Saturday’s Champions League final will be the first time in the tournament’s history that two German clubs have reached this stage. There have been three previous occasions that teams from the same country have met in the final – England in 2008, Italy in 2003 and Spain in 2000.
Bayern Munich reached this stage by dismantling Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in a semi-final that shook the footballing world. That was the fourth successive match that the German champions had kept a clean sheet in Europe.
In comparison, Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund have managed only three shut outs in their 12 European contests this campaign.
Jupp Heynckes’ side are strong favourites, but they have struggled on the biggest stage in recent years. Bayern have lost three of their past four finals and only last year Chelsea edged them out on penalties, despite Munich having the advantage of playing the showpiece at their home ground. That was their second Champions League final defeat in three years.
Dortmund have not lost to their opponents for six straight league games and that includes four victories. They have already lost star midfielder Mario Gotze to Bayern this summer and Robert Lewandowski has been linked with a move away too, so they will be fired up to claim a famous win and their second European crown after success in 1997 when they surprised Juventus 3-1.
Lewandowski has bagged ten goals in the Champions League this year, compared to Bayern’s top scorer Thomas Muller, who has eight.
The British and Irish Lions leave later this month for the 2013 tour, which culminates in three Tests against Australia, looking to enhance a strong record Down Under. The Lions have won six of their eight tours in Australia (including when they were Great Britain), with an overall record of 15 wins from 20 matches with just five losses.
That’s impressive, particularly when it’s compared to the Lions’ success in New Zealand where they have won just one of 11 tours for a dismal 9% win rate. They were beaten on their last trip to Australia, though, going down 2-1 to the Wallabies. That was their fourth loss in their last five tours.
Warren Gatland caused a bit of stir when he announced his 37-man squad for the tour which kicks off with a fixture against the Barbarians on the 1st June in Hong Kong. Jonny Wilkinson was originally not touring – apparently he informed Gatland he wasn’t sure he was physically up to the level required – but he has now performed a u-turn and the Toulon fly-half is ready to make himself available should he be needed.
Brian O’Driscoll makes his fourth consecutive Lions tour and is the only squad member who toured Australia in 2001. Jonny Wilkinson could of course join him if there are injuries.
Wales’ skipper Sam Warburton willcaptain the side but surprisingly England captain Chris Robshaw has failed to make the cut. Successive Six Nations Championships from Wales highlights their strength and has seen 15 Welshmen picked with ten players from England, nine from Ireland and just three Scots. Controversially, just two fly-halves, Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell, have been picked, leaving many to accuse Gatland of taking an unnecessary risk should injuries occur.
Coincidently, Warren Gatland once picked Sean Maitland for Waikato as a schoolboy and now calls the New Zealand-born Scot up for a Lions tour.
Three uncapped players have been included among the 25 named in the preliminary Wallabies squad. NSW Waratahs fullback Israel Folau and the Brumbies pair of Ben Mowen and Christian Leali’ifano have all been included in the group, which will assemble in Sydney on June 2nd to begin preparations.
Overall the Lions have averaged 17.75 points across those 20 meetings in Australia and have scored 51 tries. In total, 335 points scored and 195 conceded makes for a positive points difference of 140. That’s in stark contrast to their other tours where their totals make for bleak reading.
The Lions have lost 29 of 38 trips to New Zealand and 23 of 46 in South Africa with points differences of -289 and -84 respectively.
So, why do the Lions love it Down Under? Well, the England players have form for letting their hair down there. Former England captain Mike Tindall famously engaged in a dwarf-throwing contest surrounded by a host of beautiful women (none of whom were his girlfriend) during the 2011 World Cup. But the 2001 tour nearly saw Matt Dawson sent home in disgrace for comments made in a newspaper diary before the first Test.
The first clash this summer is at Brisbane Stadium and the Lions have an exceptional record in the city having won all seven previous Tests there. Melbourne is next on the map but the teams have only previously met here once when Australia triumphed. Sydney, the venue for the final Test, has seen the most action with 12 fixtures taking place there. The visitors have won eight.
However, the Lions have won only two of their last eight Tests on tour and went six games without victory before rounding off the 2009 tour in South Africa with a 28-9 victory.
A year ago at Newbury in the Lockinge Stakes, a certain Frankel was making his seasonal reappearance and he swept clear as the 2/7 favourite to score by five lengths in this one-mile contest.
There’s no Frankel this year but the two top-rated horses in Saturday’s renewal, Cityscape and Farhh, both have plenty of form behind the recently retired superstar from last term and will be looking to add a Group One to their CVs – in Farhh’s case a first one after five placings at the top level last season.
Surprisingly, considering all the talent in the Ballydoyle ranks, Aidan O’Brien has only won this once in the last ten years but he saddles favourite Declaration Of War.
Favourites have an exceptional record, winning seven of the last ten runnings, including the last three. Four-year-olds have also won seven of the last ten so that’s a plus for Declaration Of War, as well as the other O’Brien runner Reply.
The biggest starting price in that time was 6/1, suggesting it pays to focus on those at the head of the market.
Richard Hannon has won two of the last three Lockinges and he saddles Trumpet Major.
Only three females have on in the last ten years and Frankel’s trainer Sir Henry Cecil will hope to land successive wins with Beauty Parlour, the only filly or mare in the line-up.
The lowest-rated winner in the last ten years was Virtual in 2009. He was rated 113 – Declaration Of War is only 112. Both Cityscape and Farhh are rated 124.
Thursday 9th May
I’d hit the crossbar a few times up at Chester this week but I felt I had a winner there somewhere. The opener featured a horse I had fancied last weekend but who was pulled out at the last minute. Sir John Hawkwood had been frustrating last year but here he was lining up and getting backed into favouritism.
Only problem is Chester is tighter than a photo finish and he had a wide draw, meaning I was opposing him with Eshtibaak. I bought Paul Hanagan’s mount for 16 and watched as he couldn’t get past Sir John Hawkwood at the finish. That one benefited from a splendid ride so I wasn’t too disappointed, especially as a second place gave me a fine return.
I’ve already bemoaned the play-offs and it’s like the Championship goes on forever. With over 1100 games you’d think they have enough time to sort things out but apparently not. It was Leicester v Watford this evening and a right tricky game to call. Leicester were top of the league a month or so ago but went on a worse run than that time I went for a jog, got savaged by a dog and then got drenched in torrential rain.
I have never quite trusted Watford this season and I thought the best thing to do was sit on the fence and sell goals at 2.6. Late goals generally spoil the party for someone but a solitary strike after 82 minutes didn’t piss on my parade.
Friday 10th May
Just the one bet up at Chester today with Mount Athos a sure thing in my book. Aidan O’Brien’s impressive sequence of winners this week made his Memphis Tennessee a warm order and allowed me to buy the former at 21 on the win index.
He stormed to victory, albeit with his main rival running as if he only had two legs. That set me up beautifully for Ascot’s evening meeting where I’d heard word that Richard Hannon’s Oriel was a bit special.
Even at 27 I had to have a little bite but she was rather less special than I expected, plugging on for second and giving me a slight loss. Not to worry, the second leg of my bulletproof Hannon double was coming up, Intrigo in the last.
This fellow has been paying his way of late but he evidently didn’t fancy filling up the Esdaile coffers any further, finishing a well-beaten favourite and left me chasing losses in another bloody play-off game.
Amazingly, I’d heard the crunch clash between fierce rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton described as a ‘derby’. Now as an old-school football aficionado I was taught derbies were local affairs where going down the motorway for over an hour wasn’t part of the deal.
Anyway, I didn’t fancy Palace at all considering the form of the teams but selling their supremacy at 0.05 seemed a little pointless so I sold goals at 2.3, knowing the Seagulls had had the most 0-0 draws all season
I missed the goalless stalemate watching re-runs of Britain’s Got Talent with the kids or Britain Doesn’t Have Talent as it should be called.
Saturday 11th May
A bumper day of sporting action headed by the FA Cup final and Derby and Oaks trials meant I really wasn’t as keen as my son was to go and get a new bike. Fair play to him, though, if my first bike was purple with yellow stabilisers I’d probably be keen to get rid of it too. But surely it could wait until Sunday?
No, apparently I’d promised, so off we went. I thought Halfords would be the place to start but I admit to being a little bit out of my depth when confronted with some sixth-form Saturday salesman sprouting nonsense about derailleurs, cassettes and sprockets.
‘Yeah mate, we’ll have a think and come back to you,’ I said before bolting. ‘We’ll have a look on the internet when we get home and choose a nice one there’, I continued to my son in the car home. Luckily it was raining so Alfie was quite glad to be inside.
And I was delighted to be in and see Secret Gesture romp to victory at Lingfield, looking like a smart filly in the making and making my 25/1 ante-post voucher look very big for the Oaks.
Predictably, Nevis won the Derby trial for the all-conquering Ballydoyle outfit and Lightning Cloud ran a stinker in the Victoria Cup to leave my hopes of turning a profit on the horses on the notoriously tricky Jack Of Diamonds back at Lingfield. But not even Ryan Moore could coax a win out of him and third-place resulted in more financial pain.
I had backed no goalscorer in the FA Cup final, though, and sold goals at 3.1 for £200. The game was drifting to a 0-0 draw before Wigan pulled off a fantastic shock and at last landed me a decent pot of over £400.
I better keep that quiet or the little one will be wanting a motorbike!
Sunday 12th May
My brother and his family had to abandon plans to come over last week as we were all quarantined but they came over today and I had a break from betting.
Well, by that I mean I only had one punt. Style Vendome in the French 2000 Guineas was the call and at 16 on the win index proved a valuable pick when he came home clear.
Monday 13th May
I’m in the office all day today sorting a few things out and catching up with the troops. One of them tells me Crystal Palace look a great bet to beat Brighton tonight but usually he can’t tip shit out of a wheelbarrow so I go with the total opposite and buy Brighton/Palace at 0.55 for the second leg of their play-off.
I feel a little bit silly when Palace triumph 2-0. Not the start to the week I was looking for.
Tuesday 14th May
I was a bit harsh on Wigan in last week’s blog and they stuck two fingers up to me on the weekend but I was confident Arsenal would send them back to the Championship later.
I bought the Gunners supremacy at 1.6 for £100 and we were off to a flyer before a Wigan equaliser had everyone asking can they pull of the great escape? No, they couldn’t and Arsene Wenger’s men wrapped up a 4-1 win and surely a Champions League spot?
Incredibly, since Arsene Wenger last won a trophy at Arsenal, all other 91 English league clubs have changed their manager if we include Sir Alex Ferguson.
Wednesday 15th May
Europa League final day and the only play has to be buying Chelsea/Benfica. The Portuguese outfit have lost their last six European finals and I think Rafael Benitez can guide the Blues to successive continental trophies and, you never know, he might even get a begrudging thank you from the ungrateful Chelsea fans.
The Dante at York tomorrow lacks a bit of sparkle now Telescope is out through injury (no-one saw that one coming) and I thought Ghurair was the value to claim the leading Derby trial. Maybe I’m developing a bit of a soft spot for a horse that probably doesn’t deserve one but after doing my money ante-post on him for the Guineas (he didn’t even run) I’m chasing him for a payday. He’s my pick.
Friday’s Copa del Rey final will be the 110th edition of the contest and will feature city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. This is the fourth time that the clubs have met at this stage of the competition with Atletico winning three of the four. Madrid’s only win came on penalties after the 1975 final had finished 0-0.
Both clubs arrive at the Bernabeu undefeated en route to the final. Real have won a third-highest 18 Spanish Cups, with the most recent coming in 2010/11 when they defeated Barcelona 1-0 after extra-time.
Atletico have won the trophy on nine occasions, their last coming 17 years ago. They’ve been beaten finalists three times since.
Extra time has only been required once in seven years and it hasn’t featured a penalty shootout since 1998 when Barcelona beat Majorca.
Real have won the last ten straight games against their city rivals with the last defeat to them coming in the 1999/2000 campaign. That run stretches over 25 meetings.
This derby has kept referees busy over the past two seasons with a total of 24 yellows and two reds shown in the past four matches. The average bookings total currently stands at 73 points.