Juventus v Real Madrid
Live on ITV 1, Tuesday May 5, 19:45
Juventus are back in the semi-finals for the first time since 2003, they knocked Real out then so can they repeat the feat? The Spanish giants have only ever won once in Turin and that was on their first visit 53 years ago. Real are still favourites to go through, so psychologically speaking being the outsider will suit Juventus. At the beginning of the season they would have been satisfied with getting this far so anything else is a bonus. The pressure is off. By wrapping up the Scudetto on Saturday, they can devote their entire attention to this tie and a prospective treble.
Real don’t have the same luxury as La Liga is still yet to be decided and they are involved in a fierce title fight with rivals Barcelona. There’s no rest and relaxation for Ancelotti’s players. They can’t let up for a moment. The loss of Luka Modric is a big one. Crucial to balancing Real’s game, his absence could be decisive. Karim Benzema hasn’t travelled either. Real still have an abundance of riches, the most notable among which remains Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo who scored a hat-trick against Sevilla at the weekend.
But this game will not be as straightforward for Real as some are making out. Juventus know what to expect. They played them in the group stages a year ago and competed well. Defeat at the Bernabeu only came after Giorgio Chiellini’s harsh red card while a draw at the J Stadium was a fair result. Max Allegri has a decision to make on who to start beside Carlos Tevez: will it be former Real protege Alvaro Morata or Fernando Llorente who has scored seven goals against them in his career: five for Athletic Bilbao and two for Juventus last season. Back both teams to score @ [1.99].
Both teams to score @ [1.99]
Barcelona v Bayern Munich
Live on Sky Sports 1, Wednesday May 6, 19:45
Two years ago Bayern walked all over Barca at the Camp Nou. The reaction to a 7-0 aggregate win was that of the end of an era. Still on sabbatical at the time, Pep Guardiola had agreed to succeed Jupp Heynckes after what would later materialise as a historic treble winning season. The balance of power in Europe seemed to be definitively and symbolically swinging from Catalonia to Bavaria.
And yet Barca now look poised to take it back. More direct and counter-attacking under Luis Enrique, it will take a tactical masterclass from his former teammate and superior, Guardiola to shut out Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Bayern have kept 21 clean sheets this season and boast the best goalkeeper in the world, but even with Manuel Neuer and a world class centre-back partnership in Mehdi Benatia and Jerome Boateng, the exchange has them [6.2] to fly home to Germany with no goals against.
Missing Arjen Robben, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber, injuries limit their flow and the tactical options available to Pep. it remains to be seen whether Robert Lewandowski plays after incurring a broken nose and jaw in the DFB Pokal semi-final defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Franck Ribery hasn’t featured since March. Bayern’s wings have been clipped and so the onus falls on former Barca youngster Thiago Alcantara to give them direction through the middle.
You wonder what Pep has planned to put his former team on the back foot. No one is better at organising chaos. Back him to do finer job at limiting Barca and exposing any weaknesses than the other coaches Enrique has faced and this to be a tight affair, finishing under 2.5 goals at [2.1]
Under 2.5 goals @ [2.1]