The UEFA Champions League is inching closer to crowning a winner, and if you're one for following the odds then you've no doubt got your eyes on Bayern Munich heading into the semi-finals. Germany's top team has long been a force in the Champions League and with just two legs separating Pep Guardiola's men from an eleventh appearance in the final, the bookmakers are currently offering the shortest odds on Bayern Munich.
Thanks to impressive wins over the likes of Dinamo Zagreb (5-0), Arsenal (2-0) and Juventus (4-2), Bayern Munich have made it to the semi-final against Atlético Madrid with one of the best attacking and defensive records in the competition.
Such a route to the finale has forced the odds makers at William Hill Sports to make Bayern 6/4 favourites to win the tournament outright ahead of Real Madrid. Of course, getting past Atlético Madrid will be no mean feat, as the Spanish side has played well above expectations this season.
Indeed, anything can happen over the course of two legs. If Diego Simone's Atlético Madrid can show the type of resilience they recently demonstrated against Malaga, Bayern Munich could be in for a rough ride. In fact, according to the Guardian's Sean Ingle, Atlético Madrid are the "most brilliant exponents" of "winning ugly" and that's why this semi-final match-up is so intriguing.
If you follow the odds, you'll notice that Atlético Madrid were 19/10 for the win against Bayern Munich at Ladbrokes Sports heading into the first leg, but that's only half the story. As noted by Ingle, Simone has created a defensive "spider's web" that's capable of shutting down teams and forcing them to play wide. This tactic sets up an intriguing dynamic with the attacking prowess of Bayern Munich.
The combination of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Arturo Vidal and Mario Gotze gives Bayern Munich a huge amount of firepower on the attack, but as ESPN's Mark Lovell notes that "Atlético will sit back and defend." If this is the case, then some bookies' odds on Champions League glory aren't so attractive. However, if Simone's men can make it a messy affair then an upset could be on the cards.
If that's one side of the Champions League equation, then how are the bookmakers and pundits currently assessing the other side? In overall terms, Real Madrid are the second favourites with William Hill giving them odds of 2/1, but that doesn't mean Manchester City are out of the game.
City's Joe Hart has publically stated that he believes his side can beat Madrid and make it to the final. When asked about City's tough clash with Real Madrid, he explained that everyone in the side believes they can win otherwise there would be "no point in turning up."
While belief is one thing, reality is another. Heading into the semi-finals it was Zinedine Zidane's Madrid that won the battle of the odds. Across Ladbrokes and William Hill, Real Madrid held the betting lead, which many pundits agreed with. According to The National, one former Manchester resident will likely be the difference between the two sides.
Cristiano Ronaldo wouldn't ever expect a warm reception from Manchester City's fans (given that he played for United), but with 16 goals in 10 Champions League games under his belt so far, it's even less likely they'll be looking forward to seeing him. Not only that, but this will be the 27th Champions League semi-final for Real Madrid and, if experience counts for something, the numbers are likely to add up for the Spanish side come kickoff.
Of course, as with all things connected to the "funny old game", literally anything could happen. But if the odds are correct and the pundits' predictions are on point, then we can expect to see a Bayern Munich/Real Madrid final come May 28.
To check out the latest Champions League odds leading up to match day, explore William Hill's topnotch bookie today!
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