Are You Ready for the Ultimate Showpiece?

Real Madrid vs Juventus

Few football games are bigger.

For the sports betting industry, few clashes are bigger.

Few betting odds are rarely studied as closely.

This is the biggest sporting event to have ever been staged in Wales and the single biggest sporting event in the world in 2017.

To put into context, a live global TV audience of 200 million is estimated – twice the TV audience of the Superbowl. It will be broadcast live in 200 countries.

It’s expected to generate an economic impact of £45 million to Cardiff and the wider region.

Cardiff is the smallest city, Wales the smallest country and Football Association of Wales the smallest host association to have hosted the Champions League final.

This city of 325,000 has barely enough flights to accommodate the amount of people that will be travelling to the city this weekend.

The Road to Cardiff ends here and it should be fascinating.

Both sides are chasing potentially historic trebles – it’s the Old Lady versus Mr Europe.

Mr Europe are favourites.

Indeed, Real Madrid have the chance to lift the Duodecima.

And the first port of inspiration will be the world’s top player who, more than anyone, has guided Real to the brink of history as they bid to become the first side to win back-to-back Champions League titles.

Ronaldo smashed five past Bayern Munchen to set up a semi-final with Atletico Madrid.

The first leg of the last four then saw the Portugal captain hit a hat-trick to reach 104 goals in the Champions League.

Now can the mercurial forward make it 105 and seal the dream double for Madristas?

Standing in their way are Juventus, the Italian club with a piece of their own history in their sights after they clinched a Serie A and Coppa Italia double.

Among the men tasked with keeping Ronaldo and co quiet will be veteran Gigi Buffon – can he finally become a champion of Europe at the age of 39? – and their man-marking linchpin Leonardo Bonucci.

But this contest is far from just attack versus defence. Everywhere you look there are individual tales.

Former Real Madrid heroes, Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira, will be in the Juventus side and desperate to beat Los Blancos.

In turn, they will be hoping Alvaro Morata can help overcome his old club.

And of course, the biggest story of all centres on Zinedine Zidane as he tries to capture a second winner’s medal in a row against the club he graced from 1996-2001.

For Zidane joined Juventus from Bordeaux for a fee of around £3 million and spent five seasons in Turin until just after the turn of the century.

For those of a superstitious persuasion, Juventus will wear their famous black and white home shirt, just as they did when Real edged them out in 1998 final, an occasion in which Zidane was wearing a Juventus shirt.

Juventus have now won six straight Scudettos – three under Antonio Conte and three under Massimiliano Allegri –but the Italians have lost their last four finals: Borussia Dortmund in 1997, Real Madrid (1998), Milan (2003) and Barcelona (2015).

Who will triumph in Cardiff is anyone’s guess and it’s hard to see past Madrid and my 🌟🌟🌟 tip is 1X2 Real Madrid @ 2.56.

However, you could do worse than plumping for an Asian Handicap: 0.00 Juventus @ 2.07.

All signs point to a memorable finale between two of Europe’s best.

Let the battle commence.

 

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🌟🌟 = £10
🌟 = £5

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Alves on a mission with Gers

Veteran Portugal defender Bruno Alves is eager to add to his league title collection by helping new club Rangers overturn the dominance of rivals Celtic.

The 35-year-old, who helped his country to glory at the European Championships last year, has signed a two-year contract at Ibrox, having opted to leave Italian outfit Cagliari.

Alves is well-travelled in his career to date, having claimed four league titles in his homeland with FC Porto, before helping Zenit St Petersburg to two Russian crowns and Fenerbahce to the Turkish honour.

He has also played in Greece with AEK Athens and is now relishing an opportunity to try his luck in the Scottish Premiership.

After becoming compatriot Pedro Caixinha's first summer signing, Alves told his new club's official website: "I have this feeling and this desire to win and I think to move here will bring this back to me and to my career.

"At almost all the clubs I have played for I win and I expect to win here for the fans and for the club – I think I can do this here.

"I want to be a champion again. I think I come here for the right reasons and I think that I can bring this back to the club."

The Gers finished in third place in the Scottish top-flight in the season just ended, some 39 points adrift of Celtic, who were undefeated throughout their entire domestic campaign.

Meanwhile, Portugal are 10/1 to retain their crown at Euro 2020, with Germany priced at 4/1 and Italy 14/1.

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Cazorla facing extended absence

Arsenal's Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla has warned that he may not be fit to return to action until towards the end of the year.

The 32-year-old has been sidelined since last October after suffering an injury to his right ankle in the 6-0 Champions League thrashing of Ludogorets Razgrad, with Cazorla having suffered major complications during his recovery.

Indeed, the former Villarreal and Malaga midfielder has confirmed that he has undergone no fewer than eight operations since the initial injury and is still a long way away from a return to action with the Gunners.

He told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser: "I haven't been given a timeframe. It's very difficult to put a date, but I don't think it will be before five months.

"It's been since October that I last played. I've undergone eight surgeries, the last one on Monday. I hope that things go better (in the future).

"I've had complications since November. I got a bacterial infection in surgery, my bone got infected, the wound would not close and I had a graft done."

Cazorla joined the Gunners in the summer of 2012 and is under contract until the end of next season, with a 12-month option activated in January while he was undergoing treatment on his ankle.

Arsenal, who ended the season with silverware by beating Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final at Wembley, are 12/1 to win the Premier League title next season, with Liverpool priced at 12/1 and Manchester United 3/1.

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Wenger sets sights on title charge

Arsene Wenger is determined to mount a 'sustained' challenge for the Premier League title, having put pen to paper on a new two-year contract with Arsenal.

The future of the Frenchman, who has managed the Gunners for more than two decades, had been uncertain for several months, but Wenger and the club have finally confirmed that he will remain in his post.

And Wenger has already set his sights on trying to win his fourth Premier League crown, with the last success having come in 2003-04, when Arsenal went through the entire league season undefeated – winning 26 games and drawing 12.

A clearly determined Wenger told the club's official website: "I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement. We are looking at what we do well and how we can be stronger everywhere.

"This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful.

"We're committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season."

Having dropped well off the title pace, the Gunners ended last season with seven wins in their last eight league games, before defeating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley to lift the FA Cup for a record 13th time.

Arsenal are available at 12/1 to be crowned Premier League champions next season, with Tottenham priced at 8/1 and Chelsea 10/3.

Meanwhile, chief executive Ivan Gazidis also spoke of his desire to help the club challenge for more silverware, adding: "Our goal is to compete for and win trophies here and in Europe.

"Everything we do is designed to make that happen and we will be working hard on and off the pitch this summer to improve and make a strong challenge next season."

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Wenger sets sight on title charge

Arsene Wenger is determined to mount a 'sustained' challenge for the Premier League title, having put pen to paper on a new two-year contract with Arsenal.

The future of the Frenchman, who has managed the Gunners for more than two decades, had been uncertain for several months, but Wenger and the club have finally confirmed that he will remain in his post.

And Wenger has already set his sights on trying to win his fourth Premier League crown, with the last success having come in 2003-04, when Arsenal went through the entire league season undefeated – winning 26 games and drawing 12.

A clearly determined Wenger told the club's official website: "I love this club and I am looking forward to the future with optimism and excitement. We are looking at what we do well and how we can be stronger everywhere.

"This is a strong group of players and with some additions we can be even more successful.

"We're committed to mounting a sustained league challenge and that will be our focus this summer and next season."

Having dropped well off the title pace, the Gunners ended last season with seven wins in their last eight league games, before defeating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley to lift the FA Cup for a record 13th time.

Arsenal are available at 12/1 to be crowned Premier League champions next season, with Tottenham priced at 8/1 and Chelsea 10/3.

Meanwhile, chief executive Ivan Gazidis also spoke of his desire to help the club challenge for more silverware, adding: "Our goal is to compete for and win trophies here and in Europe.

"Everything we do is designed to make that happen and we will be working hard on and off the pitch this summer to improve and make a strong challenge next season."

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Molineux move for Nuno

Wolves have named Nuno Espiríto Santo as their new head coach just 24 hours after parting company with Paul Lambert.

The 43-year-old left Porto earlier this month after guiding them to second spot in Portuguese Primeira Liga and to the last-16 of the Champions League.

He was only with Porto for one campaign after previously being in charge of Valencia, where he spent 18 months.

Nuno was a goalkeeper during his playing career and starred for Porto, Dynamo Moscow and Desportivo das Aves.

Wolves have also confirmed that Rui Pedro Silva will be their assistant head coach, Rui Barbosa their goalkeeping coach and Antonio Dias the fitness coach.

Wolves' main director Jeff Shi said: "I first got to know Nuno two years ago, and, at that time, we hadn't taken over Wolves. But when talking to him, I was impressed by his football tactics.

"He has an impressive track record in the top divisions in Spain and Portugal, and took Porto to the knockout stages of the Champions League last season.

"We are all looking forward to working with Nuno and his staff, and are excited about what he can achieve with Wolves as we go into the new season and beyond."

Wolves finished 15th in the Championship in 2016/17 and Nuno will be their fourth head coach in the last ten months.

They are 5/1 to be promoted next season, while Norwich City are 3/1 to go up, Sunderland 5/1 and Aston Villa 5/2.

Bet Online on the Great Gianluigi Buffon for Euro Glory

Juventus vs Real Madrid

One man stands between Real Madrid and a second consecutive Champions League triumph on Sunday. And that’s the legendary Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Of course, the Juve defence is blessed by the strength, class and poise of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. But if Ronaldo and Co can breach the best rearguard in Europe, then the six-foot-three, 39-year-old Buffon is the last formidable line of defence.

It’s going to be a fantastic match and European football betting experts are unable to pick a winner; but betting odds place Real as slight, slight favourites at 1.90 to lift the title, with Juventus at 2.00.

Los Blancos have plenty at stake; a first La Liga and Champions League double since 1958. And the Bianconeri are going for a historic treble, having already picked up Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Buffon has had a glittering career but will be desperate to win the one title which has evaded him, missing out recently in the 2015 final to Barcelona.

The big debate in Spain is who will support Ronaldo in the Real Madrid attack, the quick-footed Isco being the favourite for many fans. But Gareth Bale, with his more direct style, would love to start the game in his homeland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

If Buffon and his defence complete the job they always expect to do, then the Italians’ attacking threat will come from Real Madrid target Paulo Dybala and former Los Blancos star Gonzalo Higuain. The two strikers have scored nine Champions League goals between them, one less than Cristiano Ronaldo!

But Higuain has taken a swipe at the Madrid fans, saying: “Juve is similar to Real Madrid, they prepare you to win. But the supporters are not as demanding as Madrid. It’s not in their culture to boo their own players.”

Both teams have won the last three, Juve winning the Coppa Italia with a victory over Lazio as part of that run. And this is going to be a cracker.

I expect Buffon to put in his usual peerless performance and so for a 🌟🌟 bet I’m going for Juventus, Draw no Bet, at 2.09.

And for another 🌟🌟bet, how about Under 2.25 goals at 1.86?

A short explanation on how our (🌟) bets are worth:

🌟🌟🌟 = £20
🌟🌟 = £10
🌟 = £5

Head over to the bet picks section and see how our writers perform in their predicted bets.

Click for more football betting options.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Bet NOW!

Romeu predicts exodus will continue

Oriol Romeu is expecting several players will leave Southampton in the next few weeks as doubts persist about Claude Puel's future.

It is unclear whether Puel will still be in charge at St Mary's when the 2017/18 campaign gets underway in just over ten weeks' time while Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic and Cedric Soares are all being linked with moves away from Saints this summer.

Southampton have sold a host of players including Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and Jose Fonte in the last few years and Romeu believes the situation will be similar this summer.

"As a footballer I need to accept that players move on," the former Chelsea star said.

"But if that's what happens we will try to settle down and get better, but also we need to accept that it's part of football.

"We've done it in the last few years. We believe we'll be a strong side next year and we're going to have a strong team to keep fighting for those places at the top of the table and give something surprising.

"We need people with hunger, desire to improve and that will give us the results we need."

Southampton can be backed at 25/1 to be relegated from the Premier League in 2017/18 while Bournemouth are 11/2 to go down, Brighton 6/5 and Huddersfield Town 4/7.

Keogh inks two-year Glory deal

Perth Glory have kept hold of striker Andy Keogh for two more years.

The Irishman has scored 34 goals in 70 A-League games since signing for the A-League club before the 2014/15 season.

He has made such an impact in a relatively short time, he was recently voted by Perth Glory members as part of its Ultimate XI (1996-2016) team of the last 20 seasons.

Glory CEO Peter Filopoulos said the club were delighted to have secured his services as he plays such a key role in the team.

He added: "With 17 players contracted for next season, we are in a good position to build upon our squad in the coming weeks and months."

Keogh, who was born in Dublin but who is applying for Australian citizenship, said he was thrilled to have extended his contract for two more seasons.

Capped 30 times by the Republic of Ireland international, the striker added: "I am also excited with what we are building here at the club and look forward to helping bring success for our members and fans very soon."

Meanwhile, Sydney FC have handed a new two-year deal to young defender Aaron Calver.

The 21-year-old will stay until the end of the 2018/19 season, having overcome an eight-month injury run to impress during last season's title race.

Coach Graham Arnold said: "Aaron provides us with another option in defence which will be crucial during our dual A-League and AFC Champions League campaigns and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with him."

Teen striker George Blackwood has exited the club after playing just two games last season.

Sydney FC are 9/4 to win the Grand Final again next season, with Melbourne Victory 4/1 and the Glory 8/1.

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Golec returns to A-League again

Antony Golec has made Central Coast Mariners his fifth A-League club, after signing up for the new season.

Golec is back in Australia after a year overseas, during which he played in three different countries.

Mariners coach Paul Okon has already bolstered his backline by bringing in Alan Baro from Melbourne Victory, with Golec, 27, signing a one-year deal to make him another option in the centre of defence or at left-back.

He has made 59 appearances overall in the A-League and Okon has signed him after being impressed with him in training.

The defender played in both legs of Western Sydney Wanderers' 2014 Asian Champions League Final success against Al-Hilal, midway through his only A-League season with Tony Popovic's side.

He'd started his senior career with Sydney FC in 2008 and then had three seasons with Adelaide United where he clocked up 26 appearances.

Golec moved to Perth Glory after his stint with Western Sydney, appearing six times in 2015-16.

His time abroad since then consisted of three short contracts in different countries, most successfully an 11-game stay with Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol.

Golec won his second national title with the European outfit, having helped Sydney FC win the 2009-10 double in Australia.

"He gives us a lot more height at the back," said Okon. He's a big, strong defender who is quite aggressive and we're hopeful that within our playing style and the way we train that Antony will improve.

"He's at a good age where he's accumulated a bit of experience in his travels and won an ACL, but he's still at an age where we think he will be able to learn."

Central Coast are 20/1 to win the A-League Grand Final, with the Brisbane Roar 8/1 and the Newcastle Jets 20/1.

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