Real Madrid vs. Manchester City Champions League Semifinal First Leg: Odds, Picks, Predictions (5/9/23)
We’re really getting down to the wire now, as only four teams remain in the hunt for the Champions League trophy. One of those teams is the greatest in the history of the competition while the other, perhaps the best side in the World right now, has never won it. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for a clash of epic proportions between Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Real Madrid vs. Manchester City Odds
The odds for this one truly leap off of the page; +120 for City, +265 for the draw, and +225 for Madrid at home. The goalscoring numbers are more regular, with o2.5 set at -145 and the under at +115.
Real Madrid vs. Osasuna Prediction & Pick
Madrid have already begun to lift silverware this season- they won the Copa del Rey final over Osasuna on Saturday, saving themselves from a decade-long streak of futility in that tournament. Now, their focus can shift to a much bigger competition, albeit one they have definitively owned both historically (with a far-and-away record of 14 trophies) and recently, as they are of course the defending champs.
This matchup was a semifinal a year ago as well, and quite the unforgettable event. City led by two goals on aggregate as the ninetieth minute approached, but in true Madrid fashion, they scored twice through some individual brilliance from Rodrygo, and then won in overtime.
You could rightfully say that a lot has changed between then and now. Madrid won La Liga comfortably a year ago, and haven’t had nearly the same consistency this year. Meanwhile City have shaken off their existential crisis at the striker position and they’ve done so in remarkable fashion, as Erling Haaland has demolished goalscoring records left and right this season.
One thing, beyond the clubs and their own histories, remains the same; the managerial clash. It’s Pep Guardiola for City, one of the most electrifying, if polarizing managers in the history of the sport, up against Carlo Ancelotti, the most decorated manager in UCL history. Ancelotti can bolster his already-unmatched resume by winning as an underdog here, or Guardiola can take a big step towards establishing himself as a true candidate to be considered the greatest ever.
The bets are pretty straightforward here; Madrid +225 at home in the Champions League, against Pep’s City of all sides, is unbeatable value; I’d also consider throwing on their +235 odds to advance to the final, although of course that one wouldn’t pay out on Matchday 1.
The total is a bit tougher but really, you have to bet on the goals when two sides like this meet. It was a scoring frenzy last time, and neither offense has really slowed down, namely in European competition; it’s a bit chalky but I do believe in the over in this one.
Picks: Madrid ML (+225), o2.5 goals (-145)
With any Guardiola-led team, we have to talk about the midfield, and this City squad is no exception- but Madrid’s group is an elite one as well. We also have to take a look at how Madrid might try to slow Haaland, so let’s get into some key positional matchups.
Man City Attack vs. Madrid Defense
Obviously, we have to talk about Haaland; his goalscoring total of 51- a record 35 of which have come in the Prem- looks pretty much fake, but I can assure you it isn’t. The young Norwegian has simply found the perfect fit at the Etihad, and is the center of an attack that is truly lethal when it’s on.
Riyad Mahrez and Julián Álvarez are the next highest scorers on the squad, with just 15 each in all competitions; a very respectable total, but the drop-off is really indicative of how this attack tends to run. The perpetually-underappreciated Mahrez is also second on the team in assists with 12, but we’ll get to the team leader in a bit.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Bernardo Silva, who can all slot in on the wing or in midfield, are all tremendous talents, and help to round out a star-studded and extremely deep City attack that can hurt you many different ways.
Young Brazilian centre-back Éder Militao has broken out this season, and has unquestionably been the (outfield) highlight of a Madrid defense that has been a notch or so below the best groups we’ve seen at the Bernabeu in recent years. He’ll likely be joined in the middle by veteran David Alaba.
While he’s had his slip-ups this year, Thibaut Courtois is undoubtedly the man you want in goal in a match like this one. The fullback pairing could be very interesting; Dani Carvajal is likely to be on the right, and opposite him will likely be Eduardo Camavinga, a midfielder by nature, but a hardworking and creative force in defense.
The Midfield Battle
City’s midfield is a fluid situation; it could feature many of the wingers I mentioned above, or it could be anchored by true midfielders like Rodri and Ilkay Gündogan- hell, even John Stones could factor in, as he has more than once in recent weeks. Pep is notoriously creative, and he does not hold back in big matches, sometimes to a fault.
But the one standard feature, the player we can always expect to see is Kevin de Bruyne, one of the great attacking midfielders of all time. His 24 assists in all competitions lead the team by a country mile, and I’d venture to say that he, rather than Haaland, is the most important cog in the extremely intricate City machine.
Madrid’s midfield is a bit more traditional, as they’ll likely just run a good old 4-3-3. That’s not to say it’s not an equally imposing group; Toni Kroos and the incomparable Luka Modric have won countless trophies together, while Fede Valverde and Aurélien Tchouaméni are two of the most exciting talents in World football. Three of those four will start, while the odd man out will be a key option off of the bench and could realistically end up being the difference-maker in this one.