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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Little to choose between European giants Real and Juve

Sage betting advice and thoughts from the Soccer Boffin

Gianluigi Buffon celebrates Juventus's first-leg win at Monaco
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How can we compare Champions League finalists Juventus and Real Madrid?

Juve this season in the Champions League have got even better results than Madrid: nine wins, three draws and no defeats, with 21 goals scored and just three conceded - only one of those in the knockout stage, and that came in the semi-final second leg when the outcome was already beyond reasonable doubt.

But 12 games is a small sample and could be misleading.

Juve’s results in Serie A have varied little over the last six seasons. Each time they won the title. This season they gained 91 points, one more than their average over the previous five seasons.

Madrid’s results in La Liga have varied little over the past eight seasons. This season they won the title with 93 points, one more than their average over the earlier seven seasons.

I studied the difference over many years between domestic and Champions League results for other teams in Spain and Italy and came to the conclusion that now Madrid are probably better than Juventus but not by much.

I estimate the chance of Madrid lifting the trophy in Cardiff tonight - after normal time, extra time or a penalty shootout - as about 54 per cent, which is not greater than the market does.

There is no edge that I can see in subsidiary markets either. The average number of corners taken in Champions League games most seasons is about ten, and there is no obvious reason to think expectations should be much different over 90 minutes between Juventus and Madrid. Oddsmakers have taken the same view.

The average bookings make-up in Champions League knockout ties over the last eight seasons has been 50 in markets where each yellow counts as ten and each red as 25. There is no evidence to suggest that expectations should be higher in a final. Oddsmakers have reached the same verdict on this as well.

The bookings make-up last year was 60 and three years ago it was 70, but those finals were unusual in that they were derbies between Atletico and Real Madrid. There has been only one other make-up above 40 in the last 16 finals.

The referee tonight will be Felix Brych. He showed three yellow cards in normal time of the 2014 Europa League final between Seville and Benfica. His make-ups at Euro 2016 were 10, 40 and 50, while at the 2014 World Cup they were 55 and 30.

Brych’s card counts over 13 seasons in the Bundesliga have been typical for that competition. Across 41 games and nine seasons in the Champions League his average make-up has been 49.

Thought for the day

If Real Madrid hoist the trophy this will be the 12th year in a row that the Champions League has been won by a club with one of the six biggest payrolls.

It will be the 14th time in 17 years that the Champions League has been won by one of the top six in the Deloitte Football Money League, which ranks clubs by revenue.

However in recent years Juventus have narrowed the gap on Madrid off the pitch as well as on.

Juventus is one of the great names of European football - 33 times champions of Italy, only twice champions of Europe but beaten in six other finals.

The Football Money League started in 2001. In the first three years Juventus were higher than Real Madrid. In each of the first six years Juventus ranked in the top six.

Then in 2006 they were demoted from Serie A for interfering in referee appointments. Although they returned after one year their finances took a hit from which they have not fully recovered.

But Juventus have been moving in the right direction, helped by what have become six Serie A titles in succession and appearances in two of the last three Champions League finals.

In the most recent Uefa club licensing report Real Madrid ranked second for wages and Juventus ninth. In the most recent Football Money League Real Madrid ranked third and Juventus tenth.

Juve this season in the Champions League have got even better results than Madrid: nine wins, three draws and no defeats
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