People betting on soccer – or more specifically, people betting on Manchester City – are crossing their collective fingers, hoping that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo – and I use the term star loosely – will not recover from his injury in time for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal.
A little bit of schadenfreude there, huh? Fortunately for the Spanish team, Ronaldo is to Real Madrid what Stephen Curry is to the Golden State Warriors. That is, it really makes no difference whether he is on the field or not; the result is probably going to be the same either way. For what it’s worth, Coach Zinedine Zidane said CR7 is 100% and will be there tomorrow.
That said, Real has the advantage of wrapping up the series at home, but that could work against them as well. Since the result at Etihad Stadium last week was a scoreless draw, any draw that involves goals being scored would see the British through to the finals, given that they would be scoring as visitors, which Madrid failed to do. In other words, if the Citizens score one, Madrid must score two; score two, and Madrid must score three, and so on and so forth. There is also the possibility that the 0-0 remains fixed at the end of regulation time, forcing overtime and possibly penalty kicks. That last alternative could favor sportsbook underdogs City. Manchester’s odds are currently at +568 as opposed to Real Madrid at -187.
But as much as well all love a good underdog story, we should not dismiss Real Madrid’s experience, history, and momentum too easily. The team has won the UEFA Champions League 10 times, while this is the first time Manchester City has advanced past the first knockout round. Moreover, Los Blancos have won six of their last seven Liga matches, as well as 12 of the last 14 games in any competition. That includes winning their last nine matches versus English teams, and all five of their home games in Europe this season. Let’s just hope Madrid’s goalkeeper – another term used very loosely – doesn’t screw up.
Regardless of the result, tomorrow’s match should be considerably better than leg one’s deadlocked debacle, so it’s a given fans of good soccer will benefit the most – unless you’re one of those people betting on soccer who only cares about numbers. Madrid let their opponents play a little more at the Santiago Bernabeu. They provide room to breathe; they don't smother the opposing team. Additionally, and to borrow a metaphor from boxing, there will be a big fight feel in Spain’s capital, which can be awe-inspiring for visitors, but also puts a lot of pressure on the local team.