The ooad to the San Siro for the UEFA Champions League final is nearly reaching the end with four teams battling for spots in what proved to be an interesting draw.
We have a chance for an all-Madrid final with the two Spanish teams in the fray still, as well as the team no one predicted to make it this far in Manchester City. Of course we can’t forget the German giants Bayern Munich in what is Pep Guardiola’s last chance to win the trophy as a member of Bayern.
In the first semifinal, Manchester City hosts Real Madrid as both teams are hitting great strides in international and domestic play. Both teams have won big on the weekend as Manchester dismantled Stoke and Real Madrid mounted an amazing comeback against Rayo Vallecano to keep their Liga title hopes alive. Not to mention that City is in the middle of an impressive seven-game unbeaten streak, meanwhile Madrid is unbeaten in their last five.
In what is surely good news for Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to play after sitting out the match against Rayo. (Editors note: Ronaldo is out for the first leg) City boss Manuel Pellegrini spoke about Ronaldo’s return to the Real Madrid starting XI trying to make his team focus on the team as a whole and not just on one player. “Ronaldo is a good player but we need to worry about Real Madrid — he’s one very good player. We need to work as a team,” said Pellegrini.
On the other side of things, Real boss Zidane spoke about the quality of Manchester City’s side, “Our opponents are a great side. If you give them space they can hurt you. The players get between the lines and cause problems. When we’ve not got the ball we must keep it tight and defend … ” City will have to deal with defender Yaya Touré, who is out of the game with a muscular problem.
This will surely be an interesting matchup in the offensive side of the ball as both teams have players that will be able to create great chances in Ronaldo and Benzema for Real and DeBruyne and Aguero for City. Look for both defenses to keep a tight mark on these explosive players.
The other matchup will be a great one as well with Bayern visiting the Vicente Calderon to face off against Atlético Madrid. It will be a fantastic matchup between two great managers in Guardiola and Simeone.
Both teams will have to deal with lingering injuries to players, such as José Giménez (hamstring) and Tiago (knee) for Atlético, and Arjen Robben (adductor) and Holger Badstuber (ankle) for Bayern. However, some great news for the Germans as Jérôme Boateng has recently been seen in training, but there is yet no timetable for his return to action.
If Bayern wishes to advance into the final stage of the Champions League, they must do something they haven’t done in the past two years, win the first leg of the semifinals against a Spanish team. The past two tournaments Bayern has lost the first leg of the semis against a Spanish rival (Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively), and they will go in trying to break that streak.
Bayern will have to face an Atlético squad that just recently ousted the reigning champions of the Champions League and they have their eyes set on Milan. Atléti will see their star playmaker Fernando Torres back in action after serving a one-game suspension for his red card in the first leg against Barcelona. This will be key to Madrid’s game plan as Fernando Torres is crafty in front and together with Antoine Griezmann, they will try and make life difficult for the German side’s defense.