Champions League Betting: Real Madrid v Manchester City


Real Madrid 1.65  The Draw 3.75  Manchester City 5.25

The Champions League group stages kick off with a bang at 7:45pm tonight as holders of the world's best two domestic leagues face off in the Spanish capital. Manchester City, champions of the English Premier League, will visit the home of Spanish title victors Real Madrid for the most compelling opening day Champions League fixture in recent memory.

Form:

Hosts Madrid come into this challenging tie off the back of their worst La Liga start in a decade. Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Sevilla was their second in four games, and confidence will be further dented following Jose Mourinho's post match comments, in which he criticised his players for lacking commitment and concentration.

City, meanwhile, have picked up where they left off last term, and are unbeaten in this latest Premier League campaign. Roberto Mancini's men are yet to hit top form in terms of performance but have, importantly, been picking up results. That said, Joe Hart and co are yet to keep a clean sheet in their four outings so far.  

Key man:

Real Madrid - Amid rumours of unrest in the camp, Cristiano Ronaldo has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism in recent weeks, especially off the back of Los Blancos' lacklustre start to the season. However, the Portuguese forward often saves his best for the big event. What's more, given his penchant for City's rivals United, he would no doubt enjoy wreaking havoc tonight.    

Manchester City - This time last year, Carlos Tevez was about to cause a royal bust-up with his boss following a dugout incident in City's defeat at Bayern Munich. However, his inclusion as Mancini's main striker in tonight's game marks a significant turnaround in the relationship, and the grizzly Argentine will be keen to re-announce himself on the big stage.   

What the gaffers say:

"What I know about Man City is that they have very good players and they are a powerful side. What worries me at the moment is that I don't have a team..." Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid.

"Real Madrid are one of the best teams in the world and Ronaldo is one of the best players. If they leave him at home that would be better for us!." Roberto Mancini, Manchester City. 

Goalscorer betting: 

For the home side, the likelihood of Cristiano Ronaldo finding the net leaves his odds - 4.00 for the first, or 1.70 to score at any time - somewhat unappealing. Look elsewhere for the value, which comes in the shape of Mesut Ozil. The 23-year-old playmaker is due a club goal having banged three in for Germany during the international break and is 16.00 to break the deadlock tonight.

For City, it is again worth looking outside of the obvious, especially as uncertainty surrounds which of Messrs Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko will partner Carlos Tevez. Instead of risking your stake on matters concering that conundrum, check out the value on free-scoring midfield ace Yaya Toure. The galavanting Ivorian is in a rich vein of goalscoring form and will fancy his chances of notching against old foes from his Barcelona days. Roberto Mancini has a habit of releasing the holding midfielder into more attacking areas in the last half hour of games, which makes Toure's odds of 18.00 to score the last goal of the game all the more intriguing.

Verdict:

City's maiden voyage into the Champions League ended in heartbreak last year. But I believe lessons have been learned and they will relish the chance to get at what could be a fragile Madrid side tonight. Real, however, have everything to prove and their backs against the wall, in which circumstances I have no doubt they'll come out fighting.

All of which should make for a fascinating and highly entertaining encounter. I'm going for 2-2 at very pleasant odds of 14.00. Also, cover yourself with City in the DNB market at 3.85.

Bonus bet: 

These two might be giants of their respective national leagues, but have kept just one clean sheet between them this term. And with the attacking talent on show here, I can see goals aplenty in the offing. So, back over 3.5 on the over/unders market at the rather generous odds of 2.55.

Probable line-ups: