THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE knockout stages continue on Wednesday night. We asked Tom Love (@TomLove_18) to source the best bets from Manchester City's trip to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid v Manchester City | Wednesday 26th February 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
What an irony it would be if UEFA had to hand Manchester City the Champions League trophy this May. If their ban is not lifted then the Abu-Dhabi backed side will not compete in the prestigious tournament for the next two years which is no doubt a huge blow for the hierarchy who have been so hell bent on continental glory for the last few years.
Many will be surprised that City are still the favourites to bring home the silverware but underlying performance data does rank them as one of if not the best team on the continent, they’ve just been poor in taking their chances and have left themselves exposed to three-on-two situations at the back too often.
That been said the Citizens now have Aymeric Laporte back at centre half and that is a huge boost for Pep Guardiola – without the Frenchman this City side have looked penetrable, but with him they look a lot more assured. He came off after an hour on Saturday but Pep insists he will be fit for the trip to the Bernabeu.
It was a Liverpool-style win for City at Leicester on Saturday by a 1-0 scoreline, an impressive victory with Gabriel Jesus coming off the bench to score the winner after great work by Riyad Mahrez on his return to the King Power. Pep went with a full strength team for that game which was a slight surprise with this key game on the horizon but maybe he momentum building in mind.
Still, I’m surprised City are rated as favourites here especially away from home in a first leg. I can’t shake off the thought process that teams away from home in the first leg would be relatively content with a draw especially with the stakes being so high, any risk-averse set-ups are to be expected.
That being said, City may smell blood with Real taking just a single point from winnable games against Celta Vigo and Levante in the past week or so. That coupled with wins for Barcelona has seen the Catalan club leapfrog Los Blancos to the summit of La Liga, performances on the whole have improved under Zinedine Zidane though, they’re more functional than flashy these days.
Real's defensive record is pretty strong this campaign but the fact centre half Sergio Ramos is the club’s second top scorer is an indictment of them going forward. However if you flip it then you can say Zidane has got players from all over the park chipping in with no fewer than 17 players getting on the scoresheet.
Eden Hazard has had a disappointing start to life in Spain, plagued by niggly injuries all season the Belgian has failed to get a sustained run in the team and he picked up another injury at the Ciudad De Valencia. That brings about an opening for the likes of Rodrygo, Vinicius and Isco to come into the side. Zidane prefers packing the midfield in these big games and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rather narrow formation with the width coming from full backs Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal.
The betting angles
I was keen on getting involved in the card market for this one but even more so after finding out Mr Daniel Orsato has the whistle. The Italian gives out more cards than Hallmark and I’m more than happy to gobble up the generous 11/10 quotes on both sides collecting Over 1 card using Bet365’s BetBuilder. Italian referees by their nature are more card happy and Orsato is no exception.
This season in Champions League games he has dished out 4, 9, 6, 7 and 8 cards in the five games he has officiated, all five saw this bet land too which shows his even distribution. That chimes very much with his Serie A record too where he averages over six cards per-game. Madrid average just over two cards and Manchester City also do in the Champions League and away from home in the Premier League.
Throw in the fact the Champions League means a lot for these two and the stakes being higher in the knockout stage it could go down as one of my favourite bets of the season. I did expect this to be comfortably odds-on, particularly with Orsato in charge. The 4/1 on Both Teams Over 2 Cards could also be worth having a small play on too.
The bookies are finding it hard to split these two with City 7/5 and Real 7/4 to win yet the draw is priced up bigger than average at the odd quote of 143/50 with Marathon and I’m happy to have a punt on the stalemate at such a price.
Usually when there’s two teams both priced at shorter than 2/1 the draw is seldom north of 12/5 and given this is the first of a two-legged affair the draw appeals even more. I think both teams wouldn’t be distraught with this result occurring.