Soccer bettors beware, there’s a train being conducted by Cristiano Ronaldo headed into Sofia, Bulgaria and its name is Real Madrid. Plain and simple, we foresee poor Ludogorets getting run over.
The obvious media storyline here at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria will be big bad and rich Real Madrid, from the powerful Spanish Primera League, against poor little Ludogorets Razgrad, from the few-have-ever-heard-of Bulgarian A Football Group, in a match in which probably the majority watching will be pulling for the big upset—until the top of the hour when they realize their delusions when Los Blancos are probably up 2-0 some 20 minutes into this Group B match Wednesday (Oct. 1) (Sky Go/Sky Go Extra (UK), Fox Soccer Plus/Fox Soccer 2Go (US), 20:45CET 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT).
And storylines are just fine for the media and television and radio producers, but for sports bettors, muting out all of the external and unnecessary noise and not caring about narratives and storylines and what one wants to happen or maybe what one thinks has been conspired to happen is imperative to think clearly about specific games and your individual bets on those games. In this particular match, it seems the oddsmakers just can’t make or post soccer odds high enough to scare away a Real Madrid and/or Real Madrid games Over bettor. And handicapping backwards—with a perceived final score of Real Madrid 7-0 (or maybe 6-0) in mind—opens up a number of potentially nice betting options in what at first glance appears like a boring game and one hard in which to find a decent play. But there are a bunch of them hidden here.
Who are Ludogorets Razgrad and Why are They Playing Madrid in the CL?
PFC Ludogorets Razgrad were founded just 13 years ago and took its name from one of the first teams from the town of Razgrad (population 32,500), a club founded back in 1945. Ludogorets, the smallest town/city to have a club participating in this year’s UEFA Champions League Group Stage, actually won a treble in its first year in the Bulgarian A Group by capturing the league title and winning both the Bulgarian Cup and the Bulgarian Supercup. The Eagles made it all the way to the Europa League Round of 16 last year—beating PSV Eindhoven and Lazio along the way—before being bounced by Valencia.
But Ludogorets (0-1-0, 0 pts, -1 GD) is extremely fortunate to be here in the Group Stage, after having to use a defender (Cosmin Mo?i) as its goalkeeper after the Eagles regular goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in extra time for taking down an opposing attacker in the series’ second leg in Razgrad. Mo?i—coincidentally a Romanian—stopped Steaua in the subsequent penalty kick shootout—he scored also—to send Ludogorets (#78 in latest FIFA ranking) on to this stage in the world’s more prestigious and lucrative sports tournament and providing the upstart Bulgarian club with at least an $11 million or more payday. UEFA said that the precise figure for just making the Champions League last season was $11.35 million.
But during that classic qualifying game in Razgrad, both Ludogorets Razgrad and Steaua Bucharest fans were sanctioned by the UEFA for racism which means that the home team here, Ludogorets, will have to close off a section off the stadium as a penalty. But this is insignificant in the handicap. Because Ludogorets’ little home stadium—Ludogorets Arena, capacity 6,500—in Razgrad does not comply with UEFA regulations, the club plays here in Sofia, 170 miles away. And while Real Madrid and president Florentino Pérez spend about as much money as anyone in the history of the sport pursuing players like an exotic automobile collection, Ludogorets Razgrad operates on a scant €5 million annual budget.
Ludogorets coach Georgi Dermendziev used 26-year-old Croatian-born, Serbian-Canadian backup Milan Borjan effectively in goal in the Eagles dramatic 2-1 loss at Anfield against Liverpool on Matchday 1 and the Eagles have a decent attack which includes midfielders Dani Abalo (goal against Liverpool) and Marcelinho (2 goals CL qualifying) and forwards Hamza Younés and Roman Bezak (2 goals CL qualifying). But despite Ludogorets romantic qualification to this Group Stage and admirable effort at Merseyside, it’s not hard to imagine what is going to happen when a team from a small town in Bulgaria with a €5 million budget plays a team from a big city in Spain with a seemingly unlimited one. Better hide the women and children.
Examining the Odds and the Proposition Bets Marketplaces for This Match
Defending champions, Real Madrid (1-0-0, 3 points, +4 GD), are intent on becoming the first club to repeat as back-to-back Champions League winners and by signing James Rodríguez (AS Monaco) Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Javier Hernández (Manchester United) and goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Levante) over this past summer transfer period to go with their already stacked roster, Los Blancos did what they always do—just add another wing on to the house. But Real Madrid (opened -500 To Win Group B now—up from +350, Sky Bet) did lose a very key cog in midfielder Ángel Di María (Manchester United), but with youngsters like the dynamic Isco and Jesé (Rodríguez), this may be one of two or three clubs on the planet that could actually lose a guy like Di María and still win the European championship...again.
After crushing Swiss champions FC Basel, 5-1 on Matchday 1 at the Santiago Bernabéu and then battering Deportivo, 8-2 at Riazor last Saturday in La Liga play—as Ronaldo had a hat trick and Bale and Rodríguez each had two goals—this team is now nothing more than a bunch of hungry piranhas in boots. Real Madrid (+320 To Win CL, Ladbrokes; -137 To Make CL Final, Sky Bet) has scored more goals this past week (13) than every single team but one in the English Premier League (Chelsea, 16) has scored all season. So, Ludogorets (+10,000 To Win Group, Sky Bet) is pretty much in the wrong place in the wrong time brother and the +1000 odds to win this home game on Matchday 2 reflect that cold reality (Real Madrid -450 , To Win/Three-Way Line; Draw +600, Sky Bet). And, soccer bettors seldom see many Total Goals numbers posted at 3½ (Over -110, BetVictor), but, that’s what it seems to always be when Real Madrid (#1, FIFA rankings) plays and it’s pretty obvious to take the Over 3½ -110 once again here in Bulgaria.
And, quite honestly, it (the posted Total) just never seems to be high enough when Los Blancos are involved, and with Christian Bale (22 goals overall last season) and legend Ronaldo (51), Karim Benzema (25), Isco (11), Álvaro Morata (10), Sergio Ramos (7), Jesé (5), Luka Modric, Sami Khedira and now Rodríguez, Kroos and Hernández, this team basically is having a contest amongst themselves to see who can score the most goals—something good to know for bettors intent on backing Real Madrid, Overs in its games and specific props where a perceived mathematical edge can be seen.
Churning Some Butter From the Often Overlooked Props Wager Markets
Any handicapping breakdown of formations or tactical analysis in this match is just someone filling space because it’s obvious this is a mismatch, a blowout to be. And the fact that it’s being played in Sofia—although the crowd will be loud for its host Ludogorets side—it simply means that a number of lucky fans will get to say that they once saw the great Cristiano Ronaldo play live. That’s all. This is one of those rare, almost perfect games to in which to work backwards in the handicap and the make wager selections from a perceived score, which should to be in the 5-0, 5-1, 6-0, 6-1, 7-0, 7-1 range—much like Matchday 1 in Madrid. It’s up to Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas to determine whether the Eagles get that lone goal or not but this game looks again like a high-scoring, Real Madrid blowout if you need the proper words. Best to keep some things simple.
Using that premise with this match, the Asian Handicap will actually come in handy, with Real Madrid -3.5 +280 (bet365) seeming like a pretty risky, but still a nice way to begin. And if the above final scoreline range is somewhat close to what ends up happening on the pitch in Razgrad, then taking a chance on the Over 5½ goals prop at +500 (BetVictor) also seems worth a very small bet. Another odd (and precise) but really fun pick here would be Real Madrid 7-0 (100/1, Paddy Power), and if there was ever a game that could end up 7-0 it’s a Real Madrid-Ludogorets Razgrad game in the Group Stage of the Champions League—either away or home (Santiago Bernabéu), where Real Madrid will play host to Ludogorets on Dec. 9 on Matchday 6 when Group B will probably already have long been wrapped up by CR7 and Los Blancos.
The Anytime Goalscorer props have yet to be released at press time, but good Champions League picks in that prop market would obviously be Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema, although they will likely have the shortest odds. And probably my favorite pick in this game, value-wise, is taking Real Madrid/Real Madrid Halftime/Fulltime -150 (Sky Bet) as the visitors should get 3 or 4 goals in the first half and 3 or 4 goals in the second half here and coast to an easy win in the beautiful Bulgarian capital.
In the end this handicap is quite simple: Ludogorets is the little cow trying to cross the Amazon River and Real Madrid are the hungry piranhas. Even if the little cow does make it across the river, he will have been bitten several times. Like maybe six or seven. There’s just no way around it. Los Blancos roll to an easy win in this one with at least four different players scoring against Ludogorets.
Free Soccer Prediction: Real Madrid 7 Ludogorets 0
Free Soccer Picks: Over 3½ -110 (BetVictor), Real Madrid/Real Madrid Halftime/Fulltime -150 (Sky Bet)
Free Soccer Props Picks: Real Madrid -3.5 +280 (bet365), Over 5½ +500 (BetVictor)