Just four teams remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League as the semi-final first legs take place on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, with two Anglo-Spanish ties on the menu.
First up, Manchester City welcome Real Madrid to the Etihad looking to reach the final for the second year on the bounce. Standing in their way lie the defensively porous but offensively potent Los Blancos, who were involved in an epic last-eight second-leg clash with Chelsea at the Bernabeu last time out.
Having knocked out the holders via Karim Benzema’s latest act of heroism, City still remain favourites to reach the finale in Paris on May 28 at 2/5 but the visitors will be a handful and at interesting odds of 31/12 with VBet.
City are understandably expected to take a lead to Madrid next week, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men are a force in attack. Indeed, in four of the last five game in all comps, Real have netted three goals and a total of nine on the road in the Group stages alone this term. City retain their formidable record at home but shipped twice at home to Liverpool and three to Spurs in recent Premier League encounters – the latter of which they lost. Real will be set up to break with the guile of Benzema and the speed of Vinicius Jr, so the visitors could be in business. For the Spaniards to put two past Ederson, a 10/3 offering with SpreadEx and UniBet looks appealing. On the subject of Benzema and Vini Jr, the two have struck up a strong partnership this term and for the Brazilian to notch a single assist more widely is a boosted at an attractive 7/1 with SkyBet, or for Benzema to score is 11/4 anytime with Bet365.
The hosts, meanwhile, will be looking to Kevin De Bruyne and for both he and Benzema to have 1 shot on target or more is available at 5/1 with William Hill. Gabriel Jesus looks a rejuvenated figure in front of goal also for the Cityzens and put four past beleaguered Watford at the weekend. Though their opponents here are of a different calibre, as Chelsea and Barcelona have proved of late there is a soft underbelly to be exposed. For Jesus to score can be had widely at 9/4, whilst to grab a brace – if he starts – a lofty 16/1 with BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Coral might suit.
On Wednesday night, attention then switches to Merseyside as Liverpool welcome surprise last-four personnel in Villarreal. With the Reds still on course for a domestic quadruple, they are heavy favourites to reach their second European Cup final in four years at an astonishingly short 1/5 to qualify. But have the bookies got this one wrong? If Mohamed Salah is on song, maybe not. For the Egyptian to have just two shots on target is evens with SkyBet.
Of intrigue to the Yellow Submarine, after Jurgen Klopp’s men recorded a 3-1 win in Lisbon, an unexpected 3-3 game at Anfield played out, which will give Unai Emery’s side hope here. Having kept Bayern Munich largely quiet home and away over 180 minutes in the quarter-finals, Villarreal’s 23/2 odds with SBK are an eye-opener, but Liverpool are of course a different beast in Europe. Yet, for a team who have won in Turin and eliminated the 2020 champions in their own back yard in Munich during their last two away European nights, instead it might be the draw at 5/1 with Betfred, QuinnBet and Betfair, that is something to more than consider.
If the result does not appeal, then the chances of Villarreal scoring on the break with Gerard Moreno at 7/2 with Bet365 are decent, or perhaps a more enticing price is Arnaut Danjuma anytime at 22/5 with SportingIndex. Regardless, Liverpool will have to graft against an opponent looking to go one further than in 2006.