Ronaldo and Real Madrid will face Liverpool. Photo by Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Our first losing piece in the last 8, the busting of the bookies was put on hold. Be we are back, with a sort of vengeance, as the Champions League final has arrived.
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
The venue: NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv – the capital of Ukraine
In front of 63,000 fans live, and 2.8 million viewers worldwide, we get a cracker of a match between to of Europe's most prestigious clubs as well as two of the biggest stars.
Ronaldo, his name alone, draws the attention of even the less casual soccer fan. For good reason, as the Real Madrid striker always puts on a show, and Saturday will be no different. Ronaldo is scorching hot and leads the tournament with 15 goals this campaign. He has scored in 9 goals in his last ten matches. He also leads with goals scored in all competitions this season with 50.
His superstar counterpart, or the villain per say, none other than King Mohamed Salah, who brings his own scoring streak of 8 goals in his last ten matches. Fresh off being named the Premier League Player of the Year for netting a record-breaking 32 goals in a 38 game season, the Egyptian will look to break down a shaky Madrid defense, but one that's boosted by an offense that's scored in the last 12 Champions League Matches. Scoring won't be the problem; it will be the defense of Liverpool that will be asked to sustain heavy pressure for most of the match while trying to create from out of the back. The Liverpool tactics prosper when the high pressure and counter attacks are functioning correctly. The three-headed monster Liverpool has in Mane, Firmino and Salah take the smallest of space and turn it up-field into counters that leaves defenders on their back foot trying to recover.
Matches like this require experience in moments where the game will be won or lost. Liverpool has given up a massive amount of goals in second halves, something I think derives from the fact the players exert so much energy early in games with he ultra pressure they are asked to exhibit. This match will see goals a plenty, as we have seen all tournament long at a pace of 3.2 per game.
Liverpool comes into this match as the highest scoring side in this competition with 40 goals; second place is Real Madrid with 30. The game sets up perfect for the fan of high scoring affairs, with both of these team generating plenty of chances and ranking in the top 5 in opportunities created, only trailing Bayern Munich
Real Madrid Team Total Over 1.5 5U
Real Madrid to win the Cup 5U
Over 3 5U
Both teams score and Madrid Win +240
Ronaldo Scores a goal 3U
Sergio Ramos scored +800
Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 6:
Cavaliers Team Total First Half Over 51
Cavaliers Team Total Game over 104
Warriors vs Rockets Game 6
Warriors -3 First Quarter
Warriors -6 First Half
Warriors Team Total Over 112 Game
Stephen Thompson +112
For any questions or comments reach me @JerryBoKnowz on Twitter
Day one of Astros’ spring training certainly turned out to be more newsy than day one usually is.
Justin Verlander having had some shoulder discomfort that puts him in his words “a little bit behind schedule” isn't flat out ominous but isn't great. Verlander is a couple weeks behind to be more specific. Every little bit counts especially at 40 years old, so Verlander’s availability to start the regular season on time is clearly a question mark. If Verlander can’t answer the season opening bell it’s no big deal…so long as his Hall of Fame right arm is fine after that. Saving some treadwear on the tires could be helpful later in the season.
Verlander’s days of making 30-plus starts in a season are finished. In building his Cooperstown resume Verlander was spectacularly durable, making at least 30 starts in 13 out of 14 seasons starting with his 2006 Rookie of the Year campaign. Before blowing out his elbow in his lone start of the COVID-delayed 2020 season, 2015 was the only year Verlander spent time on the injured list. Verlander is still very good but Father Time has made incursions. In his incredible third Cy Young Award-winning 2022 season with the Astros Verlander made 28 starts, missing time to a calf issue. His 2023 launch with the Mets was delayed a month because of a shoulder problem. He wound up making 27 starts and pitching 162 innings last season. The Astros would be delighted if JV could match those numbers in 2024. 140 innings is a key marker. If Verlander gets there, a 35 million dollar option becomes his for 2025.
J.P. France also showed up in West Palm Beach dealing with shoulder inflammation. France was a revelation last year before fading down the stretch. Honestly, he was likely over his head before that. It’s quite optimistic to think of France as an excellent number four starter behind Verlander, Framber Valdez, and Cristian Javier.
Speaking of guys who faded down the stretch last year, hello Framber. Valdez’s 3.07 earned run average through August 1 (the day he no-hit the Cleveland Guardians) ballooned to a 4.29 mark covering his last 10 starts, then he stunk in two of his three postseason starts while being merely below average in the third. It’s only from seeing a couple of images from Wednesday, but Framber appears noticeably slimmer. From “La Grasa” to “El Delgado?” Did a weight issue impact Valdez’s decline last season? Can’t say for sure, but as a general rule would you rather place your bet for sustained quality performance on someone in top physical condition or someone not in top physical condition? The weight question could plausibly apply to Cristian Javier as well.
The other two guys slotted for starting rotation roles carry their own questions. Hunter Brown’s rookie season was ultimately a disappointment. After a strong April with a 2.74 ERA, Brown basically stunk the rest of the way with a 5.74 ERA. From July 1 to the end of the regular season the ERA was a horrifying 6.95. Those are the numbers of someone who without improvement belongs in the minor leagues. Solid to significant improvement is needed. He has the stuff to make it happen. Then there is Jose Urquidy who comes off an injury-hampered unimpressive season.
With Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers not returning from their injuries until at least midseason, the Astros’ rotation looks shakier heading into the season than it has in years. Yet it still looks better than where the Texas Rangers’ rotation is at right now.
Man with a plan
New skipper Joe Espada wasted no time in confirming what seemed pretty obvious. Newly acquired Josh Hader is the Astros’ new closer. Hader wasn’t signed to a five year 95 million dollar contract to be a setup man. He’s a pretty safe bet to work out better for the Astros than did the last flamethrowing lefty closer they acquired. That was Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.” After giving up Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series winning home run, Williams was dealt from Philadelphia to Houston. Williams was a disaster. He lived down to his nickname by walking 24 batters in 20 innings in compiling a 7.65 ERA over 25 outings.
Hader becoming the primary ninth inning man is a demotion for Ryan Pressly but nothing catastrophic. Pressly’s role is still significant and his 14 million dollar option for 2025 becomes guaranteed based upon appearances not saves. Pressly gets the 14 mil next year if he appears in 50 regular season games this year. Pressly pitched in 65 games in 2023. In fact, he has reached the 50 appearances plateau in each of the last seven full schedule seasons.
Hader makes 19 million dollars this season. Pressly pulls down 14 million. Bryan Abreu has to get by on 1.75 million in this his first season of salary arbitration eligibility. The Astros control Abreu’s rights through the 2026 season.