Odds to win the two-game aggregate-goals series: Juventus (+210) vs. Real Madrid (-275)
Juventus has reached the UEFA Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2003. Their prize? Facing the defending champions, Real Madrid, in a two-game series for a spot at the Berlin 2015 final.
Juventus knocked off Monaco 1-0 on aggregate to reach this stage with Arturo Vidal potting the only goal at home in the first leg. Madrid, meanwhile, got past Atletico with an identical 1-0 score; Javier Hernandez played the hero, scoring in the 88th minute of the second leg to see the Merengues through to the semis.
The Italians are the clear underdog in this fight and the least likely to win the trophy of the final four (which also includes Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona). But, after dominating Serie A for the last four years, the team is confident it can return Italian club football to the upper echelon of the European game. Not even facing the mighty Real Madrid can dampen their spirits.
“Scared [of Real]? The only thing I’m scared of is my neighborhood,” said Juve striker Carlos Tevez. “Now comes the best part – I’m not scared of anyone. Any team we come up against will be strong, but we’re also a great team.”
Real Madrid has been to the semifinals in each of the last four seasons, finally breaking through to the finals last year. The team is focused on getting healthy as Luka Modric and Karim Benzema both missed the pivotal second leg against Atletico.
While many see Juventus as a good draw for the team, don’t count Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti among the thankful.
“At this point in the competition every team left is a tough draw,” said Ancelotti. “Juventus have an impressive history and are back after twelve years without reaching the semi-final. They’re having a great season, and they’ve all but won the Serie A title. That allows them to focus more on this European competition.”
Real Madrid and Juventus clashed for the last time in 2013 during the group stage with the Spaniards winning 2-1 at home and earning a 2-2 draw away in Turin. Juve came out on top in the two previous UCL playoff meetings, though (2003 and 2005).
The first game of the series will be on Tuesday, May 5 (at 2:45 p.m. Eastern) in Turin; the second leg will be on Wednesday, May 13 in Madrid (also at 2:45 p.m. Eastern).
Juve is a heavy +210 underdog, but I anticipate the Italians giving Real a real run for their money. That makes Juventus and the bigger payout look like better value.
(Photo credit: El Coleccionista de Instant (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo may appear cropped.)