The road to Milan is gradually getting clearer as teams such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid and Manchester City book their places to the semifinal of this year’s UEFA Champions League.
Two of football pundit’s favorites to win the trophy, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich had to dig deep to overcome Wolfsburg and Benfica respectively in their quarterfinal fixtures.
Having won the competition 10 times to remain the most successful club in Europe, the Galaticos, as they are fondly called due to their array of stars, are one of the true contenders that may cart home the Champions League trophy in Milan on May 28. Real was the winner of the inaugural edition of the European Cup and the only club to win the trophy five times in a row (the first five editions).
In terms of experience, Real Madrid are a head above all the other three teams considering the fact that they have competed in more semifinals (26 times), winning 13 of them since their participation in 1957.
They qualified from their group without losing a game though Paris Saint-Germain who gave them a run for their money.
Individually they have players such as Champions League top goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has shown that he’s the man of the moment when he silenced his doubters with yet another excellent match display against Wolfsburg, with a hat-trick that saved Real Madrid’s season and sent them through to the semifinals of the Champions League.
Ronaldo’s efforts have seen him notch 12 goals in his last nine appearances – as well as four assists – taking his tally for the season to 46 goals and 15 assists in 42 appearances in La Liga and the Champions League. He is the top scorer in both competitions; at least four clear of any rival on either front.
Besides, the team can still count of the services of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Isco, Jesé Rodríguez Ruiz (Jesé) and a few to mention when the going gets tougher.
Attack and midfield wise, Real Madrid possess lots of threat that could cause nightmares to many opposing defenders in the domestic and European scene. It takes an element of mother-luck for their opponents to overcome them.
However, the team face a daunting task against the Premier League side, Manchester City on their road to the final. Experience may count for Real against a City side that is just making their first Champions League semifinal stages. First legs will take place on April 26 and 27, second legs on May 3 and 4.
Another title contender for this season’s Champions League, Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola have become a team that plays with so much flare, skill, vision and attack, just like what he built-in Barcelona before he left three seasons ago.
Facing the usual suspects, Guadiola knows he needs a scandalous performance against Atlético Madrid, a team he confronted during his days with Barcelona in La Liga. It is expected that it won’t be an easy ride for Bayern Munich as they will be hoping to make another cup final for the first time under Guardiola. First legs will take place on April 26 and 27, second legs on May 3 and 4.
The Bavarians made meat of their group opponents as they qualified ahead of Arsenal as group winners. Their only defeat came against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium before hammering the Gunners silly by 5-0 at the Allianz Arena.
Juventus and Benfica exposed Bayern Munich’s defensive lapses as they scored six goals against Bayern’s nine goals scored in the round of 16 and quarterfinal stages of the competition.
The team’s greatest asset rest upon their ability to control possession and make their opponent look stupid on the pitch coupled with the firing powers of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in the attack.
On record, Bayern Munich have won the competition five times (1974,1975,1976,2001,2013) and have made the semifinals 17 times, winning 10 since its participation in 1970.
Moroccan Medhi Benatia will be hoping to play a key part in ensuring that the Bavarians qualify for the final of the Champions League. Born in France, Benatia represents Morocco at the international level, making his international début for them in 2008 and representing the nation at two African Cup of Nations tournaments.
Against all odds, Atlético Madrid achieved the most unexpected result when they thwarted Barcelona’s hopes of winning the Champions League back-to-back by defeating them 3-2 on aggregate to qualify for the semifinal.
This could be coach Diego Simeone and Atletico’s chance to correct the wrongs of losing the final of the Champions League against Real Madrid in 2013 going by their team spirit, cohesion, aggressive display and no-nonsense attitude.
However, Atlético must overcome Bayern Munich to actualize their dream of winning the trophy for the second time. First legs will take place on April 26 and 27, second legs on May 3 and 4.
The team’s stiffest game came against PSV Eindhoven as they managed to qualify for the quarterfinal stages via penalty shootouts after ending the two legs on a goalless draw.
Atlético have been in the semis four times, winning just one and lifting the most lucrative competition once. They seem not to depend on any individual player, however, with Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres, Koke and Diego Godín, the team appears solid and are also a favorite to win the trophy.
Still like a dream to many football pundits and fans of the Citizens, Manchester City qualified and are in their first semifinal of the UEFA Champions League after overcoming Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinal.
City are the only team that has never won the Champions League since its inception and this year’s competition gives the team that rare opportunity to write their name in gold. But to achieve that, they must defeat Spanish giants, Real Madrid, in the semifinal, as they hope to join some of the teams in England that have won the Champions League. First legs will take place on April 26 and 27, second legs on May 3 and 4.
Like they say in football, impossible is nothing, a situation which means Man City still have an outside chance of causing a major upset against some of the experienced teams such as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
The Citizens possess an array of stars: such as Yaya Touré, who has become the driving force of that team, Sergio Agüero (the ever-present goal scorer), Kelvin De Bruyne (scoring the giant killing goal against PSG), Kelechi Iheanacho, David Silver and Joe Harte.
All eyes will be on the trio of Yaya Touré, Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho, three of Africa’s finest players in the competition to make the continent proud by helping Manchester City win the elusive trophy.