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Real Madrid Look a Great Bet at 11/2 to Retain Champions League

No team in the history of the Champions League era has been able to successfully defend their trophy in the competition. Current holders Real Madrid could be able to end that long wait this year as the Spanish giants look in great shape to come out on top in Europe again.

Real won their 11th European Cup/Champions League crown last summer when they defeated their local rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties. The two sides could not be separated after 120 minutes, therefore it took a shootout to determine a winner in Milan where their captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning spot-kick.

The Champions League winners did not need to strengthen last summer. They have not kept hold of all of their big stars – however, they remain a very talented side which includes Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema. Unlike many of their rivals in the Champions League, Real have plenty of depth to their squad. Players like Isco, Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata all provide fantastic cover if any of the regular starters pick up an injury or suspension.

Real Lead The Way In Spain
As well as remaining on track for success in Europe, Zinedine Zidane’s side are also at the top of La Liga at the time of writing. They beat Malaga 2-1 recently to retain the top spot in the standings ahead of Sevilla, Barcelona and Atletico who are also chasing the leaders in a tight pack.

Real will travel to Celta Vigo next up in the Copa del Ray where they are 13/20 with sportsbet.io to win that game at the time of writing. The Madrid club were beaten at the Bernabeu 1-2 in the first-leg of that quarter-final clash, so they have some work to do if they are to remain in that competition.

Holders Handed Kind Last 16 Tie
Despite finishing second in their group before the knockout stages of the Champions League, Real have been handed a favourable draw against Napoli next month in the last 16 of the tournament. The Italian side are third in Serie A and are without Gonzalo Higuain this season as they sold the Argentine to their rivals Juventus in the summer transfer window for an estimated £75.3 million.

Real will play their first leg at the Bernabeu where they can open up a sizeable advantage in the tie ahead of the second fixture at the Stadio San Paolo two weeks later.

The threat to Real’s bid to win back-to-back Champions League titles is likely to come from Barcelona and German champions Bayern Munich. Both of those teams have tough last 16 draws though. Barcelona will need to get past PSG, while Bayern are up against Arsenal for a place in the quarter-final.

As ever in knockout competitions, the winners always need a bit of luck along the way. Real have had that with the last 16 draw and they are more than good enough to take advantage of it by going all the way and lifting the trophy in Cardiff in May to become the first back-to-back winner of the Champions League.

Football Betting Tips: The secret To Success In The Champions League

Do many shock results still happen in football's top competitions? If so, is it worth having a bet on the long odds outsider?

Looking at the latest round of Champions League results (the first leg of the quarter-finals) – the results for the four games were:

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid: 0-0
Juventus v Monaco: 1-0
Paris St Germain v Fc Barcelona: 1-3
FC Porto v Bayern Munich: 3-1

The standout of the round is clearly FC Porto's excellent result against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, who have been fancied by many as potential winners of the competition.

On paper, betting on such a clear win for the Portuguese team seemed foolish. However, if you did your research pre-game, you would have noted that Porto have a superb record at their Dragao Stadium and were in brilliant form. Also, Bayern Munich were missing several key players through injury, including their main attacking wingers Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben plus Javi Martinez from midfield and wing-back David Alaba.

Despite this, Porto were still outsiders with the bookmakers before the game with best available odds of 69/20. Predicting the correct score before the game could have earned some serious payback with odds of 50/1 in some markets. Even a £10 bet or if you had been following the in-play analysis with bookmakers would have made the lovely return of £500! Obviously this is not an exact science and owes a lot to luck but sometimes it does pay to follow your gut instincts and have a gamble.

The other surprising result was the size of the victory of FC Barcelona away to Paris St-Germain. Whilst a win for the Catalan team was not a surprise given the players at their disposal and great recent form, the size of the victory against an expensively assembled home team was a little unexpected.

Again, a bit of research would have highlighted that PSG were missing key players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Veratti, while defender David Luiz (the most expensive defender in history) was also a doubt with injury and only came on off the bench.

Some bookies were offering 15/1 on this scoreline, so, as you can see, it is worth being a bit courageous and taking a risk to maximise your profit.

Champions League Odds

The English teams in this season's Champion’s League produced a mixed bag of results during last week’s group games.

Group B features Liverpool, Real Madrid, Basle 1893 and Ludogrets. Liverpool were away to Basle and were beaten 1-0 and according to Basle’s Paulo Sousa, it should and could have been a lot more with Brendan Rodgers stating that Liverpool had put on a disappointing display.

Meanwhile group leaders Real Madrid, won a hard fought game away at Ludogrets. The Bulgarian team are proving to be a bit of an handful and could still have some impact on who makes it through this group. Liverpool’s next game is home to Real Madrid on October 22nd.

Group D London side, Arsenal, are the British interest in this group which includes Anderlecht, Galatasaray and Group leaders Borussia Dortmund. Danny Welbeck proved his class by scoring a hat trick in front of home fans as Arsenal beat Turkish side Galatasaray 4-1, moving them into second place in the group. Their next game is away to Anderlecht on October 22nd.

Group E and Manchester City are flying the flag in this group which consists of Bayern Munich, AS Roma and CSKA Moscow. City unfortunately struggled at home against the well organised Italian team Roma where the Italians forced a 1-1 draw. The Blues are third in this group and really need to show their class if they are to progress.

Bayern Munich are already on 6 points and looking like the favourites to win the group with City’s next game away to CSKA Moscow on October 21st.

Group G and Chelsea are flying the flag with some pride for the UK. Having won one game and drawn the other, they top Group G on four points. The other teams in this group are FC Schalke, Maribor and Sporting Portugal.

Chelsea won away at Sporting of Portugal and are looking good to progress. Their next game is at home against NK Maribor on October 21st.

Paddy Power Bookmakers are offering Champion League Odds of 7/2 on Bayern Munich to win outright with Chelsea at 6/1 and Manchester City at 18/1.




City Boss Hails ‘Very Important’ Win

Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was delighted to see his side take “an important step” towards the Champions League last 16 with a 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow.

City had to do it the hard way in Russia after they fell behind in tough conditions. Sergio Aguero crucially equalised within two minutes before scoring the winner just before the break.

“I'm very happy; it was a very difficult game for us,” Pellegrini said. “This pitch made it very difficult to play football – to have three points from this match is very important for our future in this group.”

Pellegrini's men have surprised the football betting to secure back-to-back away games in Europe. It is very different from last season, when they lost all three matches on the road.

City are well placed at the halfway point of the group stage. They sit three points ahead of CSKA, knowing victory over the Russian outfit at the Etihad Stadium on November 5 would see them progress to the knockout stages for the first time.

Importantly for City, they do not face Champions League holders, Bayern Munich, until the final game, when their Group D fate should be sealed.

Even if the match does not have much riding on it in terms of points, it will give City a chance to make amends for their home defeat by Bayern and find out how close they are to Europe's elite.

For now, though, City fans who enjoy the live football commentary can be satisfied with a job well done at Arena Khimki.

“It's very important that we have the next two games at home – we go into them knowing that if we win, we qualify,” he said.

“I told the players before the game that if we do not win, we must not lose this game – we are not in the next round but it's an important step.”

Champions League Draw Misery For City

The Draw for the Group stages of the Champions league has now taken place and it has thrown up some very interesting groups for the English Teams. The first matches will take place on 18/19th September 2012, Arsenal v Montpellier, Man United v Galatasaray, Chelsea v Juventas and Man City v Real Madrid and should prove a real feast for all footie fans.

Group D: this Group has everybody's mouth watering, Manchester City have been draw in the hardest group against Real Madrid, Ajax and back to back German champions Borussia Dortmund, this really is the one of the best groups to watch for neutral fans. However, it's a miserable draw for Man City who must be looking at Manchester United's group with envy.

Group H: Manchester United have probably been handed the easiest group but didn't they think that last year?, it turned out to be the first time in 17 years that they failed to qualify from the group phase. Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that United have ‘learnt their lesson' and will field strong sides for this year's competition. United's opponents in Group H are: Braga [Portugal], Turkish side Galatasaray and for the second year running a Romanian team CFR Cluj.

Group E: defending Champions Chelsea have also been handed what would appear on paper to be an easy ride and they should qualify from Group E. With the new signings Chelsea have they look a much stronger side than last season and with teams like Shakhtar Donetesk, Italy's Juventus and Danish side N'Jaelland, all things being equal, they should progress easily.

Group B: Arsenal are not the side they once were, they've lost some good players and although they have a relatively ‘easy' draw, they have got to prove they can play at this level, the teams in Arsenal's group are German side Schalke, Olympiakos [Greece] and French team Montpellier. The Montpellier president is reported to have said “how ironic we sell Giroud to Arsenal and then we play them, that's football.”

The other groups are:
Group A which includes Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris SG and Dinomo Zagreb, you would expect Paris SG and Kiev to progress from this group.

Group F is made up of Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille and Bate Borisov, you would bet on Bayern Munich and Valencia progressing from this group.

Group C features AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht and Malaga, you would expect AC Milan to progress, it's then between Zenit and Malaga, your choice on this one.

Group G: Barcelona are favourites for this group and probably for the tournament, you can expect Benfica, Spartak Moscow and even Celtic to fight like crazy for the last spot, it's a difficult one to call but the Russian teams have been spending BIG.

Fancy a flutter on your favourites , put your money where your mouth is and try Paddy Power Bookmakers, keep an eye out for their money back specials.

karnizz / Shutterstock.com

£1 Billion Bet On Euro 2012

Today Betfair have reported a 18% increase in core revenues, the rise in revenues is largely due to the £1 Billion staked by punters on the Euro 2012 finals. In the last eight weeks huge volumes have been traded on the football and also on the Australian wondermare Black Caviar who narrowly won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot.

The chief executive of Betfair Stephen Morana said: “Betfair has achieved many new highs, with records set in most of the major sporting events including the Champions League final, Cheltenham festival, Wimbledon, US Masters and Indian Premier League.”

Betfair is not a traditional bookmaker, they operate by allowing punters to set odds between themselves and taking a commission for arranging the bet. This normally means punters getting bigger odds but it also insulates Betfair from swings in fortunes that traditional bookmakers suffer. Betfair really don't care who wins any event, they make commissions regardless of the outcome. Whilst traditional bookies are alway hoping the favourite takes a beating!

Interestingly Betfair took 44m bets with its mobile platform, which amounts to a 122%+ on the previous year. The positive news help Betfair shares gain 4%, moving up 29p to 764p as the City digested the figures.

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Champions League Semi-Final Showdown

Barcelona Team SmallChelsea is one strong performance away from advancing to the UEFA Champions League final for just the second time in the club’s history. The team prevailed over Barcelona, 1-0, at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, and it looks to follow that up with another impressive showing in the second leg of the series at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Kick-off is set for 7:45 p.m. BST.

In the first leg, Chelsea played a defensive style of play, allowing Barcelona to possess the ball 72 percent of the time, and it worked perfectly for the Premier League team. The London club broke through just before half-time, two minutes into stoppage time, when an open Didier Drogba received a pass from Ramires to the right of goal, and he slammed the ball past Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés.

The second leg will surely see Chelsea settle back and play defensively once again. The club will most likely carry hope for a 0-0 draw against the competition’s holders to move Chelsea through or at least a 1-0 loss to force extra time and penalty kicks to determine the winner. A focus on an aerial attack may also help Chelsea advance, as the team does have a size advantage on Barcelona. However, playing solid defense and quickly sealing up any holes is vital to seeing Chelsea move on to the final.

In the other semi-final, Bayern Munich retains strong hopes in playing in the final that will be contested on May 19 in the club’s home stadium, the Allianz Arena. In the first leg on Tuesday, Bayern Munich celebrated a 90th-minute winning goal by Mario Gomez in a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid. The teams play their second leg on Wednesday at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

The last time a club played in the Champions League final in its home stadium came at the Stadio Olimpico in 1984, when Roma fell in the final on penalty kicks, 4-2, after a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

There are many who would take pleasure in watching an El Clásico in the 2012 final between Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, Bayern Munich playing a final on home soil provides interesting story lines, as well.

Many in England would enjoy seeing Chelsea play in European football’s premier game for the first time since a 1-1 draw and 6-5 penalty-kick loss to Manchester United in the 2008 final. Chelsea is also still in the running for a double, as a meeting with Liverpool awaits the club on May 5 in the FA Cup final.

Arsenal Let Go Of Champions League

Emirates StadiumThe collective breath of Arsenal fans everywhere was held for 90 minutes this week as their team tried to stage the greatest comeback in the history of the Champions League. The first half saw them pull the aggregate score back to 3-4 with goals from Koscielny, Rosický and van Persie.

The second half continued at the same frenzied pace as the first half and Arsenal could have drawn the aggregate score level on the hour when, Abbiati first saved a deflected shot from Gervinho and then the follow up from Van Persie. In the end AC Milan held on and when the final whistle went the score was 3-0 seeing Milan through to the Quarter Finals.

This leaves Chelsea as the only English side left in the Champions League although they also have an uphill struggle as they play host to Napoli, who bring with them a 3-1 win from the first leg.

Barcelona remain the favourites to win the 2011/2012 Champions League with Betfair placing them at 5/4. Real Madrid come in as second favourites making an all Spanish Final a likely prospect at 14/5.

Cup Action Marches On

March FootballMarch promises to be packed full of cup football action with Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup games played throughout the month.

The second week of March sees the Last 16 of the Champions League play their second leg ties with the winners going on to the quarter finals first legs at the end of the month.

Arsenal have a mountain to climb if they are to overturn AC Milan's 4-0 victory when they host them at home on the 6th March, Chelsea will also struggle to make it to the quarter finals as they too have to come back from a 3-1 defeat to Napoli in their first leg encounter.

The Europa League also sees the quarter-final stage loom at the end of the month after the last 16 battle it out in their first and second leg games on the 8th and 15th of March.

Both Manchester United and Manchester City are chasing a quarter final place in the Europa League after dropping out of the group stage of the Champions League. The first leg sees Manchester United at home to Athletic Bilbao and Manchester City away to Sporting Clube de Portugal on the 8th and the second leg on the 15th of March.

And if that's not enough Cup action for you then you can also enjoy the FA Cup quarter finals on 17th and 18th of March.

Andre Villas-Boas defends team selection

Andre Villas-BoasChelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas insists he retains the full backing of club owner Roman Abramovich despite the club's recent poor form.

Villas-Boas controversially left out Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole for the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Napoli, which Chelsea led before a defensive horror show saw them concede three goals.

Villas-Boas stood by his team selection today, although he had to admit that he had to explain why he chose the starting XI he did to the club's hierarchy.

He said: “No, I do not have any regrets about team selection … It was completely right.”

Chelsea are fifth in the Premier League and look to be heading out of the Champions League following their 3-1 defeat in Italy on Tuesday with Betfair Bookmakers offering 33/1 on Chelsea winning the Champions League.

The 34-year-old's future has been the source of speculation over the last few weeks and reports have claimed there are rifts within the Stamford Bridge dressing room.

There have also been rumours about possible successors to Villas-Boas such as Raphael Benitez, although his agent has reiterated the Spaniard's desire to return to work in England but stressed there had been no contact from Chelsea.

Beware Greeks Bearing 1.01

greeksIt was only a few days ago when I warned about the dangers of backing 1.01's on Betfair, so I don't feel that sorry for the hapless punters who steamed onto Chelsea @1.05 to beat Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League. It really does seem you should beware Greeks bearing gifts. OK, so Nicosia are a Cypriot team, but you get the picture!

This was the entry on the Betfair blog “Chelsea were held to one of the most humiliating draws of their recent history as they drew 2-2 with Apoel Nicosia, having traded as low as 1.05 in-running on Betfair. The draw was matched as high as 20 when Chelsea were ahead with just 3 minutes on the clock after goals from Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.” Why oh why would you risk £100 to win £5! It doesn't make much sense to me, I'm sure the layers on Betfair Bookmakers had a right old laugh.

Elsewhere in the Champions League Manchester United top their group with a great win away in Germany, one team they certainly won’t be facing in the knock-out stages is Juventus after the Turin giants were thrashed 4-1 at home at the hands of Bayern Munich.

Young Turks Stun United

Besiktas Beat UnitedManchester United suffered one of the biggest shocks of this or any other edition of the Champions League when they were beaten 1-0 at home by in-running 14.0 chances Besiktas. The match ended an unbeaten run of 23 matches on home soil in the competition and was bad news for those who had taken prices as short as 1.36 on the current English champions to win the tie.

Elsewhere, another former Champions League winner in the form of Juventus was also being beaten. Bordeaux were matched at 3.35 to win and at 29 to win by a 2-0 score line. Despite the defeat and a win for Bayern Munich, Juventus remain at around the 1.24 mark to qualify to the knock-out stages with Bayern 3.1 and Bordeaux already through. With some of the big boys struggling in this years competition the final stages of the European Cup may lack the usual roll call of Europe's most famous teams.

There was no such fate for the 2000 winners Real Madrid who only ever touched 1.19 on the match odds market but won by a far narrower margin than would have been predicted. Gonzalo Higuain’s solitary goal was enough on the night but Betfair Bookmakers punters expected plenty more, to the extent that under 1.5 goals was matched at a high of 29. Despite a slightly unconvincing display, Real are still well-fancied to go all the way this year and trade as the [8.0] third-favourites to win the tournament.

Chelsea (5.2), alongside Barcelona (4.8), are one of the two teams trading at shorter prices and Carlo Ancelotti’s men went further to establishing their credentials by picking up a hard-fought win at the home of 2004 winners FC Porto. The Portuguese champions don’t have quite the star-studded line-up of yesteryear nor the inspirational Jose Mourinho in charge but they are tough to beat; Chelsea drifted to [4.2] in-running en route to that win.