Champions League and the semi-finals start next week

There are just four heavyweight teams left standing in this season’s Champions League and the semi-finals start this week. It’s an all-Spanish affair in one as city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid do battle, while Italian champions Juventus meet an exciting young Monaco in the second. Both look like being ferociously competitive clashes, but the sportsbooks are anticipating a Real Madrid-Juventus final.

There are two types of team left in the UCL: Monaco and Real Madrid are exciting teams, full of attacking intent and dynamism, but leaving gaps at the back; while Juventus and Atletico Madrid are experts in the art of defending, and liable to grind out low-scoring wins that are not always easy on the eye. A semi-final between Real and Monaco would have been a wonderful spectacle, while a semi between Juventus and Atletico could have proved turgid. Instead, we have an attacking team against a defensive team in both ties, and both could go either way.

Browsing the sportsbook lines, 5dimes has the best odds for the Champions League, review them and you will see that Juventus and Real Madrid are neck and neck in the betting. Real are the holders and have been third favorites for most of the season, behind Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Both of those two have now been knocked out, and Real Madrid would be the clear favourites had they not earned such a tricky tie when the teams were drawn. Real Madrid has met Atletico in the UCL final twice in recent years and won both times, but both were really tight affairs and went to extra-time. Both times Atletico can feel aggrieved not to have won.

Atletico have emerged as a real thorn in the side of their more heralded city rivals in recent years: in the last eight meetings between the two, Real Madrid has won just once. Atletico coach Diego Simeone knows them inside out and knows how to beat them, pressing the Galacticos hard all over the pitch, forcing them into mistakes and capitalising, while remaining extremely tight at the back. This should prove a really difficult challenge for Real Madrid and at the odds currently on offer, it does not seem worth backing them. Giving Atletico some sort of plus handicap in their games might prove a better option. You would imagine they would be low-scoring affairs, as the grit and determination of Atletico counters the flair of Real.

The other semi-final should prove more straightforward. Monaco were hugely impressive in knocking out Man City and then Borussia Dortmund in outrageously entertaining, high-scoring games, but they have not played anyone like Juventus. Max Allegri’s men can suck the life out of a game like no other team. The way they played away at Barcelona in the second leg of their quarter-final tie was a masterclass in how to defend. Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez – three of the deadliest attackers in the world – could not breach their backline, and it does not bode well for Monaco.

Beating the favorites 3-0 on aggregate is a pretty big statement of intent from Juventus and they will now fear nobody. Gianluigi Buffon, Giogio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are at the top of their game, and going forwards Juventus can call on the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic.

The odds on them winning the UCL look pretty good as they have an easier route to the final than Real Madrid or Atletico, and odds on them qualifying from the semi-final also look like a good bet. Another interesting bet is the +110 on offer for a Juventus v Real Madrid final because, while it will be difficult for Real, they should just about edge their semi-final.