Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Madrid, Saturday 22nd May is the location & date for this years UEFA Champions League Final with 8 teams now left & set do to battle to reach the ultimate dream.
Manchester United, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Lyon, Bordeaux & Arsenal are the teams that have made it through to the Quarter Final stages & now they all know that they are only a matter of 4 games away & this is when the pressure really starts to rise.
All 8 teams have had to show a combination of quality, determination, fighting spirit & consistency to get through to this stage & whichever team can continue that the best over the next 2 months will be the team crowned Champions of Europe.
The Quarter Final line-up is really interesting & fascinating this year and there really is everything to play for so let’s hope the matches provide the quality & entertainment we as football fans crave for.
We have had a good look at the all 4 Quarter Final 1st leg matches & here are our views on the games with the value betting options we feel are worth consideration:
Bayern Munich vs Manchester United – (Tuesday 7.45pm)
Two historical giants of european football clash here with Bayern Munich & Manchester United staging a repeat of the dramatic & enthralling 1999 Champions League Final and hopefully this game lives up to that & more.
Back in 1999 Bayern Munich where major players on the european scene & regularly involved in the final stages of the Champions League but then they suffered a decline so it is good to see them back were they feel they belong.
Manchester United’s place among the european elite has strengthened greatly since then with continued domination of the domestic scene & 2 more Champions League final appearances with victory over Chelsea & last years defeat against Barcelona.
A match of this status clearly brings great pressure with it for both teams & particularly the 1st leg because the aim for both teams is to ensure they still have a good chance going into the 2nd leg so that tends to produce tight, tactical 1st leg matches but we don’t think this one will be.
Bayern Munich & Manchester United are two teams who believe in & excel at playing positive, attacking football to go for the win and that is what we expect from both of them here.
Bayern Munich know that their best & most likely chance of progressing through this tie will be to win the home leg & then get a positive result at Old Trafford so we do expect them to really have a go in this match & they have the attacking talent to do it on their best form.
Ribery, Robben, Klose, Schweinsteiger, Olic & Gomez all carry a fantastic attacking threat to their opponents & if they hit their best form then they certainly have the talent to cause the Manchester United defence real problems.
Ribery & Robben are threats with their direct pace & skill from wide areas, while Schweinsteiger & Olic provide a goal threat from midfield & Klose & Gomez carry a real aerial threat & physical strength up front.
The real weakness for Bayern Munich is that because they are so offensive, they can become defensively fragile in games and games often become stretched & open which is clearly a massive concern against the attacking quality & pace of Manchester United.
Bayern Munich’s showed their defensive fragility against Fiorentina in the last round & again their 2-1 home defeat at the weekend was not the best preparation for this match so they will clearly have to show improvement on that form to get something here.
Manchester United come into this Quarter Final tie with the proven experience & quality to handle such highly pressurised situations & of the two sides, we do expect Manchester United to be the more relaxed, controlled & indeed confident coming into the game.
Alex Ferguson knows what to expect from Bayern Munich & he will have the Manchester United team greatly prepared for this test & he will know that the really important aspect of the game will be for Manchester United to enforce their strength & quality on the match.
Manchester United showed with their confident, controlled destruction of AC Milan in the last round that they have the all important combination of quality, belief & a real determination to win and everything looks in place for a similar performance here.
Tactically Manchester United have a tried & tested team selection for all the major games with a 4-5-1 formation and that is what we expect again here with Van De Sar, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra & Neville providing great quality & experience in defence, Darren Fletcher & Michael Carrick to control the unit of 5 in midfield with Rooney leading the line up front.
Manchester United will look to gain early control of the match through possession & then use their excellent counter attacking qualities to hit Bayern Munich on the break & get the away goals & result that can prove so vital in these matches.
We are expecting this to be a fantastic match as both sides always play with the intention of producing positive, attacking football & highly pressurised, competitive nature of the match dictates it will be a test for both sides but Manchester United are confident & in such good form at present, we cannot oppose them & they do look an excellent bet to win this tie with Rooney again likely to be the difference.
Outright Match Result: Manchester United to win
Correct Score options: Manchester United to win 2-1/3-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Rooney/Carrick/Park
Scorecast options: Rooney/Carrick/Park score 1st & Man United win 2-1/3-1
Double Result: Man United H/T & F/T
Lyon vs Bordeaux – (Tuesday 7.45pm)
All the eyes of France will be on this one for this all French clash between Lyon & Bordeaux which certainly looks set up to be a really entertaining contest.
Lyon have the Champions League pedigree & were the major, dominant force in French football for many years with their domination of the French 1st Division but all that has changed in recent seasons with Bordeaux taking over as the number one team in France so this really is a massively important clash to everybody involved.
Lyon & Bordeaux have fully deserved their places in the Quarter Finals with both displaying fantastic quality & consistency in the group stages & again in the last round which really does make this game an incredibly tough call.
Lyon have so far won 5 & drawn 2 of their 8 Champions league matches, scoring 14 & conceding only 4 goals during those games while Bordeaux have so far won 6 & drawn 1 of their 8 games in the competition scoring 12 only conceding 3 goals so it really is as tight as you can get.
Interestingly the bookies don’t quite see it that way as they have Lyon at even money favourites while Bordeaux are priced around the 11/4 mark & in our view the prices should be closer so if you are looking for a side to win this close battle a Bordeaux win definitely rates as better value bet than that of a Lyon win.
This really is going to be fascinating night & a really intense night for both teams because while both Lyon & Bordeaux will want to win, neither side will want lose & the fear of losing makes us believe that a competitive, scoring draw is a likely scenario & indeed a value bet worth taking because it really is too close to call either way.
Outright Match Result: DRAW
Correct Score options: 1-1/2-2
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Gourcuff/Lopez/Chamakh
Scorecast options:Gourcuff/Chamakh/Lopez score 1st & 1-1/2-2
Double Result: DRAW H/T & F/T
Arsenal vs Barcelona – (Wednesday 7.45pm)
A neutral fans dream looks the best way to describe this immense clash between Arsenal & Barcelona as a full 5-star menu of top class, free flowing football looks set to be served up here.
Arsenal & Barcelona are regarded as the two best free flowing, positive, passing sides in world football & there is no doubt that this will be the game that most of the footballing world will want to see above any other because the possibilities are boundless.
As we have previously, Quarter Final 1st leg matches are notoriously intense, competitive & tight tactical matches that often disappoint through both sides having a fear of losing but that just does not seem at all possible here with both Arsenal & Barcelona totally committed to playing attacking football to win the game.
The key strengths of both sides are to use their creative, attacking qualities to gain control of matches & to score the goals that win them the game and that is exactly what we expect here.
Fabregas, Nasri, Rosicky & Arshavin are the key creative forces behind Arsenal & they will go head-to-head against the magician that is Lionel Messi, Ibrahimovic, Xavi & of course former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and the prospects of those players being on the same pitch is immense as to the skills & quality we should witness.
In saying all that, the absolute key to this game might well be which side defends better when the other team comes on the attack & this is where Barcelona could have a vital edge as they have only conceded 4 goals so far in the Champions League & have managed to keep 5 clean sheets in 8 games.
Arsenal have displayed defensively fragility on occasions & only have 3 clean sheets to their name & they will certainly have to be at their very, very best defensively if they are to stop the likes of Messi & Ibrahimovic scoring what would be vital away goals.
Anybody who sits down to watch this match should enjoy a great football match as both Arsenal & Barcelona will look to get an all important win so the game should be open & both teams are definitely capable of winning so it’s a tight call but Barcelona are the number one contenders for this prize & they do look a good bet to get a vital win here with perhaps Thierry Henry returning to bite the hands that fed him for so long.
Outright Match Result: Barcelona to win
Correct Score options: Barcelona to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: Messi/Henry/Ibrahimovic
Scorecast options: Messi/Henry/Ibrahimovic to score 1st & Barcelona to win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Barcelona to win 2-0/2-1
Inter Milan vs CSKA Moscow – (Wednesday 7.45pm)
3rd favourites Inter Milan welcome rank outsiders CSKA Moscow to the San Siro for what the bookies predict will be a straightforward task for Inter Milan but it might not be that straightforward.
Undoubtedly Inter Milan do deserve their status as 3rd favourites for the fantastic quality, organisation & team ethic they displayed in knocking a very strong Chelsea side out & clearly on that form they warrant maximum respect whoever they face.
Jose Mourinho & the Inter Milan clearly put absolutely everything into winning that tie against Chelsea & it was a magnificent team achievement but this task against CSKA Moscow is an entirely different test & quite possibly more of a test of mental strength than actual football quality.
The Inter Milan squad as far more strength & quality than the CSKA Moscow squad but it is likely to be their mental approach that determines what happens in this game & in the tie overall because they cannot afford to underestimate CSKA Moscow for 1 second.
Sevilla were widely expected to dispose of CSKA Moscow without too many problems having achieved a 1-1 draw in Moscow but CSKA Moscow turned that on it’s head by going to Sevilla & deservedly winning 2-1 so Inter Milan do have to give CSKA Moscow maximum respect as well.
Tactically we expect the same approach from Jose Mourinho & Inter Milan as to how they played their 2nd round tie against Chelsea, looking to control the home game & getting a winning advantage to take to the away match and we do expect Inter Milan to play a controlled but positive style here.
Inter Milan do have a fantastic balance to their squad with a very good goalkeeper, solid defence inspired by Lucio & then a great combination in midfield and attack with Cambiasso, Sneijder, E’too, Milito, Stankovic, Pandev as good a unit as there is in european football.
CSKA Moscow have been fantastic in this competition with their never say die, positive approach in games and they have certainly gained a lot of praise & new fans along the way.
CSKA Moscow are not a squad blessed with loads of world class players & no real world superstar names amongst them but they have got quality players capable of doing damage to their opponents with Krasic the star of the show & real creative, attacking force for them.
The 2-1 away win Sevilla & the 3-3 away draw against Manchester United shows that CSKA Moscow are capable of getting goals & results against the big sides away from home and that has to be their target for this match and we do expect them to have a real go here because they have no pressure & they are not expected to achieve anything.
Free flowing football may not be dominant in this match as Inter Milan will look to control the game & probably keep it tight but CSKA Moscow will attempt to play their positive style so it should be a decent game & one which we feel Inter Milan look a really solid bet to get an all important win to take into the 2nd leg although CSKA will put up a fight.
Outright Match Result: Inter Milan to win
Correct Score options: Inter Milan to win 2-0/2-1
First Goalscorer each way/Player to score anytime: E’too/Sneijder/Milito
E’too/Sneijder/Milito score 1st & Inter Milan win 2-0/2-1
Double Result: Inter Milan H/T & F/T