As things stand, it is easier to imagine the teams in the final on the 28th of May at the Stade de France. And yet, there is so much to play for as the second leg of both Champions League semi-final matches takes place this week.
So close, yet, so far.
Liverpool seems to have done just about enough to advance. And perhaps, without sounding dismissive, Villarreal has just about reached its waterloo. Even then, it will be stupid to rule them off even at this point, especially with the away goal rule scrapped.
Similarly, the first leg of the Manchester City-Real Madrid tie was intense. It had it all: goals, drama, mistakes and finesse. Perhaps the Premier League side were better on the balance of play. Still, the quality inherent in the Spanish team just always pops up when it matters.
This is where we are: nothing decided, finely poised.
Villarreal vs Liverpool
The Reds have the advantage and look primed to progress. And it is just not because of the first-leg result. The gulf in quality between both teams appeared more evident.
Even then, football never gives you the pleasure of a straightforward prediction coming to pass. The simple point to this is that the Yellow Submarines will pose a challenge tonight.
With nothing to lose, Unai Emery will be more offensive than he was a week ago at Anfield. The Spanish manager will encourage his wards to take more risks and be decisive. They will aim to press high on the defenders.
And yet, the Valencian team will hope to avoid a chaotic beginning as they surge for an early goal. If anything, the aim will be to unsettle the visitors.
Arnault Danjuma and Lo Celso will prove crucial in trying to exploit the flaws of the opponent’s full-backs.
Dani Parejo will need to spend as little time as possible on the ball, especially knowing how intensely and high Liverpool press.
Klopp will almost look to play the same way as the first leg. They will try to pen their opponent in the final third, with Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz running in behind.
Thiago Alcantara’s calm and control will count for plenty in dictating the pace of the game. The full-backs, as usual, will look to send more precise crosses on demand.
Liverpool knows exactly what to do: avoid conceding and they are through. However, Villarreal will stretch that defensive line as much as it can.
Prediction: Villarreal 1-2 Liverpool
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
For all that was the chaos of the first leg leading to an enjoyable game for neutrals, Pep Guardiola would not have enjoyed it as much. Even more, the possibility of his team letting opponents off the hook will annoy him.
On the other hand, Carlo Ancelotti will be quite pleased with how things turned out. Even with a loss, there is still everything to play for. The Italian will be grateful for the opportunity to call on some of the players who missed the trip to Manchester.
The La Liga champions will not try to control the midfield. It is probably more effective to yield than compete
Still, he will continue to rely on his old and experienced heads to do what is important. Luka Modric struggled at times to find his feet in England. Yet, the Croatian will be optimistic about finding his range at home.
Karim Benzema is the form of his life. And with more responsibility on his shoulders, he will look to deliver the goods once again. Vinicius will not have it as easy as he did against Fernandinho with Joao Cancelo back from suspension.
The instruction will be simple for Pep: control the game and take your chances.
The presence of a more traditional right-back will excite him. Moreso, the innovative ability of Cancelo will be very key.
Kevin de Bruyne will hope to take charge once again; creating and scoring chances. Gabriel Jesus who has been unplayable in the past week, scoring six in three, will fancy his chances.
Real Madrid has done the business at this stage- in these circumstances- time and time again. Manchester City is on the verge of a second consecutive final appearance.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester City