The UEFA Champions League semi-finals is due for another heavyweight encounter featuring two powerhouses in La Liga.
It’s the battle of Madrid yet again only this time it isn’t in the final. You must think that Atletico are seeking revenge following two champions league final losses to Los Blancos in the past four years.
The last time Atletico Madrid defeated their city rivals came at the Santiago Bernebeu on February 27th 2016, thanks to a 52nd minute strike from Antoine Griezmann. Since then, the Rojiblancos have not salvaged a victory.
They enter this bout conceding only five times and scoring 13 goals in the process. Jan Oblak and his defensive core have managed to withstand sides such as Bayern Munich and Bayern Leverkusen on the journey towards the semi-final.
Atletico’s final hopes will solely rely on their finishing abilities. Real Madrid will be without star defender Pepe due to a double rib break and French international Raphael Varane remains doubtful. Pepe suffered his injury against Atletico this season, leaving Zinedine Zidane no choice but to slot in Nacho beside Sergio Ramos. Real Madrid have conceded 15 times in 10 Champion’s League matches thus far.
If Atletico Madrid apply venom into the right areas of Real Madrid’s defence, they can surely walk away with the victory.
On the other side of the pitch, despite defensive struggles in the tournament, Real Madrid have no issues scoring goals. They lead the champions league with 27 goals forward. Cristiano Ronaldo became the first ever player to reach 100 Champions League goals. He currently has seven this year.
Bayern Munich felt the wrath of the Real Madrid attack in the quarters. Much to the dismay of Bayern Munich fans controversially losing the match with 10 men and two offside goals, Madrid’s pressure was relentless. Marcelo proved to be a handful for Bayern Munich and it will be no surprise if the fullback does the same in this tie.
Real Madrid are waiting for the return of star Gareth Bale. The Welshman has been absent with a calf injury he suffered in the first leg in Munich. He is expected to make an appearance in El Classico, and will hopefully be healthy for the semi-final. Should Real Madrid make the final, Bale would hopefully make an appearance in front of his home city.
Real Madrid will be a handful for Godin and his defence, yet it may be too much to handle for the Roji Blancos. Expect this match to be low scoring however, do not be surprised if the goals begin to add up.
Prediciton: Real Madrid win 2-1 on aggregate.
The other semi-final tie consists of one giant from Turin, and a free-flowing offence from the south of France. Juventus and Monaco gear up from what should be an entertaining semi-final.
Juventus enter the semi-final following an impressive performance against Barcelona. The Bianconeri accomplished something no one thought was possible; shut out MSN. Massimiliano Allegri’s tactics were calculated to perfection as his side dismantles Barcelona to reach one step closer to the final in Cardiff.
Following recent poor performances in the Serie A prior to the quarter final it seemed Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 formation would not work against the Blaugrana. Yet the Italian tactician trusted his instincts and now Juventus are determined more than ever and rightfully so. Former Barcelona fullback Dani Alves returns to the Nou Camp only to haunt his former team as a part of Juventus.
Juve’s defence have only conceded twice in the tournament with eight clean sheets. They are two clean sheets away from tying the Champions League record of 10 held by the 2005/2006 Arsenal side. They can also score as well, netting home 17 goals.
The key for Juventus against Monaco will not solely come down to their defensives strategies, but it will also fall upon the number nine. 90 million Euro man Gonzalo Higuain has yet to score in the Champions League knockout stage. His record in big matches remains poor, and with some luck and his continuous efforts to find the goal, there is a chance Higuain can break his deadlock and power Juventus through. He will have support from his Argentine compatriot Paulo Dybala, who announced himself on the global stage against Barcelona, scoring twice in Turin.
In midfield, the dynamic duo of Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira will be separated for the first leg. Khedira’s yellow card in the second leg at the Nou Camp forces him to miss one game. His replacement will have to control the midfield, and Allegri has options at his disposal for that position. Mario Lemina, Stefano Sturaro and Kwadwo Asamoah are all suitable.
Another player who has announced himself to the world is 18-year-old Frenchman Kiylian Mbappe-Lotin. He currently has five goals on 10 shots in seven matches played. His flare up front alongside Radamel Falcao was enough to break down Manchester City and Dortmund in convicing fashion. Falcao has revived his career after two unsuccessful loan spells in England. He also has five goals
Much like Real Madrid, the issue for Monaco is defending the net as they have conceded 16 goals. There is much concern surrounding young right-back Djibril Sidibe as he is currently suffering from appendicitis. He has missed the last three matches in all competitions and his return is unclear.
Tactics versus free-flowing attacking football. They say defence always wins championships, and the men in Black and White from the North of Italy possess arguably the best one in Europe.
Prediction: Juventus win 4-1 on aggregate