RYAN ON THE MADRID DERBY & EUROPEAN KNOCKOUT GAMES: It’s a huge couple of days in European football’s top two competitions. Semi final places are on the line so it’s time to pick some winners.

We begin in Madrid where it was all-square with no goals between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Drawing the first leg wasn’t an ideal result for Atletico but avoiding conceding an away goal lifts a huge amount of pressure from the La Liga champions. There is nothing they have to do, it’s all about what they can do. For Real, of course, home advantage is a big plus but their record against their city rivals in recent times doesn’t inspire confidence.

Outside of that win in the Champions League final last year, Real have repeatedly been inferior to their city rivals for two seasons now. The market respects that and has only installed them as narrow favourites in this one. At 4.5, Atletico look tremendous value but I’m not backing an away win. At least not in 90 mintues. No, the value here is to take the draw. With so little between this sides, it’s likely to be an extremely cagey affair. Bet on the game to end all square after 90 minutes at 3.45.

The other game sees Monaco host a Juventus team that holds a narrow 1-0 lead heading into tonight’s second leg. Defence has been Monaco’s strong point this season, both in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, but facing a deficit in this game they will have to open up at some stage. That should create enough gaps for Juventus to exploit and I like the Italian champions to take advantage when they get the opportunity. It’s going to be a counter-punching effort from Juve but one that knocks Monaco out of the Champions League. Bet on Juventus to win at 2.34.

Finally we turn our attention to the Europa League. Last week I said Napoli had to win big as underdogs and they delivered in style. This time it’s Serie A’s Fiorentina that get this column’s attention. Dynamo Kiev secured at draw at home to the Italians in the first leg but their form so far this season has showed they are far weaker away. Couple that with Fiorentina already holding an away goal advantage and it’s hard to look beyond a home win here. Bet on Fiorentina to win and make the semi-finals at 1.75.

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