Real Madrid suffered just their second league defeat of the season at the weekend when going down 1-0 to Levante and the Whites were dealt a further blow with the news that Eden Hazard will miss Wednesday evening’s Champions League home tie with Manchester City through injury. The former Chelsea winger will also sit out Sunday’s Clasico with Barcelona at the Bernabeu. The Whites currently sit second in the La Liga table two points behind Barca, so it is fair to say this is a massive week for Zinedine Zidane and his side.
Hazard is no major loss for Madrid given he is just back from injury and has not yet recaptured the brilliance of his days at Stamford Bridge. Make no mistake this is not the same Real Madrid side that dominated Europe with a hat-trick of Champions League title between 2016-18 and they have, largely, struggled for goals since Cristiano Ronaldo swopped Madrid for Turin.
They are strong defensively, however and their central midfield pairing of Casemiro and Frederico Valverde are a match for anyone. I don’t expect to see the goal-fest we might have expected a couple of seasons ago between these two great clubs and it would not surprise me if we saw a tight cagey affair with City having plenty of possession and the hosts defending deep.
City are 13/10 at BetVictor to take a lead back to the Etihad next month with Los Blancos 19/10 and the draw at 11/4. I don’t think a draw would be the worst result in the world for Pep Guardiola’s side and, while they would love to get an away goal in the Spanish capital, it would not surprise me if City went with three central defenders in Madrid.
City will be hoping that Raheem Sterling is back having missed the win at the King Power at the weekend. As things stand City will not be able to defend their Champions League crown if they lift the Trophy in Istanbul at the end of May but they are currently the 4/1 favourites. It is likely that UEFA will want them out of this year’s competition sooner rather than later. Wednesday evening’s referee is Italian Daniele Orsato.
All five British sides who qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League picked up positive results in the 1st leg but a number of the ties are still in the balance including Rangers at Braga in Wednesday evening’s sole game in the competition.
Steven Gerrard’s side continue to misfire in the Scottish Premiership and their 2-2 draw at St Johnstone at the weekend has seen them fall 12 points behind leaders Celtic. Rangers are 10/3 to win in Portugal this evening and 4/5 to qualify for the last 16 with Braga 10/11 at BetVictor.
Braga scored three times in the second half to beat Vitoria Setubal on Sunday and I feel they can overturn their 3-2 deficit from Ibrox last week when I felt they dominated long periods of the game before wilting under Rangers’ late assault. Braga to qualify at 10/11 must be the recommendation.
Arsenal are on a roll at present, but the Gunners again rode their luck against Everton at the Emirates on Sunday and I’m not convinced they will brush aside the challenge of Olympiacos as easily as the odds suggest they ought tomorrow night.
Arsenal are 1/2 to win the second leg with the Greek Super League leaders 5/1 and the draw at 16/5. Olympiacos are 6/4 in the double chance market – win or draw – and that is the recommendation.