Next week promises an absolute feast of European football as the Champions League semi-finals get under way, with both of the first leg matches taking place in Madrid.
Atletico will take on Chelsea on Tuesday 22nd April, while Wednesday night sees Bayern Munich travel to the Bernabeu to face Real. In this post we’ll take a look at the likely outcomes, the odds available and the issues that all four teams will have to deal with to be in with a chance of progressing to the final in Lisbon on 24th May.
Bayern are seen as firm favourites to lift the trophy next month, with odds around 6/4 even before the semis. Real Madrid are priced at about 11/4 right now, while most bookies have Atletico slightly better placed than Chelsea at 7/2 and 9/2 respectively. As usual there are plenty of side bets available. Popular recent offerings have included the Coral goalscorer double special featuring Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; there’ll be more to come, no doubt.
Atletico have had an extraordinary season, having knocked Barcelona out of the competition by holding them to a draw at the Camp Nou and preventing them from scoring in Madrid.
They’re also strong contenders to top La Liga, and it’s their transfer policy that’s seen by many as the key to their recent success. They’ll be carrying the hopes of otherwise neutral fans from across Europe if they make it to Lisbon.
Chelsea, reportedly sniffing around Atletico’s Diego Costa, may have to face their own Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois when they travel to Spain next week. The young international is on loan to Atletico, but UEFA recently stated that he will be allowed to play against the Blues, and that no pre-existing agreement between the clubs will hold water.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo may be the competition’s top scorer, but he’s injured and it’s ex-Tottenham forward Gareth Bale who’s making the headlines right now. A wonder goal against Barca at the Copa Del Rey final late on Wednesday proved to be the winner, and showed that the Welshman has just about found his feet since his record-breaking summer move. Many will back him to score against Bayern next week; Bale himself believes that the treble is on for Real.
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich will have to do without midfielder Thiago Alcantara for at least the first leg of the semis; he’s been out with a knee ligament problem since the end of March. The squad has plenty of depth of course, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the Real fans react to the arrival of Bayern with the ex-Barca coach at the helm. Having just won the Bundesliga earlier than any other club in German football history, Guardiola will feel the bookies’ predictions are about right.
The second leg matches will take place on the 29th and 30th of April; Bayern v Real followed by Chelsea v Atletico.