Sizing Up the UEFA Champions League Final Four

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By Joe Plunkett

After the thrilling action of the Champions League quarter-finals, we are left with two mouth-watering semi-final ties, with Liverpool taking on Roma to earn the right to meet Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the final in Kiev in May. Should you trust your gut when predicting the competition winner, or focus on betting on value?

Liverpool are the only remaining team to boast an unbeaten record in their Champions League campaign so far, having won eight and drawn four of their dozen matches, scoring an impressive 39 goals along the way, with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah scoring nine apiece and Sadio Mane chipping in with seven. Liverpool have netted at least five aggregate goals against all six opponents, but have also been unexpectedly tight at the back, conceding just ten goals so far, and three of those came in their second-half capitulation in their 3-3 draw at Sevilla.  In the knockout stages, they blew away both Porto (5-0 away) and Manchester City (3-0 at home) in the opening legs, and were impressive in weathering the storm in the return leg at the Etihad before eking out a 2-1 win despite conceding early on and being huge underdogs.

mo salah

Roma have lost three of their Champions League matches, surprising many by qualifying as group winners ahead of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, before squeezing past Shakhtar Donetsk on away goals in the first knockout round. They saved their best for their quarter-final clash with Barcelona, looking down and out after their 4-1 defeat at the Nou Camp, with Edin Dzeko’s late goal appearing to be a mere consolation. However, that goal proved to be crucial, as Roma scored again early in the second leg, before a second-half penalty and a late third sent the Stadio Olimpico wild as Roma again progressed dramatically on away goals.

Bayern Munich lost their opening away group game 3-0 at PSG, a result that meant they finished the group behind the French team, despite winning their other five qualifying games. The knockout draw was kind to the German champions, allowing them to brush aside the challenge of the unfortunate Besiktas 8-1 on aggregate. The recently crowned German Champions were made to work harder in their quarter-final, however, coming away from Sevilla with a vital 2-1 first-leg advantage before being frustrated in a goalless draw in the home leg.

Failure to beat Tottenham Hotspur (1-3 and 1-1) meant Real Madrid also qualified as group runners-up, but a seemingly tricky knockout round tie with PSG was negotiated with relative comfort, Real winning both legs to cruise through 5-2 on aggregate. A 3-0 win in Turin saw Cristiano Ronaldo score with two sublime finishes (including THAT overhead kick) to make Real’s home leg with Juventus appear a mere formality. However, a spiriting display from the Italians saw them take a 3-0 lead and an away goals advantage into the closing stages before a dramatic stoppage-time penalty allowed Ronaldo to snatch the tie back with a cool finish, his fifteenth of the campaign to extend his record of scoring in every Champions League match this season.

The betting market currently shows Roma as the outsiders to lift the trophy at odds of around 9.00, while Real Madrid are marginal favourites at 2.9, with Liverpool and Bayern both hovering just behind at around 3.2, and if the semi-finals provide half the drama of the quarters, then who knows where the best place is to put your money.

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