Penalties on the agenda for history-making final


THE ITV big-wigs must be tearing their hair out in frustration that the first time the Champions League final has been moved to the prime Saturday night slot no English team has managed to get there. England have been represented in all of the last five finals, but it’s Germany against Italy tomorrow night at the Bernabeu in Madrid.

Whatever happens in this game, history will be made as either Bayern Munich or Inter Milan will become the first club from their respective countries to win the treble, emulating Barcelona’s achievement last season. Both coaches also have previous in this tournament, Louis Van Gaal winning it with Ajax in 1995 and Jose Mourinho with Porto in 2004. Whoever triumphs tomorrow night will become only the third boss to lift the European Cup with two different clubs.

Neither side were massively impressive in the group stage, with Bayern finishing six points behind Bordeaux and Inter two points in arrears of semi-final opponents Barcelona. Since the introduction of the first round group stage in 1994/95, no final has involved two teams who finished second in their pool, so it truly is a historic contest.

Inter Milan are around 5/4 favourites to win in 90 minutes and as short as 8/15 to lift the trophy. However, it could be argued that Mourinho would have preferred a team like Barcelona or Man United in the final who would come at them relentlessly and they could try to hit on the break. In fairness, Munich have been fairly prolific in front of goal lately, scoring at least three in their last four across all competitions, but a Champions League final is very different.

Like all of Mourinho’s sides, the main strength of Inter is their defence and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this being quite a cagey affair. The last six Champions League finals have all produced at least two goals, but to me this has all the hallmarks of a low-scoring, tactical battle and the 15/2 about no goalscorer in 90 minutes looks good value. This was the scoreline at Old Trafford in 2003 between AC Milan and Juventus.

Spread bettors would be advised to sell goals at 2.25 with Sporting Index and the braver ones may also be interested in buying the time of the first match goal at 40 minutes with the same firm. If the game finishes level at 90 minutes as I expect, then punters will be interested to know that five of the last 15 finals have gone to penalties and none have been settled in extra-time. The extra 30 minute period has effectively been a non-contest as teams are too nervous to give away a goal and would rather take their chances in a shootout.

William Hill offer 9/2 for the match to go to penalties and that looks a decent bet. Both sides are 10/1 to win in a shootout, but you need to risk two bets to cover both outcomes.

No goalscorer at 15/2 with
Penalty shootout at 9/2 with William Hill
Sell total match goals at 2.25 with Sporting Index


THE Champions League final is obviously the biggest game of the day but, arguably, the Championship play-off final at Wembley is worth more money to the winner. It is estimated that Cardiff or Blackpool will earn £90 million if they secure promotion to the Premier League and that is a lot of pressure to be put on the shoulders of these players.

Ian Holloway has done an incredible job with Blackpool and every football correspondent in the land will be delighted if his side can win. His press conferences have become legendary and it would be an unbelievable achievement to bring the Tangerines back to the big time.

With so much at stake, it is perhaps unsurprising that five of the last six play-off finals have produced just one solitary goal. That fits nicely with recent games between these two where only one of the last six has seen more than two match goals. It’s true that both sides found the net regularly in the semis, but this is totally different and a sell of goals at 2.45 with Sporting Index looks terrific value.

The scoreline has been 1-1 in three of the last four meetings between these two and it is difficult to split them. However, Cardiff boss Dave Jones has Premier League experience with Southampton and Wolves, taking the latter to the top flight through the play-offs. It’s also a bonus that the Welsh side played twice at Wembley in their FA Cup run two years ago.

The Bluebirds look to have a stronger squad than Blackpool and the draw HT / Cardiff FT double result is very appealing at 5/1 with William Hill. With five of the last six finals finishing 1-0, I also like the look of that scoreline in Cardiff’s favour at 8/1 on Betdaq. Their money problems may not look as bad at around 5pm tomorrow evening.

Draw HT / Cardiff FT at 5/1 with William Hill
Cardiff to win 1-0 at 8/1 on Betdaq
Sell total match goals at 2.45 with Sporting Index