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 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.

Two Great Bets For El Clasico

Barcelona already enjoy an eight-point cushion over their title rivals Real Madrid, so this El Clasico is a must win game if Mourinho's Madrid are to stay within touching distance of Barca. It's never easy predicting the outcome of this game… after all it's a derby, anything can happen, especially when you have Messi and Ronaldo on the same pitch.

Having said that I have identified two fantastic bets for Sunday's game. Firstly I suggest you take the bets with Paddy Power bookmakers. Why? you might ask. Well… Paddy Power are offering a ‘Cash Back' special on the game, they will refund all losing first/last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast single bets on the match if Messi scores the last goal! That's right, you'll get your dosh back if Messi scores last. Messi has an unbelievable strike rate for Barcelona, scoring 175 goal in 186 appearances. Which means there's a great chance that the wonder kid will find the back of the net.

My first bet takes into account the ‘Cash Back' special, the correct score market seems to offer the best value as it'll be refunded should Messi scores last. So what's the likely score between Barcelona and Real Madrid? Well, based on the last eight games and the pressing need for Real to get a result the scorecast I strongly fancy is 2-2 (10/1 with Paddy Power Bookmakers).

My second bet is in the ‘under/overs' market – it seems a no brainer to bet on over 2.5 goals in this clash, currently odds of 1/2 with Paddy Power Bookmakers – tight odds I know, but the first bet is paying 10/1 so we want to cover that with a less risky punt.

There you have it, my two bets for Barcelona Vs Real Madrid on Sunday 18:50 (Sky Sports 1).

Usain Bolt WILL PLAY For Manchester United

It's been no secret in the sporting world, that since his amazing achievements at the Olympic Games, the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, has been angling for a chance to pull on a Manchester United shirt. Bolt became a double triple, Olympic Gold medallist at London 2012 and quite rightly it seems the world is now his oyster.

He has made no secret of his love for Manchester United and his desire to play for them, the top class athlete would love to appear in a top flight football match. 26 year old Bolt, could now make the transformation from the flying sprinter, into a super striker for Manchester United. There were some far fetched rumours that claimed he would be given a trial at Man Utd however Sir Alex Ferguson has said “[Usain is] a bit of a character and a big United fan. But it's interesting he says he would like to play in a charity game. It could be brilliant, and next year, when we play Real Madrid's Legends again, there could be opportunities to bring him in and see how he does.”

Okay! before we all get over excited at the prospect of Usain Bolt playing for Manchester United, this game is only a friendly and the guy is only making a guest appearance. But you would have to have something wrong with you, if your mouth doesn't water at the prospect of watching this wonderful athlete perform on the football pitch. Apparently Bolt has helped his favourite team out in the past, helping to improve Cristiano Ronaldo's sprinting. Sir Alex should get his skates on, Bolt has also been linked with a possible switch to cricket, his close friend West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, recently said, ” he wouldn't embarrass himself. In a charity game, he actually played against me and almost knocked my head off with a good competitive bouncer”.

Bolt is certainly not short on opportunities and if all else fails [very unlikely] the avid DJ, who appeared at a couple of gigs during London 2012, could try spinning the records, as a change from breaking them!

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 /


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.

El Clasico ~ Messi Vs Ronaldo

Real Madrid V BarcelonaCristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are back from injury and will face each other this Sunday in the ‘El Clasico' (Barcelona V Real Madrid), the most anticipated match of the La Liga season so far. Messi was rested ahead of the weekend clash and watched his team beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the mid week Champions League group match.

There is plenty at stake in the game already, as Madrid go into the match holding a slim lead in the title race over the Catalan club after 11 matches. Ronaldo returns to the Madrid side after a two month absence with an ankle injury.

Latest prices on Betfair Bookmakers show Barcelona trading at 1.92 with Real Madrid available at 4.2 and the draw 4.0. Seems like an incredible price on Real, but the big stars of Madrid suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Barca last year when they were beaten 6-2 in the Bernabeu. Both sides have world class players who could turn a game in a heartbeat, so maybe the safest bet is to sit back and enjoy the show!