This is it. The last step before Istanbul (which was once Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople). This week will decide the two clubs to reach the Champions League final. The only thing we know at this point is that we’ll have one team from Serie A in the final, and whichever one it is, they’ll be facing one of the most powerful clubs in the world these days.
Other than that, seemingly everything is still up in the air. Sure, Inter has a 2-0 lead on AC Milan after the first leg, but it’s not like a two-goal margin is insurmountable. As for Manchester City and Real Madrid, they enter deadlocked at 1-1.
What will happen this week? I don’t know! I’m not psychic! I’m just some schlub making educated guesses. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Date: Tuesday, May 16 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
The biggest news heading into the match is that Rafael Leao is expected back for AC Milan. That’s huge because AC Milan are a different team with him. His absence last week was the primary reason we bet Inter Milan to win, and, well, you saw the result. Inter come into the second leg with a 2-0 advantage. An advantage I expect they’ll do their best to sit on, but I don’t expect Inter to park the bus entirely.
While Milan didn’t score in the first leg, they had chances and probably should have. Inter blitzed Milan early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, but Milan kept coming. That’s part of why I don’t expect Inter to sit back because they tried to in the first match and put themselves in trouble. With Leao back, I expect Milan to score. With Milan needing to score twice and be aggressive, I also expect that leads to plenty of opportunities for Inter. The Pick: Both Teams To Score (-115)
Featured Game | Inter vs. AC Milan
Manchester City vs. Real Madrid
Date: Wednesday, May 17 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: CBS/Paramount+
All right, here’s the thing. Logically, I expect Manchester City to win the match and move on to the final. However, we’re dealing with Real Madrid in the Champions League here, and logic must be thrown out the window in cases like this. Understanding that City weren’t quite as aggressive as I anticipated in the first match, I was still impressed by the job Real Madrid did holding Erling Haaland and City in check. They finished with only 0.5 expected goals in the match. However, City’s performance against Everton over the weekend raised my eyebrows a bit. Yes, they won 3-0, but they finished with an xG of only 0.8 and didn’t look all that impressive in victory.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid watched Barcelona clinch La Liga over the weekend, but it didn’t come as a surprise. It’s been obvious Real Madrid weren’t going to win the league for a long time. That’s led to Madrid making the Champions League their focus. City have been trying to win both the Champions League and the Premier League. As good and deep a team as City are, that wears on you as a player. Knowing one loss could be one loss too many is a lot of pressure to deal with constantly. After considering all this, the chances Real Madrid wins this match or force extra time feel much higher than the odds listed suggest. The Pick: Real Madrid or Draw (+130)
Featured Game | Manchester City vs. Real Madrid
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Roma
Date: Thursday, May 18 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
Instead of goalscorer props this week, I’m adding a Europa League match to the card because I see value here. Jose Mourinho did not earn his reputation as a coach willing to park the bus by accident. It’s a strategy he’s used to win competitions his entire career and one I expect he’ll implement again Thursday.
Mourinho has been complaining about the lack of squad depth for weeks, and we’ve seen how he’s responded tactically. Roma’s had the bus parked for about a month in all competitions. While they’ve been solid defensively all year, they were more daring in attack until about mid-April, and they enter Thursday not having reached 1.5 xG in any of their last six matches. That includes the 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen last week. Leverkusen may feel like Jose’s somehow snuck four extra players into his defense during the match. The Pick: Under 2.5 (-145)
Featured Game | Bayer Leverkusen vs. Roma