The Champions League semifinal ties have been decided. Which teams are looking likely for a spot in the final come May?
The champions league semifinal ties have been decided, and they has provided us with a Germany vs Spain double. Both clashes have the potential to be classics, with many of the worlds stars on display.
Bayern vs Barcelona:
Barcelona struggled to get past PSG (who put up a great fight) without their wonderboy Lionel Messi. This is worrying for the Catalans, who will go up against stronger attacking fluidity from the Germans. The defence has clearly been Barca’s biggest weakness, one which Bayern will look to expose quickly. Mascherano has generally covered well for Puyol, but his lack of pace will be exposed when faced against the likes of Ribery and Robben.
In most games, Barca are used to being able to boss the midfield, with Iniesta and Xavi keeping them ticking. However, against Bayern, they face a midfield trio who have the caliber to match them. Schweinsteiger has had another stand out season, and with Muller often playing slightly ahead of him, the German duo have been unplayable at times (just look at their stunning +70 goal difference in the BundesLiga!). Barca will not be able to sit back and dictate the game as they usually do against “lesser” opposition, and will be up against it. Bayern also has in form forward Mario Mandzukic, who has endeared himself well to the club and fans, displacing the prolific Mario Gomez , and contributing to the overall game by chasing balls down and running the flanks if needed. For Barcelona, their usually reliable front line ( minus Messi) has struggled. Sanchez hasn’t been able to acclimate himself to a central forward role, the aging Villa has seemingly become a bench option, Pedro is plagued by inconsistency, and Fabregas has not been entirely comfortable playing the false number 9 role.
With their current form, and Barca’s unconvincing display against PSG, I feel Bayern have the quality to knock out the Spaniards at the semi final stage for the second year running. Heynckes will be looking to go out on a high note before he will be replaced by Ex Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola, and after last season’s heartbreak, will have his team in prime shape to go one better this year.
Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund:
You just cant not enjoy this Borussia Dortmund team. After completing a remarkable comeback against Malaga, scoring two goals in stoppage time, they have become the favorite for many neutrals out there. The team plays free-flowing, attacking soccer, and has a fantastic group of core players pushing it forward. You sense this might be there last chance for a big push, as many of their stars are reportedly being courted by major clubs from across the globe. Lewandowski, Goetze, and Hummels form a strong spine from which the team has been built on. Along with smart signings such as the loan return of Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin, and the emergence of new youngsters such as Ilkay Gundogan and Reus, Coach Jurgen Klopp has formed an exciting, and deep squad. The spirit the team plays with is a joy to watch, and some of the soccer played has been exquisite. Take the first goal against Malaga; an extraordinary counter attack which culminated in a Reus back heel flick to Lewandowski who had the presence of mind to flick the ball over the keeper, before coolly slotting home.
Having topped the “group of death” which included Real Madrid and Manchester City during the group stages, Borussia have already shown they can compete with the big boys. Madrid were only able to earn one point against Borussia, losing at the BVB Stadion, before being held at the Santiago Bernabeu. They will certainly be wary of this heading into the tie. With most speculation and common consensus saying that Mourinho will be leaving at the end of the season, there is no better way which Mourinho loves to leave a club than to win the champions league with them. Having been tasked with winning the champions league when he first signed with Madrid, getting to the final and winning would be a proper sending off for the Special One. Madrid seems to be slight favorites for this one with an immensely talented squad, caped of by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo himself. With many players capable of scoring, and Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane holding a tight backline, it seems to be about time for Madrid to return to the finals of the competition. They are my slight favorites to edge the tie, which should provide many thrills.
The Champions League has spoiled us with two glamour ties, and while many feel an El Clasico finale is in the cards, Im pulling for a Bayern- Madrid encounter. Regardless, it should be another fantastic round of soccer, so make sure to tune in for the first legs on the April 23rd and 24th.
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