Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Champions League Betting Analysis

Chelsea Down But Not Out
Chelsea’s inability to beat Bolton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime has effectively handed United the title. Jose Mourinho’s legendary motivational skills will now be tested to the limit as the Special One has just a few days to lift his players heads for the trip to Anfield on Tuesday night. The Blues hold the advantage defending a 1-0 lead, and the Reds’ inability to find a crucial away goal has led PinnacleSports to post Chelsea as 1.377 favourites to progress to the final.
Last Tuesday’s win continued Chelsea’s excellent record against Liverpool throughout the Mourinho era, but the last time Chelsea played at Anfield (back in January) they were beaten 2-0, conceding both goals within the opening twenty minutes. That result will encourage Rafa Benitez, though he will appreciate that John Terry’s absence was a key element in that result. Nonetheless, the Kop will be in full voice, effectively providing a 12th man, while Steven Gerrard is likely to have a much more pivotal role than the muted contribution at Stamford Bridge. PinnacleSports post Liverpool as favourites in 90 minutes 1.752 , with Chelsea 2.230 .
Chelsea retained their discipline in the first leg so that none of the four players walking a suspension tightrope will be excluded here. Michael Essien returns from his ban, but the Londoners will not be at full strength with Michael Ballack and Ricardo Carvalho both injured. While Mourinho’s side produced a controlled first leg performance, the true impact of the weekend’s disappointments will be seen under the extreme pressure that a packed Anfield creates.
The concern for Scousers is that they have failed their first real test of this year’s competition, having benefited from an easy group and kind knock-out route, and have also come up short in most of this season’s critical encounters. Liverpool lost 1-0 at home to Barcelona, and went down by the same score to Man Utd in the Premiership. They also lost two domestic cup games against Arsenal in the space of four days in early January, suggesting that they may be just short of the standard required at the very highest level.

United May Need to Evoke the Spirit of 1999
The Red Devils again proved they are the come-back kings by turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win at Goodison Park on Saturday. Wayne Rooney was the architect of Manchester United’s dramatic win which, given Chelsea’s draw in a simultaneous game at home to Bolton, puts them in pole position for the Premiership title. With injury problems persisting a patched-up United side face another real test of character at the San Siro on Wednesday night.
Rooney’s stoppage time winner in the home leg against AC Milan could prove to be the most important goal the young striker has ever scored. Judged by the Red Devils’ recent away record in Europe, they will need that crucial advantage. United have won just two of their last thirteen Champions League road-trips, and have lost the last two encounters on Italian soil one of which was a 1-0 defeat away to Milan in the last sixteen of this competition in 2005.
In 1999 United fought back from two nil down in a second leg semi-final away to Juventus, to eventually win 3-2 en route to a dramatic win in the final. Fergie’s new crop may need to evoke a similar spirit for this game, or receive a painful lesson from Milan’s vastly experienced side. At the Theatre of Dreams Brazilian, Kaka, capitalised on United’s well-publicised defensive problems with two goals that took his tally in the competition to nine. Alex Ferguson’s defensive headache got worse when Patrice Evra picked up a crucial yellow card, ruling him out of this game.
Carlo Ancellotti will have been bitterly disappointed that his side conceded another vital late goal, as in their first leg quarter-final against Bayern Munich. Many pundits will suggest that Milan’s aging defence cannot stay the distance, but they turned things around at the Allianz Arena, and are capable of repeating the feat. Kaka proved in the first leg that he can change a game in an instant, and PinnacleSports price them marginal favourites 1.935 with Manchester United 2.020 .


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