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After the first act in this season’s Champions League semi-finals, both ties remain firmly in the balance ahead of next week’s return fixtures. The quest for a place in Milan on May 28 is going down to the wire.
MANCHESTER CITY & REAL MADRID DRAW A BLANK AT THE ETIHAD
A tense affair in Manchester on Tuesday saw City play out a goalless draw with Real Madrid. The main talking point of this game happened before a ball had been kicked when the name of Cristiano Ronaldo was omitted from the visitor’s team-sheet; the Portuguese superstar failing to recover from a thigh injury picked up in the derby match against Rayo Vallecano just three days earlier. The other memorable moment from a largely forgettable encounter was Los Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane splitting his trousers in the technical area. Fortunately for the former French playing legend, choosing to wear a long woollen overcoat proved to be a master-stroke.
REAL MADRID LEFT HART-BROKEN
At the end of the 90 minutes, it was Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart who took all the plaudits after a string of fine saves kept his team in the contest ahead of the return at the Bernabeu next Wednesday; a point-blank stop from Portuguese defender Pepe late on being the pick of the bunch. The England number one (who has now kept consecutive clean-sheets in his last three home Champions League games) declared after the match, that next week’s second-leg would be a real “Rumble in the Bernabeu” but the Premier League side will be confident they can score the vital away goal that could swing the tie in their favour. Madrid for their part, will be praying that their inspirational leader Ronaldo is fit to play. At this moment its still touch and go whether he will make it as he embarks on some stem cell treatment to hopefully speed up his recovery. The players mother, Dolores Aveiro, had these reassuring words for Real supporters when she claimed that; “He is fine, he is not at 100 per cent, but he is at 80 per cent,” she said. “I think that he will be back next week.”
A moment of real class from Joe Hart #UCL pic.twitter.com/ns7UbWUSju
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) 26 aprile 2016
After Tuesday match at the Etihad Stadium, Real Madrid are clear favourites to win the second-leg, currently priced at *1.53 on the best football betting sites. Zidane’s men also top the list of potential winners of the trophy on May 28 at the San Siro, currently being quoted at *2.87. If punters fancy an upset in the Spanish capital next week, bookmakers are offering prices of *6.00 for the Premier League side to reach the final and *8.00 for them to be crowned kings of Europe.
IT’S FORTRESS VICENTE CALDERON, AS ATLETICO MADRID DRAW FIRST-BLOOD AGAINST BAYERN
The statistics read: Played 17, Won 13, Drawn 3 as Atletico Madrid continued their incredible home form in the Champions League on Wednesday, to edge past Bayern Munich 1-0 in a feverish atmosphere at their iconic Vicente Calderon Stadium. The goal that settled the game after 11 minutes was an absolute work of beauty from midfielder Saul Niguez, who slalomed his way through the Bayern rear-guard before slotting a perfect finish past a despairing Manuel Neuer. The one thing any visiting team does not want to do is give Diego Simeone’s side the lead on their own patch and despite the German’s best efforts (particularly in the second-half) they could not blow the Atletico house down. Whilst the way in which the other team from the Spanish capital go about their business may not be to everyone’s liking, you have to admit it’s effective. With the visitors chalking up over 70% of the possession on Wednesday, the way that Simeone’s men are fighting on two fronts both domestically and in Europe, goes against all the footballing theories; expect the same in Bavaria next Tuesday.
A photo posted by @uefachampionsleague on
DIEGO SIMEONE – LOVE HIM OR LOATHE HIM, HE DEMANDS RESPECT
Adored by the Atleico faithful, viewed with suspicion by others, Diego Simeone has turned around the fortunes of the club from the capital and, to quote the great Frank Sinatra, he’s done it his way. A perfect example of why he’s often viewed as the villain came last weekend in his side’s game against Malaga. With the opposition on a dangerous counter-attack, the former Argentine international ordered a member of his backroom staff to throw a spare football onto the pitch in the path of the on-rushing player; he was subsequently sent-off by the match referee before receiving a three-match touchline ban by the Spanish Football Association this week. On the flip-side, Wednesday evening’s tactical masterclass in how to nullify the opposition should be applauded rather than criticised. Despite the meticulous preparation Pep Guardiola will have done with his Bayern team before the match, they would have known what to expect and yet they still fell right into the trap laid out for them. Simeone’s style may not be in any coaching manual, but then again, Simeone is no ordinary coach.
The defensive organisation of Atlético Madrid under Diego Simeone is simply awesome! pic.twitter.com/9tG7JEAIWc
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) 28 aprile 2016
Prior to Wednesday’s match, Bayern Munich were favourites on the betting exchanges to lift the Champions League trophy this season. Now, whilst they remain odds-on to win next Tuesday’s return in Bavaria (current price *1.53), Atletico Madrid are strongly fancied to progress to the final and are currently second favourites to win it, at *3.40. If punters still have faith in Guardiola, his Bayern team are now priced at *3.50.
*odds courtesy of Paddy Power
Steve Mitchell @barafundler