Costa’s horseplay could be Real deal for Champions League final
Punters might think a Brazilian-born Spanish striker going to the Serbian capital Belgrade for horse placenta treatment on a hamstring problem sounds like an “And finally…” news item sketch from The Two Ronnies.
There is nothing akin to comedy, however, in Atletico Madrid’s (15/8) attempts to get leading scorer Diego Costa – heavily linked with a summer switch to Chelsea – fit for the Champions League final against cross-capital rivals Real Madrid (odds-on at 2/5).
It is ironic that two giants of Spanish football, one established and the other emerging after snatching La Liga away from El Clasico dominance, will meet across Iberia in Portugal’s premier city Lisbon.
Two former midfielders, Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone, will do battle from the dugout, sending their charges from respective sides of Madrid out in their own image. Real are glittering with proven, established attacking talent and that is why they are odds-on at 10/11 to get the job done in 90 minutes.
Workmanlike Atletico, meanwhile, are 16/5 outsiders to cause an upset and become noisy neighbours that keep their Bernabeu foes waiting for European success. A draw, which means the Champions League will go to extra time and possibly penalties, is a 12/5 chance.
It would be unfair to say all Simeone’s hopes lie in the hands of how effectively the bizarre treatment of Marijana Kovaceivc works on Costa, but there is no doubting Atletico will be weaker without him. He has resumed training, however, so that is a sign such therapy is helping.
Costa, who has one in three appearances against Real this term, is 6/4 to net anytime if deemed fit to figure. This is a golden chance to prove what a big time player he can be.
Backup striker and veteran David Villa has a similar goals to games ratio in all competitions at Atletico for this campaign, but he has just three in a dozen outings when facing the boys from Bernabeu since the start of 2010. If punters think he will go to the well for another big performance here, then take odds of 9/4 in the anytime market.
There is nothing average about leading Real marksman Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring record, however. He has three in his last three against Atletico, and is therefore odds-on at 10/11 to enhance that. Fellow winger Gareth Bale, who Ancelotti has also assured us will be fit to feature, meanwhile, is more attractive at 13/8 to get in on the act.
If Tottenham or Manchester United fans are getting misty-eyed remembering better times when these wide wizard were terrorising Premier League defences, then Coral has the very bet for you. Special enhanced odds of 4/1 are available on Bale and Ronaldo both scoring in the final for Real.
Another special market open is on who will be man of the match. Ronaldo is naturally the 4/1 favourite to cap a sensational Champions League campaign by being best on show. Could Ateltico stopper Thibaut Courtois, winner of successive Zamora Trophies for the top goalie in Spain, keep him out? Odds of 16/1 say the Belgian, owned by Chelsea, will win another individual accolade.
Bearing Courtois’ fantastic form, and that of the defence in front of him, in mind, a 3/1 price on Atletico keeping a clean sheet, and odds of 11/2 on a win to nil for Simeone, are both well worth considering too. Keepers can definitely play the part of heroes if the final goes to penalties – and that outcome is a 5/1 shot.
The headline team news above apart, Turkey captain Arda Turan is also back in training for Atletico, while Real have doubts over Portugal defender Pepe and France striker Karim Benzema.
Another interesting Coral special market is the method of victory for the two Madrid teams, should the final go beyond the regulation 90 minutes. Real are 15/2 to win in extra time, while Atletico are 12/1. Either Spanish capital club are equal 10/1 chances to be victorious via a penalty shoot-out.
Real and Ancelotti will be so hungry to silence their neighbours for snatching La Liga from their grasp, besides ending a dozen years since that Zinedine Zidane volley at Hampden Park sealed glory in Europe’s elite club competition. Back Los Blancos for a 2-0 victory at 17/2, and don’t forget that sensational special on Bale and Ronaldo both scoring.