Atletico to finish the job

  • By: Ben Linfoot
  • Last Updated: May 23 2014, 16:24 BST

Ben Linfoot is sticking with outright tips Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final, while he has a 50/1 first goalscorer tip.

Miranda: A decent bet at 33/1 to open the scoring
Miranda: A decent bet at 33/1 to open the scoring

We're all set for an enthralling UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon on Saturday night, as Real Madrid bid to win the trophy for a 10th time, the 'decima', with city rivals and newly-crowned La Liga champions Atletico standing in their way.

The narrative of the La Liga campaign saw Atletico begin the season as plucky underdogs, but as the story of the Spanish title race developed it became clear that Diego Simeone's side were more than just well organised. They have class, a lot of it, and they were deserved winners of the league title.

There wasn't much in it, of course. The big three were separated by just three points and it went down to a nail-biting final match at the Nou Camp, where Barcelona were 'Simeoned' with Atletico getting the point they needed to secure the league.

Real Madrid were out of it come the final day, but they only finished three points behind Atletico and a 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderon in March is another example of how little there is between the teams.

Atletico won the reverse La Liga fixture 1-0, but a 5-0 aggregate win for Los Blancos in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey is one of the reasons why they are hot favourites at around even money to win the Champions League final in 90 minutes on Saturday night.

They didn't have the pressures of a La Liga title race on the line last weekend either, while the doubts surrounding the fitness of Atletico's star front man Diego Costa are another reason why Atletico Madrid are available at 100/30.

But, even accounting for all of this, should Los Rojiblancos really be such a big price?

Simeone's men have been underestimated throughout their Champions League campaign, yet they found a way against Barcelona and they found a way against Chelsea.

'The way' was simply being better at football and at 100/30 they look too big a price once again. After all, they haven't been beaten in the Champions League this season after nine wins and three draws.

The Costa situation is an obvious concern, though. He's reportedly gone for a bit of 'horse placenta' therapy on his hamstring and is clearly struggling, but you wouldn't bet against him lining up in what is likely to be his last game for Atletico.

Yet with or without Costa, Atletico's gameplan will be the same. They defend as one unit, will hassle Real for possession, pouncing on any mistakes and, if it's tight, they will try to nick a goal either through another dazzling spell of adventure, on the counter-attack or from a set-piece.

Simeone gets the best out of his players like no other manager in Europe. In three seasons at Atletico he's won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League and that experience will be vital in Lisbon.

Bet on the Champions League Final with Sky Bet

And no matter what the league table or Real Madrid say, Atletico are the underdogs here. The pressure of winning a 10th European Cup could well take its toll on Ancelotti's men and the pressure is off Atletico somewhat, with the La Liga title already in the bag.

Absences could well hurt Real Madrid too, with Xabi Alonso suspended and Karim Benzema a doubt - two players almost as vital to Real's cause as Costa is to Atletico's.

Of course, Gareth Bale and particularly Cristiano Ronaldo could win it for Real Madrid with a moment of brilliance, but Atletico snuffed out the threat of that expensive duo in La Liga and in a tight, tense, cagey final they could do so again.

In a nutshell, I think this is going to be a really close encounter and picking a winner is really tough to call. Under 2.5 goals, the 0-0 and 1-1 correct scores and win-to-nil options for both sides are all possible bets, but the layers aren't giving anything away.

The best bet could be to simply back Atletico to win, as 100/30 looks to underestimate the Spanish champions and if you haven't backed them already, I wouldn't put you off them at those odds.

But having advised Atletico at 40/1 before the tournament started there is little point in me backing them again now and for a bet in the final I'm drawn to the goalscorer markets.

We saw last weekend how dangerous Atletico are from crosses and set-pieces when Diego Godin headed in the equaliser against Barcelona and this is borne out in the stats.

In the Champions League 41 per cent of their goals have come from set-pieces, while in La Liga it was 31 per cent. That's 34 goals from set pieces in the two competitions this season and in a tight showpiece final, the accurate delivery from players of the calibre of Koke could well be the difference.

Picking which player is best placed to take advantage is the problem, as Atletico have so many players with aerial prowess. However, central defender Miranda scored from a corner with a header to win Atletico the Copa del Rey against Real Madrid last season and those memories could well spur him on when it comes to the crunch.

With four goals to his name this season, including two in the Champions League, he looks overpriced at 33/1 to open the scoring.

A small bet on the Brazilian defender to complement our outright tips Atletico looks the way to go, and we're firmly behind Simeone's troops to finish the job off following their tremendous campaign at home and in Europe.