Real Madrid (-125) vs Atletico Madrid (+320), Draw (+275)
Neutral fans around the world let out a sigh of relief when Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid were paired for the Champions League semifinal. Two of the last three tournaments have ended in an all-Madrid final, and quite frankly, we’ve had enough. Which of the perennial powers will jump out to an early advantage in the first leg (May 2nd) at Santiago Bernabue?
Real Madrid won both recent finals over Atleti by the skin of their teeth. The 2016 final was locked at 1-1 after extra time and the penalties went down to the wire, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner on the fifth penalty.
In 2014, Real Madrid were 1-0 down when Sergio Ramos pinched an equalizer in the 93rd minute, forcing the game into extra time. Then Real overpowered an exhausted Atletico side and scored three more goals, winning 4-1.
Both times Atletico came painfully close to claiming their first ever Champions League trophy, but were denied by their arch-rivals, who have won a record 11 UEFA Cups/Champions League titles.
There have been two Madrid derbies since the 2016 final, both regular La Liga matches. The most recent ended in a 1-1 draw, with Pepe opening the scoring for Los Blancos and Antoine Griezmann equalizing for Atleti.
The other ended in a 3-0 thrashing by Real Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo humiliated the Atleti defense with a hat-trick.
Atletico are having a decent season, sitting their usual third-place in La Liga. But Real Madrid are having an amazing one. They started the season with a 40-game unbeaten streak and are currently tied for first on points with Barcelona (with one game in hand).
Real powered through Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals (winning 2-1 away and 4-2 at home) and are currently the favorites to win both La Liga and the Champions League. They may have lost a nail-biting Clasico to Barcelona last week, but they remain the team to watch this season, especially with Barca watching from home.
Atletico only just pulled through against Leicester City in the quarterfinals (winning 1-0 at home and drawing 1-1 away), and were lucky to have received that first win.
Diego Simeone has done wonders with his team, leading them to a Copa del Rey win (2013) and league title (2013-14), but he’s always come up short against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Besides, it’s possible he’s already stretched the squad as far as they can go.
With Barcelona and Bayern out of the Champions League, Real Madrid’s chances have never looked so good. Atleti are a strong side, but Real Madrid will take the first leg at the Bernabeu.
Pick: Real Madrid (-125)
Photo credit: Ver en vivo En Directo (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].
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