By: Farzin Tazesh
As the semi-final matches will get underway on April 26th, we now have a better vision on where to put our money (assuming you like betting and have not decided yet). The quarter-finals round ended this past week, where we witnessed a couple of surprises. If you have been following us since we started, you will remember you were warned to expect a surprise from the beginning. The details follow below.
In a very high profile match, where both sides were representing Spain, Atletico De Madrid defeated FC Barcelona. As I mentioned in my last article, FC Barcelona will have some difficult times after the loss in El Classico, where they let go of the match and experienced their first defeat in 2016. It is very difficult to bring enthusiasm back to the team after such a big defeat, and since then FC Barcelona have suffered two losses out of their last three matches. Two reasons this elimination was expected are as follows. There has been no other team to have won the Champions League twice in row, nor a team representing Europe in World Club Champions, to have won the CL in the following year. On the other side, Atletico Madrid have been Spain’s third major force in Europe, and they have already been in the CL finals but are yet to win the trophy. They were unsuccessful to score in the last round against PSV, but this time their strikers are as good as their defenders, winning them 3-1 on aggregate. They have eliminated one of the world’s greatest teams and are now to face the other strong candidate, Bayern Munich. Atletico also knocked out Barcelona two years ago in the quarter finals, where they went on to beat Chelsea but came short in the finals and lost to their hometown rival, Real Madrid. It is similar to the situation two years ago, except it is Real Madrid that faces an English team, and Atletico that faces Bayern Munich. History has taught us that the team that beats Bayern have a much greater chance of winning the CL trophy.
Real Madrid were expected to survive the quarter finals easily, especially after their victory in El Classico, but they lost the first leg match in Germany, conceding two goals and failing to score any goals themselves. They seemed very prepared for the second leg stadium Bernabeu, where they beat Wolfsburg 3-0 with the help of the great Cristiano Ronaldo, who completed another hat-trick in the CL. After the 2-0 loss in the first leg, there were doubts if Real Madrid could make it to the semi-finals, but Zinedin Zidane proved he is the right manager for Real Madrid. They started the match offensively and scored twice in the first twenty minutes of the match, and a beautiful free kick by Ronaldo won the match for Real. Wolfsburg on the other side were unable to create enough chances to score in the match, especially after one their key players, Julian Draxler, got injured in the first half.
In the other predictable match, Bayern Munich beat SL Benfica after a very competitive match. Although Benfica were not favored against one of the world’s Football giants, they did not disappoint. After the 1-0 loss in Allianz arena, they stopped Bayern with a 2-2 draw. The first leg was dominated more by Bayern, as they were playing at home, where they only scored once and did not concede any. Arturo Vidal scored in the second minute of the match, and they also hold t possession by 64%. Benfica showed that they have plans for the second leg, and preferred to defend rather than attack. In their second leg, it was Raul Jimenez that scored the first goal for Benfica and put both teams’ level on aggregate. Fifteen minutes later, Vidal scored again against Benfica, and that was followed by another one by Sebastian Muller in the second half. Anderson Talisca, one of the young and promising talents, scored for Benfica, but they still needed to score twice to eliminate Bayern on aggregate. Bayern held most of the possession again, showing that Pep Guardiola still believes in possession. Bayern is now preparing for their clash against Atletico De Madrid. They seem fresh even though some of their key players such as Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng remain injured. They are believed to have one of the deepest squads skill-wise, where some of the greatest talents in the world, such as Mario Gotze, are struggling to make the first team. They have Lewandowski up in front and Manuel Neuer as the goalkeeper, and they are supported by young and veteran players from any part of the ground. It is sure their match against Atletico will be very competitive and interesting to watch. Although Atletico are fresh after beating FC Barcelona, Bayer is still the stronger side. Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone facing each other will be exciting, as both managers are in the prime of their management careers.
In the last match of the quarter-finals, the remaining teams representing France and England faced each other. On the French side, PSG and Manchester City represented England. PSG eliminated Chelsea, the other English team, in the previous round, and they had to face the other English side, Manchester City. As mentioned in the last article, both teams have been rebuilt and reinvested significantly in the last eight years, and it was their first meeting ever in a major league. Despite PSG being the favorite before the match, they did not live up to their potential. Since the match started they score twice at home, but conceded two goals, resulting in a 2-2 draw. The match was full of personal mistakes, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a penalty in the first half, while at the same time, Marco Veratti’s vision was absent from the team due to injury. Manchester City were the defensive side, but quick and innovative with counter attacks, and Sergio Aguero and Thiago Silva faced each other several times during the match. In the second match, PSG had the possession advantage, much like the previous match. Still, they were not able to find a hole between Manchester City’s defenders, and they had four shots on target from which two were free-kicks from Zlatan. Manchester’s side had only one shot on target, in which Kevin De Bruyne scored a beauty, even though they missed the penalty wide. The teams were using the same tactics in both matches, but some of PSG’s players were not happy about their formation in the second match. They changed back to the normal 4-3-3 right after Tiago Motta got injured, and could not continue the match. Manchester City will face Real Madrid, under the direction of Manuel Pellegrini, a former Real Madrid manager. This year will be his last season in Machester City, and he faces Zidane’s Real Madrid. Both sides are ready, the Champions League is their best chance of winning a major trophy this season and both have players who are seen as being underutilized. Manchester’s defenders have been weakened this season as result of injuries, and there is still uncertainty if captain Vincent Kompany can come back to the first team for the semi-finals.
Make sure that you do not miss out on any of the matches. The next article will be after the teams play their first leg matches, more predictions will be offered then.