Our weekly review of the latest betting news with five things for you to consider, including Champions League and Europa League odds after the semi-final draws.
1. Dogged Atleti a bet for Champions League glory
Following the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League back in December, we noted that Atletico Madrid and Man City could both be backed at the same odds to go on and lift the trophy and that the Spaniards were the more attractive option. As both teams prepare for the semi-finals, that remains the case, although Atleti are now no bigger than 4/1 while City’s odds have only come in as far as 15/2. At the time we wrote: “City are deemed the most likely English winners, with Ladbrokes offering 14/1…Atletico Madrid, who face PSV Eindhoven in the last 16, can be backed at the same price as City and that looks a much wiser investment.” Atleti, who came within a whisker of winning the trophy two years ago, squeezed the life out of Barcelona in Tuesday’s second leg and with the meanest defence in Europe there is no reason to suggest they cannot do the same to Bayern. They still look to be the wise investment at that 4/1 with Sky Bet.
2. Under-rated Villarreal a danger for Liverpool
After their incredible fightback against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, Liverpool have an excellent chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions League by winning the Europa League. By eliminating the team who were widely regarded as the best in the tournament, Liverpool have installed themselves as favourites to win the competition, but the lurking dangers must not be underestimated, particularly those from Spain. Liverpool face Villarreal in the semi-finals, a team who have quietly asserted themselves in La Liga and look destined for a Champions League qualifying round place, if they don’t gain automatic qualification through this competition. Liverpool are 4/7 favourites with Paddy Power to reach the final, but the two teams are a closer match than those odds suggest. If they get past Villarreal, the Reds may face Sevilla in the final – the back-to-back winners of this competition who might have gone further in the Champions League had they not lost a game they dominated at Man City. Liverpool are no bigger than 7/4 with Ladbrokes to lift the trophy, but the 15/4 Ladbrokes currently offer about Villarreal is tempting.
3. Hills shorten Rangers after Hampden victory
After being on hold for four years, Scottish football finally has the opportunity to put itself back on the map and Sunday’s semi-final between Rangers and Celtic, which Rangers won on penalties, will have done the nation’s game no harm at all. Without being disrespectful to the likes of Aberdeen, who have done their best to push Celtic close this season, Hearts and Hibernian, having the Old Firm reunited next season in the Premiership makes the league relevant to a wider audience and by winning their eagerly-awaited semi-final, Mark Warburton’s side have done enough to suggest they can mount a challenge to their great rivals in 2016/17. Sadly most bookmakers have been slow to react and while they are routinely, and pointlessly, offering Celtic at 1/100 to win this year’s title, only William Hill are quoting next year’s title, with other firms opting to miss out on a wave of bets reflecting Gers’ fans euphoria. For the record, Hills have cut Rangers from 3/1 to 9/4 on the back of their Hampden win, with Celtic pushed out to 1/3.
4. Grace looks poised for first Major win
Our 40/1 tip, Branden Grace, won the RBC Heritage on Sunday, his first PGA title, to follow up victory on the European Tour at the Qatar Masters in January. The South African posted a near-flawless 66 to win by two shots at the Harbour Town Golf Links and also had an impressive 2015 – finishing tied fourth at the US Open and third at the PGA Championship. Currently 14th in the world rankings, the twenty-seven-year-old looks primed to win a Major, despite missing the cut at the Masters last week. After his Heritage win Paddy Power immediately cut Grace to 28/1 for the US Open in June – but Bet365 and William Hill are still offering 40/1.
5. Nadal back on the right track in Monte Carlo
It’s been a couple of really tough years for Rafael Nadal, but the King of Clay may be timing his run to perfection ahead of next month’s French Open, with his victory over Gael Monfils on Sunday earning him a 9th win at the Monte Carlo Masters and a record-equalling 28th Masters title. Since winning for the ninth time in 10 years at Roland Garros in 2014, the 29-year-old has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam event, and he was beaten by Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Australian Open in January – only the second time in his career that he has failed to win a match at a Major. With doubts lingering over his form and fitness his price for the French Open drifted over the winter from 9/4 to 4/1, but with the tournament just a month away the tide is now turning. Winner are so far holding the price at 4s, but Ladbrokes and Betfred have moved the Spaniard in to 7/2 and every other firm has gone to 3/1. Monfils, who pushed Nadal all the way in Monte Carlo, has also been cut to a best price of 66/1 with Bet365 and Paddy Power.