By Farzin Tazesh
The Champions League final is getting closer, and analysis can predict the expected formations and overall chances of the teams facing each other. The upcoming eight matches are critical, and will determine the semi-finals candidates.
Barcelona suffered a heart-breaking loss in La Liga to their greatest rival, Real Madrid. While they scored the first goal, they lost possession and control of the ball, which resulted in a home loss before their important match to Madrid’s second team, Atletico. They seem to be in a safer position in La Liga, as they are still holding six points advantage to Atletico. This week, they are facing Atletico in Champions league, they will first meet in Nou Camp and the second match will be in held in Madrid, which gives the home advantage to Atletico Madrid. As Barcelona has had one of the best attacker trios in history, they seem to be tired after the International matches last week where they were failed to score in El Classico. On the other side, Diego Simeone has been building a dominant team for number of years. They have won the La Liga two years ago, the same year they reached the Champions league final, but they came short in the end and lost to their home rival Real. They have a mixture of young and experienced players, including players such as Vietto and Correa who made their debut this year in Champions league, as well as Torres and Tiago, who have already played in the league for different teams and won before. In the last stage, Atletico failed to score in two matches against PSV and was declared winner only after a penalty shootout. Atletico is the last team that eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League, two years ago, and since then Barcelona have not suffered a loss in the League. A defensive play by Atletico against the current champion could be expected, although stepping into a big match against Barcelona only to defend does not look like a good plan. Simeone has the tools it needs in all four lines of their formation, with Griezman in attack, Koke in the middle, Godin in defense, and Oblak in the goal as expected leaders in their lines of formation. On the champion’s side, the MSN are the focal point as always. After Turan’s poor performance in El Classic, Rakitic is the most likely partner for Iniesta and Busquests. Ter Stegen has been playing in all the Champions league matches for the second consecutive year. The teams been facing each other twice this season, and Barcelona have been dominating both matches.
In 2008, Manchester City was bought by new and rich investors from the Middle East. They started to gain a lot more media attention and publicity since then, as they have paid well for new players, and won two Premier leagues, the FA Cup and Community Shield since then. They are facing PSG, a French team which is roughly equivalent to Manchester City. They also have a very rich owner from Qatar, and their very well paid players have gained success and publicity around the world. It is the first time these two teams meet in a high profile match against each other. Neither of the teams have ever been a dominant side in the Champions league, but they are both fueled by excellent young and veteran players. On the English side, they have risen and fallen in their league, and currently rank third with no major hope of winning the Premier League. They have already won the English League Cup but are still yet to make an impact in the Champions League. With the help of a top rated striker, any team will be in danger, especially if that striker is Aguero. He has had an amazing career in Manchester and has been the focal point of their success since their revolution. Aguero playing in front of De Bruyne, Toure and Silva would put a significant amount of pressure on the other team’s defenders. In PSG, Zlatan is the man in front and has been the focal point of all their recent success. Midfielders such as Veratti and Di Maria can provide him with infinite chances in a match. Physical players such as Zlatan, Motta and Silva also have good chemistry. Both sides are focused on keeping possession rather than relying upon counter attacks. Their styles are almost same, but according to their records, PSG is doing it better. Also, City have had a couple of their first team players injured, further disadvantaging them. PSG have more reliable players in their teams than City, and according to analysis, a big proportion of the goals they have conceded were the result of counter attacks, mostly because of their less agile defenders. Such a thing will cause them problems against the likes of Lucas and Di Maria. PSG also have been very good in defending. With the help of captain Silva, they have the best defensive lines in this year’s Champions league, conceding only three goals. Veratti being injured will be probably result in the use of the young and reliable Rabiot, who has yet to be featured in a big match. For the City, Toure’s participation is reported as doubtful, and Kompany is out for sure. Much like in the PL, they are cursed with losing their main players. Even though City have the advantage of the last match at home, PSG have been dominant in England before, eliminating Chelsea two years in a row. The match will be very exciting, as they have not play against each other before. After their recent take-overs, it can be called ‘the battle of millionaires’.
If Bayern is not the number one favorite to win the league, they are second for sure, scoring twenty five in eight matches, more than any other rivals. They will face the Portugese side, Benfica. It will be a hard task for Benfica, as they were one of the underdogs in this stage, and facing one the serious contenders for this year’s championship is not an ideal match up for them. Bayern, under Guardiola, have been ruling Bundesliga but yet to win the CL trophy. They have been one of the candidates to win the championship every year, but after their triple back in 2013, they have been defeated by the Spanish giants in the semifinals two years in a row. The match is expected to be one sided, although Benfica could surprise us.
Real Madrid, another favorite to win the trophy this year, hold the record of winning the Champions League more than any other team, and have reached the semifinals for the last six years. Since they exchanged Benitez for Zidane as their manager, their teamwork has been improving. Ronaldo is at his top, like every other season, and Benzema is having his best season in Madrid. The German side have not had their best season, and there are not many people who can remember Wolfsburg reaching this stage of Champions league. They lost their key player to Manchester city and since then they have not found a good replacement for him. Combining their young squad with the help of veterans such as Naldo and Dante have made them a solid squad more recently. They have had been good in defending, but are yet to improve their attacking side. They work very well on counter attacks, but most of their goals have been scored by their midfielders. Draxler is their best scorer with only three goals. The German side is expect to play to their strength and Real to keep possession. Ronaldo is the best CL goal scorer this season and the team defensive line have been excellent. They have the ability to provide chances for the BBC from any part of the ground, and they also have the advantage of the last home match. Probably, the best formation for Wolfsburg is to intercept the midfielders from BBC, but still they are playing against the likes of Ronaldo, Modric, Bale, and Benzema.
In the end, we hope for great performances by the teams, and hope all eight teams can show up with their best and strongest set of players.