil, the smart money for this Champions League Quarter Final second leg clash is on the away side. Especially as you can be sure that CR7 will push hard to ensure he is ready for this game to find the net and break Lionel Messi’s Champions League goal record.

Back Real Madrid to beat Borussia Dortmund in this Champions League Quarter Final @ 2.10 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.

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.