The draws for the UCL semi finals have been done and we’ve seen the last 4 teams in the competition paired for the semi final games.
We will see 3-time winners and Italian champions-elect Juventus square up against an old enemy in the form of 10 time winners and defending champions Real Madrid (expect a lot of records to be sang out during both lega of this game). The other tie pits 4-time winners Barcelona against 5-time winners Bayern Munich (both coaches will most likely request the video of these two’s last two meetings).
The UCL last 4 paints a picture of dominance. 3 of the last 4 (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich) have won the title in the last 4 years and have been in the UCL semis at least 4 times in the last 5 years. Indeed one of them has made it to the finals in the past 4 years. Real Madrid are the defending champions. Bayern Munich were winners in 2013 and Barcelona were winners in 2011.
Juventus appear to be the odd team out, their last semi final appearance coming as far back as in 2003 and their last win as far back as 1996. Indeed fans of the other 3 teams were probably hoping to draw Juventus though I’m not sure their players and technical staff share that sentiment.
The draws also set up reunions of a sort. Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola is going back to his old team Barcelona for the first time as Bayern manager. He led them to 2 UCL titles in 2009 & 2011. Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is once again returning to his old team Juventus, not sure they’ll have too many fond memories of him as his Milan team denied them the title in the 2003 final in Edinburgh. Madrid old boy Alvaro Moratta will be returning to the Bernabeu for the first time. Barcelona old boy Thiago will also be making his first trip back to Camp Nou.
These games will be about attacking talent and defensive discipline. Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern have possibly the 3 best attacks in Europe and Juventus aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to attack. On the flipside, Juventus seem to have reinvented catenaccio and have one of the meanest defences in Europe.
Juventus – Madrid
The last time these two teams met which was last season, the Juventus defense just couldn’t live with Gareth Bale so I’m expecting more of the same and that means a Bale – Chiellini/Evra battle. In midfield I expect a running battle between Vidal-Marchisio-Pirlo & Modric-Kroos-Rodriguez. Tevez-Pepe/Ramos/Varane will be another interesting matchup.
Barcelona – Bayern
The last time these two teams met it was a blowout, some sort of outclassing in all ways, with the Bavarians advancing courtesy of a 7-0 aggregate win. Expecting this tie to be a little tighter, Barcelona will have Lionel Messi this time as well as Luis Suarez & Neymar Jr. The MSN combo as some people refer to them should be able to make the aggregate scoreline more respectable this time. Bayern will probably be deploying the two arch tormentors of Barcelona two years ago, Thomas Muller & Arjen Robben.
Rakitic-Busquets-Iniesta v Thiago-Lahm -Alonso,
Robben vs Alba,
Neymar vs Rafinha,
Suarez vs Boateng
Lewandowski vs Pique will be the key matchups.
Messi & Muller will tend to drift and do damage all over the pitch
I expect Madrid and Bayern to advance to the finals.