The number of teams in this season’s Champions League sharpens down to four. The drama is unending, the battles are intense, just as expected.
The quarterfinal matches were compelling, the result, at times, strange. Yet, the qualified teams deserve to be here.
Real Madrid was almost on a self-destruct mission in the second leg against Chelsea. After what seemed like a healthy advantage, the Premier League side fought back and almost made the semi-final, but for some Luka Modric magic.
Manchester City had to go against their written principles in the second leg. The story had changed, the plot almost re-written. For all of Pep Guardiola’s finesse and attacking models, the defence was what guaranteed passage.
Villarreal is still celebrating. They braced the odds to steal a 2-1 win against Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. Even more brilliant was that it was at the Allianz Arena. Nigeria international, Samuel Chukwueze came in from the bench and decided the tie.
Liverpool was almost stunned. Jurgen Klopp had rested his trusted army at Anfield and Benfica almost made him regret it. In the end, they managed to do just enough, with the match ending 3-3.
The line-up of fixtures for the semi-finals spells plenty of excitement, one that could go on to produce an all English or Spanish final.
Manchester City vs Real Madrid
The Cityzens are through to back-to-back semi-finals. However, Guardiola will have his eyes set on winning the trophy with a club other than Barcelona.
It is a battle of the best team in England versus the best in Spain, at least, according to the table.
The English side has shown to be pragmatic in matches, they will need to be more of that against a team that is devastating on the counter.
The Catalan manager, while hoping to dictate affairs in midfield will also be counting on his players to take their chances.
Kevin de Bruyne has been excellent since the beginning of the year. The Belgian will look to take advantage of his more advanced role to get behind Madrid’s defence.
Gabriel Jesus who was magnificent at the weekend will also be desperate that he can get a starting berth.
And yet, they would need to quicken their passes and be more incisive.
For Carlo Ancelotti, the objective will be to soak up the pressure in defence while breaking swiftly. A situation for which Modric and Toni Kroos were built.
Once again, the partnership of Karim Benzema and Vinicius could well come into play. The latter will be useful in getting on the skin of the opposing full-back and attempting to find his partner. The French forward will fancy his chances against City’s high line.
Both teams will miss the absence of key defenders; Joao Cancelo more importantly for the hosts, and Alaba for the visitors.
There will be goals in this tie. However, it will only be settled after both legs.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-2 Real Madrid
Liverpool vs Villarreal
On account of sheer technical quality, the Reds seem like overwhelming favourites. However, based on how the Yellow Submarines have gone about their business, they will give it more than a go.
Unai Emery has proven to be one of the most successful managers in Europe, albeit in the Europa League. He will bring his experience to bear once again.
Klopp’s men have been in scintillating form in recent weeks, especially Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz.
It will be time for the GhenGhen pressing with the former Champions hoping to recover possession high up the pitch.
The full-backs will once again prove effective, marauding the wings. Mohamed Salah will be desperate to continue his form in Europe.
While Villarreal has not been exerting in La Liga, the Valencian side have pulled down giants as dark horses.
Emery will be keen to seize control of the midfield from Thiago Alcantara and co, while utilising the quality of Gerard Moreno in offense.
Raul Albiol and Pau Torres also have their work cut out in defence trying to frustrate the opponent.
This will most likely be an attack versus defence encounter. But if Liverpool score early, there could be a rush of goals.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Villarreal