UCL 1st Leg Semi Final Predictions: Yes... Expect Ronaldo To Score

By Bookmakers Review01 May 2017
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UCL 1st Leg Semi Final Predictions: Yes... Expect Ronaldo To Score

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have met in the Champions League twice in recent years, with Real narrowly seizing glory on both occasions. They looked on course to meet in a third final this season, but then they were drawn against one another in the semis. Whoever wins this tie will probably meet Juventus in the final, but whichever Madrid club goes through will seriously fancy their chances of lifting the trophy.

It pits two very different footballing philosophies against one another. Real Madrid, while not as attacking as Barcelona, are very easy to the eye and have a commitment to playing entertaining football. They are lethal on the counter-attack and bursting with flair. They are more solid than Barca, but they still leave gaps at the back and regularly concede goals, hoping to simply outscore their opponents – a venture they typically succeed in.

Atletico are a different kettle of fish entirely. Under Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid have been the epitome of defensive solidity. They play a ferocious pressing game, hunt in packs all over the pitch, run themselves into the ground, force the opposition to make mistakes and punish them. They keep things tight, compact and solid. They do not show a great deal of attacking ambition, but when they go forward they are efficient in front of goal and have a superb forward in Antoine Griezmann. This has allowed Atletico to seriously compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona over the past five years, despite operating on a far smaller budget.

A look at the table in La Liga highlights the point about differing philosophies: in 33 league games Real have scored 90 and conceded 38, while in 34 league games Atletico have scored 60 and conceded 25. Atletico concede 0.73 goals per game compared to Real’s 1.15, but Real score 2.72 compared to Atletico’s 1.76. While Atletico recently beat Espanyol 1-0, Real beat Deportivo 6-2.

Atletico have emerged as Real’s toughest opponents in recent years. Real won both UCL finals but it was extremely tight, and Atletico were unlucky in both. In their last eight league meetings, Real have won just once. They really struggle to break down Diego Simeone’s side.

Therefore it seems likely that this tie will see few goals. Had Real Madrid drawn Monaco it would have been a goal fest, while Atletico v Juventus would have been a snooze fest. Instead, we got a defensive team playing an attacking team in both semi-finals, and both should prove low-scoring tactical battles. The neutrals will want to see a Real v Monaco final, but Juventus should prevail, and Atletico have a good chance against Real.

Having said that, over the distance Real seem to be able to get the job done against Atletico. Atletico’s manic pressing game leaves them fatigued towards the end of the game, and Real then pick them off, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the charge. It therefore makes sense that Real are 4/6 favourites to qualify with Betway. At those odds, there is not a great deal of value though.

Given how closely matched these two are, going for the draw in the first leg looks a good option at 14/5 with Sportingbet or 11/4 with Bet365. The 13/2 at William Hill on a 1-1 draw looks interesting.

Or you could look to other markets. Under 2.5 goals looks good at 5/6 with Bet Victor and Boyle Sports as Atletico will defend to the hilt. The 23/20 at Bet Stars and Sportinbet on the second half being the highest scoring half also looks good as Atletico can sometimes lose defensive focus when their legs tire towards the end of the game. Or how about Cristiano Ronaldo to score at any time. He was deadly against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final, and even if he is anonymous for large chunks of a game he has a habit of popping up with vital goals. He is 11/10 with green listed bookmaker William Hill.