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Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

The jury's out for a European final that could go either way

Our experts give us their best bets for the Cardiff showpiece

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain celebrates a goal against Lazio
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Alan Alger Betway

Who wins the Champions League?
Real Madrid to edge it. Juventus have a commendable defensive record, but in this one-off game it’s best to focus on ability to put the ball in the net – and Madrid are ahead in that department.

Give us a first goalscorer bet for the final
Raphael Varane might be a value call at around 40-1 outside of the obvious picks for both sides at the head of the market. 

Which British team will do best in next season’s Champions League?
I think Manchester United will go the furthest of the English teams, but that might just be as losing quarter-finalists. I don’t expect the Premier League quintet to go far.

Would you back Huddersfield to stay in the Premier League?
No. The teams outside the top seven or eight in the Premier League this season were rather poor. With that in mind, our compilers took an immediate view that Huddersfield might stay up and went odds-against a return to the Championship. The market settled at odds-on for relegation. I think they can give it a good go though.

Is Marco Silva a good appointment at Watford?
Probably. Their aim is to stay in the Premier League and compete around the mid-table section. As mentioned above, that area contains teams that are much of a muchness, so he should achieve at least that.

Should Arsenal have given Arsene Wenger a two-year contract?
Yes, because at this point he’s stood in front of a board with no succession plan in place and is the only safe option. But it shouldn’t have got that far and he should have been respectfully asked to leave after the FA Cup final with a replacement lined up. Expect two more seasons of league failure. He’s not the man to raise that squad above the par he has set.

Joe Champion Racing Post

Who wins the Champions League?
Juventus have a rock-solid defence and look better equipped than any team in Europe when it comes to stopping Real Madrid from scoring. Their backline is rightly lauded but the Old Lady can call on plenty of attacking talent as well and should cause problems for a Real side who really struggle to keep clean sheets. I think Juve should be favourites.

Give us a first goalscorer bet for the final
If you fancy Juventus to win the match then it’s hard to ignore the obvious and the Argentinian pair look the ones to concentrate on. Gonzalo Higuain has enjoyed another prolific season but Paulo Dybala has been so impressive this season. He scored a brace against Barcelona and may play a starring role once again.

Which British team will do best in next season’s Champions League?
Man City’s impending spending spree marks them out as the most likely candidates, but that was the case at the start of the season and they failed to deliver. Chelsea may not throw the cash around to the same extent but the Blues will want to strengthen to help the battle on all fronts. They look better equipped for knockout football than the other English clubs. 

Would you back Huddersfield to stay in the Premier League?
No. They are a solid enough outfit but I can see them starting the season well before finishing with a whimper. They struggled to stay with the top two in the Sky Bet Championship and, credit where it’s due, recovered to win the playoffs. But they are heavily reliant on loanees and they don’t score enough goals. I think they’ll go down.

Is Marco Silva a good appointment at Watford?
Yes. He did a fine job with a limited Hull squad. To get them in a position where they might have stayed up was a fantastic achievement, even if they didn’t quite have enough in the end. Watford are an average Premier League team and he’s unlikely to perform any miracles at Vicarage Road, but he is more than capable of keeping them in the top flight. 

Should Arsenal have given Arsene Wenger a two-year contract?
No. He’s been a fantastic servant to Arsenal over the years but the time was right for him to step into the background. The board will surely have a replacement lined up when the time does come but Wenger’s failure to secure a Champions League place for the first time in years suggests that keeping him was a backwards step. 

Nick Goff Former odds-compiler

Who wins the Champions League?
I narrowly favour Juventus but I’m not as excited about that as I thought I might be. The prices are a lot closer to where I thought they should be than I had hoped. But for a pivotal few minutes in Munich, where Bayern missed a penalty and had a man sent off, I don’t think Real would be there. I think Juve should be very, very slight favourites.

Give us a first goalscorer bet for the final
Sami Khedira has chipped in with important goals for club and country everywhere he’s played, except at Real Madrid where his licence to get forward was limited because of all the other attacking players around him. He’s a fair price and football has a knack of throwing up players scoring against former clubs in the most important of matches.

Which British team will do best in next season’s Champions League?
Chelsea and Man City will be geared up to challenge on all fronts and therefore most likely to fare best. Man Utd’s title price is based on what they might do in the market rather than what they are capable of at present. Spurs struggled at Wembley last year while Liverpool’s squad needs bolstering. If picking one I’d take Chelsea to go furthest.

Would you back Huddersfield to stay in the Premier League?
The initial quotes to go down seemed too big. I have them rated 0.25 of a goal per game inferior to Brighton and further still from Newcastle. Huddersfield will attract good loan signings but they’ll need them. Newcastle and Brighton will be pretty strong compared to the usual standard of promoted sides, so finding three to finish below Huddersfield is tough.

Is Marco Silva a good appointment at Watford?
Yes. Watford’s model of chopping and changing every season gets a lot of criticism but it has served them very well. How much more can a club like Watford really do? In keeping with the way they’ve behaved in the past, Silva may only be there one season but I’d bet it’s a satisfactory one. He looks to be a really good coach.

Should Arsenal have given Arsene Wenger a two-year contract?
No. I thought now was probably the right time for him to go. I thought they were flattered to get so close to the top four but I wouldn’t rule out Wenger putting it right at Arsenal next season. Fine margins separate the top six sides and, although I don’t see Arsenal challenging for the title as a likely outcome, I wouldn’t be too shocked if they actually do.


Didi Hamann Champions League winner

Who wins the Champions League?
I tipped Juventus at the start and I won’t be abandoning them now. They are a much better team than the one which lost to Barcelona in the final two years ago and I think Max Allegri’s men are the real deal. They are excellently defensively – we saw that against Barca in the quarter-finals – and I don’t see Real Madrid scoring even with Cristiano Ronaldo in the side.

Give us a first goalscorer bet for the final
It’s going to be a low-scoring game where one goal could decide matters and Paulo Dybala is my idea of the matchwinner. Dybala is a special player who can create and score goals, and I would not like to guess what his transfer value is. Man City signed Bernardo Silva for a huge sum and I would have Dybala way ahead of him in terms of talent. 

Which British team will do best in next season’s Champions League?
My advice would be to get on Man City now for the Premier League as their price will surely collapse over the summer and that 9-4 will be looking more like 6-4 or 7-4 in August but I think Chelsea’s approach, which is less about simply trying to outscore teams, is better suited to the Champions League.

Would you back Huddersfield to stay in the Premier League?
No – I’d be a backer of them to go down at 4-6 for two reasons. One is that David Wagner is being linked with the Leverkusen job and if the position is offered to him it would be a tricky one to turn down. I also believe the Premier League will be much stronger next season with Newcastle and Brighton having easily enough to survive. 

Is Marco Silva a good appointment at Watford?
Yes. He looks a pretty good replacement for Walter Mazzarri, although judging by how other managers have been treated at Vicarage Road it looks like he will only get one season in the job. I have no idea what the expectations are at Watford, you would assume it is to stay up but on the evidence of their recent sackings it must be much more.

Should Arsenal have given Arsene Wenger a two-year contract?
No. Finishing fifth and winning the FA Cup is not a sackable offence but I am not sure this is the right move. If Arsenal start next season slowly all that negativity which is hanging around the club will return. There is talent in the squad but Wenger has not got the best out of them for a couple of years and needs to prove he is still up to the job.

James Milton Racing Post

Who wins the Champions League?
It looks such a well-matched contest – albeit between two sides with contrasting styles – that I’m instinctively drawn to the outsiders, Juventus. Much is made of their outstanding defensive record but they also have great quality and variety in their attack and they are capable of unsettling Real in the same way Atletico did early in the semi-final second leg.

Give us a first goalscorer bet for the final
Dani Alves got forward to decisive effect in Juve’s semi-final against Monaco, scoring one of their four goals over the two legs and setting up the other three. He has scored three Champions League goals this season, finding the net three times in his last six games in all competitions, and looks an each-way play at 20-1 with Paddy Power.

Which British team will do best in next season’s Champions League?
Manchester City aren’t messing about in the transfer market and Bernardo Silva’s arrival hugely enhances an attacking unit who scored 24 goals in ten European games (including qualifying) this season. The Citizens reached the semi-finals in 2015-16 and should be a bit more streetwise after that crazy last-16 defeat to Monaco.

Would you back Huddersfield to stay in the Premier League?
No. Promotion may have come too soon for them and Newcastle and Brighton, the other clubs coming up from the Sky Bet Championship, look better equipped for survival. David Wagner has done a great job to get them up but Premier League loanees played key roles in their campaign and it is hard to see them scoring enough goals to stay up.   

Is Marco Silva a good appointment at Watford?
Yes, although they’ll probably still sack him after a year. Silva did very well to keep Hull in the hunt for survival for so long and his coaching methods seemed to galvanise the players he inherited. He also did some smart, inventive business in the January window so it will be interesting to see how much influence over transfers he is allowed at Watford.    

Should Arsenal have given Arsene Wenger a two-year contract?
No. Arsenal’s late-season surge included games against several teams who couldn’t give a toss and the superb FA Cup final victory doesn’t banish memories of those pathetic displays away from home in February, March and April. Too many players have stagnated under Wenger’s comfortable regime and it was time for the great man to bid adieu. 

I narrowly favour Juventus but I’m not as excited about that as I thought I might be
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