By Antony Jordan
And then there were four! We’re down to the final quartet of sides in the Champions League and this Tuesday and Wednesday sees the first legs of the semi final ties. First up comes EPL side Manchester City’s first ever appearance at this stage of the competition and they welcome 13 time finalists and ten time winners of the competition Real Madrid to The Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night before the 2014 finalists Atlético Madrid face the 2013 winners of the title in Bayern Munich in the Spanish capital.
Both matches offer plenty of action and excitement, but who’ll hold the advantages at the halfway stages of the ties? We preview both semi final first legs with online sportsbook WilliamHill.com to provide our top Champions League picks.
Tuesday night will be a big night for both Manchester City Football Club and manager Manuel Pellegrini as the club plays its first ever match at the final four stage of the top European football competition and Pellegrini faces a club he managed for less than a year between 2009 and 2010. City have never beaten Real in a competitive match, losing 3-2 at the Bernabeu as the Spaniards scored twice in the last three minutes and drawing 1-1 at The Etihad when the teams met at the group stages of the 2012/13 Champions League. They also clashed at the MCG in Melbourne prior to the start of this season in the International Champions Cup and it was again the Spanish giants who triumphed as they ran out 4-1 winners, but can they make it four in a row this week?
The home side will be boosted by the fact that captain Vincent Kompany, who is arguably their most important player, has been declared fit for this match and that Karim Benzema is doubtful for the clash. However, with the good always comes the bad too as Yaya Toure has failed to overcome his muscle injury and will miss out while, even worse, former Manchester United hitman Cristiano Ronaldo has overcome his injury doubts and the man who has netted 16 goals in this season’s Champions League will take the field for this match.
Both sides bring similar records in the Champions League into this match as they have both suffered losses to only a single side, with City losing to Juventus home and away in the group while Real were upset away at Wolfsburg in the last round, and both sides have averaged one goal conceded home and away respectively. Man City conceded all of their goals in the group before seeing of Dynamo Kyiv and PSG with clean sheets in the knockout stages while Zinedine Zidane’s men shipped three goals in a 4-3 away win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stages while the others were conceded in Germany as in their Wolfsburg defeat.
However, with both sides have fierce attacking arsenals at their disposal and occasionally questionable defences, we feel that this first leg could go either way and that both sides are likely to concede goals this Tuesday evening at The Etihad.
Our best Man City v Real Madrid bet is back Both Teams to Score – Yes and Over 2.5 goals at odds of 1.83 in the William Hill Sportsbook!
Just like in the Tuesday night action, the second Champions League semi final first leg sees the away side the slight favourites to be leading at the halfway point of the tie and bring an advantage back home for the second leg in a week’s time. This is the first meeting of the sides since the Germans recorded a 4-0 victory over the Spaniards in the 1974 final replay, following a 1-1 draw before this. Both of these sides are in exceptional form coming into this first meeting in more than four decades, so we can understand why the odds are so tight for each side to win the match, but who’ll be the one to edge out the other?
The home side have won all of their last five matches since being edged out by the first leg of the Quarter Final by Barcelona at the Camp Nou before they came back to secure their progress with a fantastic second leg performance as they won 2-0. This is another exceptional showing on home soil as they won eight and drawn one of their last nine home games in all competitions, all the while conceding just a single goal in this time. Atlético are a combative side and they enjoy getting in the faces of their opposition, as they did against Barca recently, and they will be tight and give Bayern no space in which to play, so can they win this match?
The home side are certainly capable of defeating the Germans and as Pep Guardiola’s men have not performed particularly well on their travels in the Champions League this season we are certainly leaning towards the fiery Spaniards. Bayern have conceded two goals in three of their five away games during this campaign as they were beaten 2-0 at The Emirates by Arsenal in the group stage before finishing 2-2 at Juventus and Benfica in the knockout phase of this competition. They certainly have a talented squad and things may be different at the Allianz Arena in a week, but we favour the home side in this first leg, but we are covering ourselves with our bet on this match.
Our top Atlético Madrid v Bayern Munich tip is back Atlético to win on the Draw No Bet market @ 2.00 at WilliamHill.com.