EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over Wednesday’s Champions League tussle between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport 2
Real Madrid haven’t lost by three goals without scoring in the Champions League since Liverpool downed Los Blancos 4-0 at Anfield back in March 2009 whilst no side has ever overcome a two-goal deficit in the second leg of a Champions League semi-final.
But could the last European game and final Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon be just the motivation Atletico Madrid need to produce a remarkable comeback following last week’s disappointing and distinctly un-Diego-Simeone-like 3-0 defeat at the Bernabeu.
Naturally, the odds are stacked against Los Colchoneros but the mood amongst fans and management is of defiance. Thousands of supporters stayed behind for a full 50 minutes, singing the club’s anthem and many other songs following their laboured 1-0 victory over Eibar in the hope of inspiring a fitting response as the ground passes into history.
Atletico have only beaten Real by three clear goals at home once in the past four decades – although that 4-0 win did happen only two years ago. Still, of all Simeone’s stunning achievements in the Spanish capital, plotting a route into next month’s final from this position would supersede the lot.
Last season’s defeat on penalties in the final to their near neighbours brought some serious introspection from Simeone but his charges bounced back and appeared serious challengers but an insipid display eight days ago has left Los Colchoneros staring down the barrel of a fourth consecutive Champions League exit at the hands of Los Blancos.
Atleti will be required to prevent Real from scoring, something no defence has managed in more than a year. Madrid have found the net in 60 consecutive games and the last time they were silenced, Cristiano Ronaldo was absent through injury in the first leg of last season’s semi-final against Manchester City.
Real ready to seal the deal
Real geared up for the challenge by strolling to a 4-0 success at relegated Granada whilst fielding a second-string. Zinedine Zidane’s troops have now notched 15 goals in their last four fixtures and have taken top honours in each of their past nine outings.
Los Blancos have scored at least twice in all of their Champions League matches this term and fired in 15 attempts at Jan Oblak’s goal in the reverse encounter – it could have been five or six as the defending champions turned in perhaps their best performance to date under Zidane.
The only doubts surrounding this side arrive at the back. Dani Carvajal’s injury means Danilo or Nacho must play at right-back for a team that’s kept only three clean sheets in 24 away games across all competitions and only one shutout in 16 prior to the first leg.
Atletico have issues of their own. Atletico B captain Rafa Munoz has been drafted into the first-team ranks as cover for right-backs Juanfran and Sime Vrsaljko whilst Jose Maria Gimenez is also crocked. Lucas Hernandez may have to play at right-back despite his difficult match in the Bernabeu last Tuesday.
With such injuries it’s hard to really throw weight behind Atletico’s wonderful defensive record in this competition. The hosts have kept 16 clean sheets in 18 home Champions League ties and since 2013/14 they’ve silenced Barcelona, Real, Juventus and Bayern in five of their six meetings here in this competition too.
However, the state of play can only count against Los Colchoneros here. Owing to the team’s counter-attacking style, chasing a scoreline of this size is not a dynamic that suits Atletico with Simeone priding himself on building durable, mentally strong teams that relish digging out a scruffy 1-0 success.
Sure, Atletico have W17-D4-L1 of their past 22 Champions League appointments here and have W6-D4-L0 in knockout football but how can the home side attack without exposing their backline against arguably the best counter-attacking team on the continent? The answer is, they probably can’t.
The betting angles
Real know an away goal will kill the contest and can afford to sit back and pick off their hosts on the break. And their should be plenty of space available to exploit once Atletico release the shackles and go searching for the Hollywood happy-ending.
Registering a clean sheet looks unlikely for Atleti and with heads going down, you’d expect Los Blancos to add further punishment and for that reason I like the look of Real 0 Asian Handicap at 22/23 (188BET) as well as the hugely generous 4/6 (Betway) on Los Blancos scoring Over 0.5 Goals in the second-half.
Unbelievably, 13 of Real’s last 14 Champions League goals have been scored from the 47th minute onwards and the main candidate for grabbing a goal on the night has to be Cristiano Ronaldo after a ridiculous run in the knockout stages.
CR7 has notched eight goals in his last three Champions League games and 52 of his 104 goals in this competition have come in the knockout stages. The Portuguese superstar has hit 21 goals in 28 games against Atletico – including successive hat-tricks – and represents massive value at 11/10 (Paddy Power) to score at anytime.
Elsewhere, Over 2.5 Goals has paid out in 17 of Madrid’s past 18 outings, as well as all 11 of their encounters in this competition, and appears overpriced at 10/13 (188BET).
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – Real Madrid 0 Asian Handicap (22/23 188BET)
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to score Over 0.5 second-half goals (4/6 Betway)
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo to score at anytime (11/10 Paddy Power)