So some quick thoughts on the Champions League semis, to add to the giant pile you may have already consumed this morning.
Some, if not most, Champions League years are defined by incredible semifinal match ups. It makes sense; at this point the best of the best meet at the summit, though there is often a dark horse in the mix somewhere (I’m talking about Chelsea of course). This will be one of the years where we will hear about “the real final” being the Bayern Real Madrid semi. And so…
Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid
This one could be crushed under the weight of its own hype, but this is the price we pay for liking football. Bayern are slight favourites, but Real’s goalscoring prowess in Europe should be a warning sign for Pep Guardiola’s team, who ran into a bit of trouble against plucky Man United in 2/3rds of the quarterfinal legs.
The question for me is Ronaldo’s fitness. Though there’s no reason to think he won’t be back for the semi (he may be back in time for the Copa Del Rey final), it was obvious against Dortmund how limp Real’s counterattack is with Ronaldo sparking the movement. Bale didn’t quite seem up to the task, and there didn’t seem to be enough heft in the midfield with Modric.
Pep as Barca coach had Real’s number with Mourinho in charge…Ancelotti is a different animal.
Prediction: Real Madrid on penalties.
Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid
This should be a fascinating match, against a tactical pragmatist like Jose Mourinho and a defensive genius in Diego Simeone. There is also the matter of Atletico’s loanee keeper Thibaut Courtois, whose contract may or may not required Atleti to pay Chelsea millions of pounds in compensation should he play in both legs, though this will be a distracting and downright confusing sideshow ahead of the first leg.
Atletico aren’t the stereotypical Spanish side in many ways, playing a counterattacking style which also relies on crossing and aerial superiority on occasion. Which might play into Mourinho’s hands (he’s seen this kind of thing before). I’d put money on a tight game, but I’m just spit balling here.
Prediction: Chelsea on pens after two 0-0 draws.