A couple of one-sided Champions League semi-final first legs have dampened down excitement ahead of this week’s return matches. But in football you never, ever know. Just ask PSG fans.
Here’s our football expert Adrian Clarke, with his guide to a pair of top-class last four clashes in the Champions League…
Juventus (2) v Monaco (0) | 9 May 19:45
You suspect this Old Lady isn’t for turning.
If anyone is capable of scoring goals in a watertight Italian back yard, it’s possibly the mavericks of Monaco: a scintillating attacking force. But up against the tactically astute Max Allegri, the French raiders will need great fortune (and more) to smile on them in Turin.
In a two-horse race, they are now 15/1 to progress – and the stats make truly terrible reading for anyone that’s backed the Ligue One side to reach this season’s final.
- – Only 2.7 per cent (9) of the 339 teams that have trailed 2-0 in a first-leg away defeat in European competitions have ever prevailed.
- – Juventus have not lost a home fixture in any competition by two goals since April 2013.
- – Just one semi-finalist in Champions League history has made it to the final after losing a first home leg: Ajax in 1995-96 when recovering from a 1-0 deficit to beat Panathinaikos.
- – The Italian champions have triumphed in all 37 UEFA ties when they won the first leg away from home.
While I’m sure the excellent Leonardo Jardim will have his players pumped up and believing in themselves, the omens aren’t great for Monaco. If anyone provides hope, though, it has to be teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe.
The ‘new Thierry Henry’ has the full package; he’s quick, skilful, makes super-intelligent runs and boasts that un-coachable knack of knowing where the net is. Unlucky not to strike in the Principality last week, the most-wanted young striker on the planet is 47/20 to score in 90 minutes.
Professionalism and discipline will be the watchwords in the home dressing room. And with stalwarts Gigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini steering the ship from the back, Juventus are in safe hands. The grizzly Italians are yet to concede in five knockout ties so far, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they made it six shutouts in a row.
Allegri, a smart tactician, would love to preserve that incredible record.
Juventus to win without conceding is priced up attractively at 19/10.
They’re going through.
Atletico Madrid (0) v Real Madrid (3) | 10 May 19:45
Atletico’s best chance of a sporting miracle might be to nobble Cristiano Ronaldo as he climbs off the team bus. Failing that, they should probably try and trip him up in the warm up.
The record-breaking Portuguese maestro is their nemesis.
He scored a hat-trick in the first leg AND bagged a treble on his last visit to the Vicente Calderon in November; another 3-0 triumph for the 11-time winners of the competition. Considering his immense record in this derby fixture, Cristiano Ronaldo is quite generously priced up at 33/25 to score anytime.
The bookies are probably expecting Diego Simeone’s men to put up a significantly better fight than they did at the Santiago Bernabeu – especially as this will be the last ever tie at their famous old stadium. They are a fearsome outfit on home turf – and didn’t concede a goal in five European Cup semi-finals staged at the Vicente Calderon – and buoyed by their motivational head coach, Atleti will be eying a 3-0 win to take it into extra time.
How likely is that scenario? You’ll be offered 22/1 on 3-0, which probably tells its own story. While they’ve often turned in flaky, unconvincing displays this term, actual results suggest that Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid are an incredible team.
They have scored in all 55 of their matches in 2016-17, and haven’t been shut out in 60 games. This stretches back as far as the 0-0 draw with Manchester City at this stage of last season’s Champions League.
While I’d say the 2/9 on Real Madrid scoring once lacks appeal, a flutter on Over 1.5 goals at 11/9 is definitely a punt to consider. If the hosts take risks, they have the players to punish them on the break. With nothing for Atleti to lose, I see both teams scoring in an entertaining second leg (8/13). A draw (51/20) is my result selection.
Atletico are a far better side than they showed last week, but they’ve left themselves with too much to do.
Backing them to make history by overturning this three-goal deficit at 15/1 feels like it’s wishful thinking.