What an incredible round of matches we have for the semifinals of the Champions League. We start Tuesday with a matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester City, which could be a Champions League final in any given season. On Wednesday, we get one of the fiercest rivalries in the sport, as Milan's Derby della Madonnina leaves Serie A for a week and takes place in the Champions League. As if AC Milan and Inter don't have enough beef, the stakes are turned up a notch.
Even more incredible? Of the four remaining teams, only one has a chance to win its league. Manchester City have passed Arsenal in the Premier League, but Real Madrid would need a miracle to win La Liga over Barcelona. The Milan clubs would need more than a miracle, as Napoli has already clinched Serie A. So we've got three clubs whose primary goal is winning the Champions League, and a Manchester City team whose primary goal has been to win the Champions League ever since it brought Pep Guardiola to England.
We can't ask for much more. Well, maybe we can ask for some winning bets. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
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Real Madrid vs. Manchester City
Date: Tuesday, May 9 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: CBS/Paramount+
It's somewhat difficult to figure out how much signal there is in the noise considering Real Madrid don't have anything significant to play for in La Liga, but the team's defense has been a mess lately. Yes, Madrid won the Copa del Rey on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Osasuna, but before that, they had lost two of three in league play, and the lone win was a 4-2 win over 14th-place Almeria. Madrid allowed eight goals in those three matches on an xG of 5.5. On the one hand, you can say they were a bit unlucky. On the other, what the hell is Real Madrid doing allowing 5.5 xG in three matches against Girona, Almeria and Real Sociedad?
Also, can Madrid just turn it off in the lague and then flip the switch for Manchester City? We're talking about the team that might be the best in the world. How sharp can we reasonably expect Madrid to be in this spot?
I don't think they'll be at their best, but I don't want to bet Manchester City to win. City are rolling right now and should win, but Real Madrid are Real Madrid, and this is the Champions League. They've pulled bigger rabbits out of smaller hats. Instead, the better play is the over. Man City's attack is relentless, and my concerns about Madrid's defending are legitimate. But if any team can find the back of the net against this Man City squad and take the play to it, it's Real Madrid. I expect Madrid looks to sit deep and counterattack early, but Man City take a lead and causes them to open up. Then things will get wild. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-135)
AC Milan vs. Inter
Date: Wednesday, May 10 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: CBS/Paramount+
Timing is everything in life. In the quarterfinals, AC Milan ran into a Napoli team that had been the talk of European soccer all season. But Milan ran into them at the right time, as Napoli were dealing with injuries and suspensions to key players, the most notable of which was Victor Osimhen. Milan took advantage and knocked Napoli out of the competition. Now the timing is no longer on their side.
Milan's Rafael Leao suffered a groin injury in their match against Lazio over the weekend, and the reports are not optimistic he'll be available to play in this match. That's a serious blow for Milan, as Leao is tied with Olivier Giroud for the team lead in goals this season with 13. He's the most dangerous threat Milan has, and if he doesn't play, they become much simpler to defend.
Further complicating things for Milan from a timing perspective, the Inter team they'll face without him is playing better than it has all season. Inter have won five straight and outscored opponents 15-1. That includes wins over Juventus, Lazio and Roma, so it's not as if Inter are beating up on the bottom of Serie A. Defensively, Inter haven't allowed more than 0.9 xG in any of their last seven matches. Inter have also won two of the three matches they played against AC Milan already this year, both of which were shutout wins. Everything screams Inter this week. The Pick: Inter Milan (+145)
Goal Scorer Props
We only have two matches this week, and I cannot allow myself to send you into the Champions League semis with only two bets. You deserve more! So for this week and next, I'm sharing a goal scorer prop for each match. Obviously, this column is being written before lineups for either match have been announced, but I'll limit it to players expected to play. That said, you never know what's going to happen. Maybe a manager overthinks things - cough, Pep, cough - and brings one of these players in off the bench. So if you want to wait until lineups are out before placing either of these bets, I don't think that's a bad idea.
- Erling Haaland (-118)
- Olivier Giroud (+300)