Sports betting: United to undo weakened Juve

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The Independent Online
HOW LUCKYcan you get? Having beaten Internazionale at a time when Ronaldo, their once-best-in-the-world striker, was under a cloud in the quarter-finals, Manchester United look a great bet at even money with Stanley tomorrow as they entertain a Juventus side who may be minus Zinedine Zidane, their French World Cup winning midfielder, in the first leg of their European Cup semi-final.

Juve, who beat Ajax in 1996 before inexplicably losing to the inferior Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the last two European Cup finals while winning consecutive Italian league titles, used to be the best club side on the continent. But not any more.

They made heavy weather of qualifying for the knock-out stages in the Champions' League before Christmas, were fortunate to get past the ordinary Greek outfit Olympiakos in the quarter-finals and their form in Serie A has been so moderate that their coach Marcello Lippi, who joins Internazionale next term, felt forced to quit early.

Since Lippi left Juve's form initially picked up under their new coach, Carlo Ancelotti, but the Turin giants contrived to get beaten 1-0 at Empoli, Serie A's answer to Nottingham Forest, on Saturday, an ill omen for their trip to the Theatre Of Dreams.

For, going forward at least, United, who beat Juventus 3-2 in the Champions' League at Old Trafford last season, have never looked better. Dwight Yorke has given United the ability to pose a constant goal threat at any level. Yorke is world class and his presence has brought out the best in Andy Cole, his strike partner.

United remain vulnerable to a class outfit at the back but, with Zidane doubtful and Alessandro Del Piero, Juve's brilliant striker out for the season, the remaining forwards, Filippo Inzaghi (overrated), Nicola Amoruso and Daniel Fonseca, are hardly a trio to strike fear into the heart of the Old Trafford faithful.

Dynamo Kiev may be held to a draw by Bayern Munich in the first leg of the other semi-final in Kiev. Bayern, who are dominating the Bundesliga, drew 2-2 at Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend and although without their brilliant French full-back Bixente Lizarazu (injured), can contain Dynamo, not always at their best at home and unimpressive in their other guise - they supply most of the Ukraine national team - against Iceland last week.

On Thursday, Chelsea should establish a first-leg lead, but it will not be easy against the useful Spanish defensive outfit Real Mallorca in the first leg of their European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge. Real Mallorca have conceded only 21 league goals in 28 games in this season.

Meanwhile tomorrow, Marseilles, who went back to the top of the French league by beating Monaco last Friday, can beat Serie A mid-table outfit Bologna in the first leg of their Uefa Cup semi-final, while the classy Parma can gain a draw at the often disappointing Spanish club Atletico Madrid.

The best bet in the Masters is Tiger Woods (generally 6-1) who loves Augusta. David Duval is 5-1 favourite following back-to-back victories on the American tour, but the pressure may get to him. Lee Westwood, the only British player with an chance, may find the lightning greens at Augusta too hot.

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C H L S T

Man Utd 4-5 4-5 8-11 evens 8-11

draw 11-5 2-1 11-5 2-1 11-5

Juventus 3-1 10-3 10-3 5-2 10-3

Chelsea 1-2 8-15 4-9 8-13 1-2

draw 12-5 5-2 13-5 9-4 12-5

Real Mallorca 5-1 9-2 11-2 4-1 5-1

Other selections: Uefa Cup semi-final first legs: Atletico Madrid to draw with Parma (9-4, H); Marseille (sports betting's ante-post selection at 20-1, now 3-1) to beat Bologna (5-6, C). Premiership: Arsenal to beat Blackburn (4-11, H); Leicester to draw with Aston Villa (12-5, C & T). Tomorrow: European Cup semi-final first leg: Dynamo Kiev to draw with Bayern Munich (9-4, C & T). Thursday: European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final first leg: Lokomotiv Moscow to draw with Lazio (9-4, T).

C Coral, H William Hill, L Ladbrokes, S Stanley, T Tote

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