After months without the Champions League during winter, the knockout rounds come thick and fast in spring. The semi-finals are no different, with the second legs only a week after the first meeting.
The first leg encounters are fresh in the memory. Perhaps too fresh for some of the teams. For us fans, though, it’s a pleasant treat to have another Champions League week.
So, here are a few thoughts and tips as the final four battle to make it into the Champions League Final…
REAL MADRID vs Bayern Munich
Real Madrid were not good in the Allianz Arena in the first leg. It was an underwhelming performance from a team who have delivered in the Champions League knockout rounds without fail under Zinedine Zidane’s stewardship.
They still won that match, notching two away goals in the process. A belter from Marcelo, despite a dire defensive performance from the Brazilian, was everything that the latter stages of the Champions League are about. Individual brilliance outweighed a disjointed team effort.
Both teams won favourable home league fixtures this weekend. Bayern dispatched Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz, despite a line-up almost completely unrecognisable from the one we will see at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday. Not much can be taken from their weekend performances.
The hosts have the upper hand heading back to Spain, making them 11/50 to reach the final. Bayern might fancy their chances of scoring a couple of goals – which they have to – but keeping this Real Madrid frontline quiet is improbable.
Cristiano Ronaldo will not struggle as much as he did in the first leg, and the return to form of Gareth Bale gives Zidane even more options. I like the 13/2 on Bale to score last.
As the Bavarian visitors chase goals, we might get a cracker at the Bernabeu. I fear it will be a pleasant cruise towards another final for the reigning champions, however. If Real open the scoring, this could end up getting a bit ugly for Bayern as they chase the game.
TIP: Real Madrid to win @ 11/10
AS ROMA vs LIVERPOOL
The 5-2 Liverpool victory at Anfield was one of the all-time great Champions League knockout matches. Mohamed Salah took the headlines as he reinforced his Ballon d’Or case, but it was really the failings of the two defences that made it such a great watch.
Roma’s two late goals kept the tie just about alive. A 3-0 home victory would put them in the final, but unsurprisingly the odds are stacked against the Serie A side to progress at 15/2. They did prepare for this by thumping Chievo 4-1, though, which may at least give the squad a smidgen of confidence.
Liverpool drew with Stoke on Saturday. It was a painful match to watch, but we can’t read much into it. Jurgen Klopp’s side are all-but guaranteed a top four finish, while Stoke are scrapping to elongate their Premier League stay.
I really doubt we will see such a limp performance from the Reds in the Italian capital on Wednesday.
Roma shutting out Liverpool is extremely unlikely. Their catastrophic defending in the first leg hardly inspires confidence. Salah is 10/11 to score anytime, which I still see as decent value given their troubles defending his runs in behind.
After the first leg, the Evens price on over 3.5 goals is higher than I expected. Roma have no choice but to chase the game, while Liverpool know no other way.
The Stadio Olimpico will be bouncing when the Champions League anthem bellows out at about 7:43. This match has the potential to be every bit as enjoyable as the Anfield encounter.
TIP: Over 3.5 goals @ EVENS
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*