Champions League Tips: Why 4/1 Real Madrid/Inter Milan final is worth backing

Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola
Ancelotti is set for his 191st UCL match - the most of any manager

Alex Keble analyses the two Champions League semi-finals coming up this weekend, predicting it will be an easy time for Inter Milan but Man City v Real Madrid will go the distance...

  • Real Madrid can draw in 90 mins

  • AC Milan need a complete revamp

  • Inter v Real Madrid final worth a bet

  • AC Milan need major tactical surgery

    Inter Milan v AC Milan
    Tuesday, 20:00
    Live on BT Sport 1

    The pattern of the Milan derby followed exactly what has happened throughout this season: Inter Milan have won their last three meetings by an aggregate score of 6-0, and every time it has been the same story of a tactical mismatch.

    That is why the chances of AC Milan reaching the final are so slim, and why Stefano Pioli needs a total overhaul of his tactics to stand a chance.

    In a 4-2-3-1 formation, AC Milan looked to dominate the ball and play an expansive attacking game, but they did so with ludicrous decompression between the lines, with some 50 yards between the defensive and attacking players.

    It meant that, stretched so long, their two central midfielders were often entirely isolated and surrounded by five Inter players: the three centre-mids plus Edin Dzeko and Luataro Martinez, who both dropped to help swarm the middle.

    Consequently in transitional moments Inter could hurtle forward with enormous overloads, going five-v-two in the middle, then quickly shifting to a four-on-two in the final third as their flying wing-backs joined the two strikers.

    It was 2-0 within the first 11 minutes and could have been four or five by half-time, before Simone Inzaghi moved to a more conservative setup to hold what he had.

    Thumbnail image for 1280 Stefano Pioli AC Milan manager 2023.jpg

    If AC Milan do not adapt - if they again look to take the game to their opponents in a 4-2-3-1 - they will be picked off.

    Piolo must return to the 3-4-3 that worked throughout February, including knocking Tottenham Hotspur out in the second round of the Champions League.

    This formation has more security against a front two and, more importantly, simplifies transitional moments by going man-for-man with Inter all across the pitch.

    But Pioli won't do this, not if he hadn't already learnt his lesson prior to Wednesday's game and, now needing to win by three, he will likely double down on a more proactive style of football. That's why Inter should be backed to win on the night.

    Back Inter to win


    Real repeating counter model could work

    Man City v Real Madrid
    Wednesday, 20:00
    Live on BT Sport 1

    This one is definitely in the balance, far more so than the odds would suggest.

    Man City are 2/7 to reach the final despite having only drawn 1-1 at the Bernabeu, and while that reflects their incredible record at the Etihad (they have won every single home game in 2023), it would be naïve to think Real Madrid cannot pull off a result.

    That's because their tactical setup from the first leg was more like that of an away team, and therefore a repeat display from Carlo Ancelotti's side ought to achieve a relatively similar outcome.

    Real will sit back in their stubborn 4-4-2, compressing space between the lines and holding a deep defensive line to stop Erling Haaland getting on the ball.

    It took a long-range shot, with City reduced to this unusual pot-shot tactic, for Kevin de Bruyne to rescue a draw from the first leg.

    It is certainly possible that Man City will be frustrated again, especially after Everton managed to do something similar for most of the first half last weekend.

    Considerably more talented and experienced Real Madrid players will be much better at keeping their shape and waiting for chances to counter-attack at speed through Vinicius Junior.

    Vinicius's battle with Kyle Walker was one of the defining features last week and it will be again, although it is worth noting the Brazilian began to drift infield as the match wore on, escaping Walker in order to isolate the Man City centre-backs instead.

    Pep Guardiola will need a slightly altered plan to deal with how Vinicius cuts inside, using Eduardo Camavinga for overlapping support.

    Still, on balance Man City should get through, especially because Guardiola is likely to tweak his line-up after his side's difficulty creating chances out wide.

    Forced to shuffle the ball around that narrow Real blockade, Man City would do better to have a more direct dribbler like Riyad Mahrez on the right, and after his strong performance at Everton, the Algerian is in line for a start.

    Nevertheless the score ought to be low and the atmosphere tense. Anyone expecting Man City to simply move to a higher gear than the first leg are mistaken; Real Madrid showed their nous and, using exactly the same strategy, can anticipate the same outcome.

    Back the draw


    Back under 2.5 goals


    Looking further ahead, and putting these two games together, the most likely outcome in this year's Champions League is Man City beating Inter Milan in the final, available at 8/11, but the long odds on Real Madrid beating Inter Milan, at 4/1, are well worth a bet.

    Back straight forecast 1st Real Madrid/2nd Inter Milan


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