In a boda fide blockbuster, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo faces former club Manchester United in the Round of 16 of the Champions League
|By PAUL GOUGH
They might be a staggering 12 points clear and with a 13th English Premier League title in the past 21 seasons all but sewn up, but Manchester United are being given little chance of upsetting Spanish giants Real Madrid at home in the first leg of their European Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday [Thursday morning Australian time].
In what will be possibly the most watched game in the world so far this season, the match will also mark the first time Real Madrid's Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has faced his former club since he left Old Trafford to move to the Bernabeu at the end of the 2008-09 season.
And while Real Madrid sit a distant third in La Liga - a massive 16 points behind their arch rivals Barcelona - the punters are firmly behind them to win the first leg against United in front of what is sure to be a gigantic home crowd in Madrid.
And the betting is just as lop-sided elsewhere, with Real Madrid the $1.60 favourites at the TAB and $1.55 at Eskander's Betstar, where United are paying $4.60 and $5.80 respectively.
However it is hard to see why there should be such a gulf in betting between two of the world's best supported clubs given their respective form this season.
|More than 3.5 goals scored in Real Madrid v Man Utd at $2.68 at Betfair
||Ronaldo to score the first goal in Real Madrid v Man Utd at $4.90 at Betfair|
United were untroubled in qualifying for the knockout stages from a weak Group H and have plenty of firepower to trouble the Real Madrid defence through Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
And Real looked shaky at home in the group stages this season, when they were held to a 2-2 draw by German club Borussia Dortmund and were lucky to beat United's English rivals Manchester City 3-2.
However, United will have to find a way to stop their former superstar Ronaldo, a player who is clearly the world's second best behind Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
Not surprisingly, Ronaldo is the $4.50 favourite at sportsbet.com.au and $4.90 at Betfair to score the first goal of the eagerly anticipated clash, ahead of teammate Karim Benzema paying $5.50 at sportsbet.com.au and $7.20 at Betfair.
However, while Ronaldo will certainly have a major impact on the game, United are more than capable of scoring plenty in this one as well in a match where there simply has to be goals, given the incredible array of attacking talent on display for both sides.
That makes the $2.68 on offer at Betfair on there being more than 3.5 goals scored in the match well worth taking, considering these two teams shared 11 goals across two legs in their last meeting in the Champions League ten years ago.
In a match likely to be played in freezing conditions, we fancy the draw at odds of $3.55 given Dortmund went through unbeaten in the group stages, despite being drawn in the toughest of the eight groups alongside Real Madrid, Man City and Ajax.
* Note prices subject to change