Real Madrid ready to wreak revenge on Basel
Real Madrid, odds-on at 1/8 to start their Champions League defence with victory, host Swiss Super League winners Basel at the Bernabeu in their opening group game.
Basel, who are outsiders at 20/1 to win the clash, will smell blood following Los Blancos’ lacklustre start to the season. Carlo Ancelotti’s boys appeared to have picked up where they left off after last term’s terrific trophy haul, by beating Spanish rivals Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup.
It has all been downhill from there for Real, though, with just one league win amongst a spate of disappointing results, including a double defeat to city rivals Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and La Liga.
The stage is now set for Basel to pull-off a giant killing and increase their chances of navigating safe passage through a tricky Group B, which also includes Liverpool and Bulgarian league champions Ludogorets Razgrad.
Former Leicester City, Swansea City and QPR coach Paulo Sousa is 3/1 to steer Basel to qualification, or 18/1 to help them top the pool. The Swiss giants have recently claimed an elite European scalp, having beaten Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in 2013/14, and are 66/1 to recreate that sensational scoreline against Los Blancos.
Basel, who were also semi-finalists in the 2012/13 Europa League, should not be discounted after a fine start to the new season. Sousa’s side have won six out of eight league games so far this term, scoring 19 times.
Basel academy product and skipper Marco Streller, 11/2 to net anytime, is joint leading marksman for his hometown club with four league goals, alongside Albania international Shkelzen Gashi, who is available at 20/1 to fire home first.
Fellow forward Yoichiro Kakitani is also making a name for himself at St Jakob-Park after netting twice in five appearances for his new club, and is available at 40/1 to bag a brace or more.
The 24-year-old Japan international has formed part of an exciting young core at the club, including centre back Fabian Schar who is famous for his goalscoring exploits. The daring defender has already opened his Swiss league account this season, and is 12/1 to hit home anytime against a shaky Real defence.
Former Bernabeu bruiser Walter Samuel, now 36, could face his former club here after joining the visitors from Inter Milan. Odds of 20/1 say ex-Argentina international Samuel scores anytime, and 18/1 on Basel keeping a clean sheet.
Ancelotti will be hoping to use this encounter to revive his rusty side, who clearly have work to do before their new recruits gel. The Spanish giants appear to have lost balance since the departures of Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria, with more required from summer midfield acquisitions Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
Speaking ahead of the game, Los Blancos boss Ancelotti stated: “I feel like a coach who has to fix things in the team, the same as happened last year.
“This match comes at the right time as it is a chance to show a positive reaction and demonstrate the good things in the team.
“Starting this competition well is very important. I believe we will be competitive and we will try to win it again.”
Real will have to click into top gear at some point with the wealth of talent at their disposal, and it may well be Basel who feel the wrath of a squad of superstar players humbled by back to back La Liga defeats.
With an incredible array of attacking talents such as Gareth Bale (who is 4/1 to score two or more), Karim Benzema, Isco and Javier Hernandez ( 4/1 to net last) all competing for places in the starting XI, Basel could face a bloodbath.
Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo may not have been able to help Los Blancos avoid defeat against capital competitors Atleti last time out, but he still managed to be on target. Despite a stuttering start to the season, Ronaldo has been the one constant, contributing four goals in five appearances whilst struggling for fitness. The Portugal skipper is 7/1 to blitz Basel by hitting a hat-trick, or 7/4 to bag a brace or better.
With club captain Iker Casillas already the target of boo boys, Los Blancos faithful will be demanding a statement of intent against their Swiss opponents. If Ronaldo does not rush to the rescue, and the capital club slumps to a second successive home defeat, however, it may not just be the Spain skipper who is subject to the frustrations of the crowd.