Manchester City v Real Madrid – 1st Leg – 26th April / 2nd Leg – 4th May
So Manchester City continue to make club history, they are now into the semi-finals of Europe’s top tier club competition for the first time. I thought Laurent Blanc was a tad ingenious when he claimed that there is always a team that is a ‘guest’ in the last four. To me that smacked of sour grapes after his clueless tactics in the second leg of the quarter final allied with the fact the Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City’s manager, has now realised playing two up front against Europe’s best – even at home (unless you have a midfield full of legs or are desperate for goals) is tantamount to suicide at this level. The reward is the fact they are now step closer to winning the European Cup. In their way are, in my opinion, the biggest football club in the world, the team that feels ‘Old Big Ears’ is their property and to be honest with 10 titles it is not a bad claim. Real Madrid after six successive failures at the round of 16 are now in their sixth successive semi-final. They survived a huge scare in the quarter finals overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit with a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired comeback in the Bernabeu – the hat-trick from the Portuguese superstar sealing the win (and some muppets think he doesn’t do it when it matters) – Man City won’t be making that mistake. I personally thought this would be the best draw for the English side as both teams can be irresistible going forward but are shaky at the back. One worry for Real is despite their great recent semi-final record is they have only made the final once in that time, another is the fact that Karim Benzema and Ronaldo are doubts for the first leg this coming Tuesday (26th April), this most definitely is favourable to their English opponents. Two titanic legs to come but I feel the firepower of Los Blancos will just (and I mean JUST) get them over the line this time – though it would not surprise if the English side had something to say about that, especially given the Spanish teams current injury issues. One little aside is the fact that Pellegrini will have a bit of revenge on his mind as an ex- Real Madrid manager who was unceremoniously sacked despite at that time reaching the teams highest ever points total in La Liga (yes those pesky Catalans from Barcelona spoiled his parade by topping the table). This time it is his old club that stands in his way.
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich – 1st Leg – 27th April / 2nd Leg – 3rd May
So its Diego v Pep a man under no pressure against a man under huge pressure. Make no bones about it, if Pep Guardiola, who leaves Bayern this summer for Manchester City, fails to win the European Cup his tenure at the German giants may well be seen as a failure. In my opinion that will be harsh as he has won 2 Bundesliga’s (with a third one on the way), and a German Cup (with another final already qualified for) but at Germany’s biggest club that is not good enough, especially as the previous manager, Jupp Heynckes delivered a treble in his final season at the club, maybe the same will happen to the Spaniard. The main issue is the fact that his team have to play Simeone’s warriors. The so called ‘small side’ in Madrid (according to their illustrious neighbours Real) have made a mockery of this tag in recent years. Their Argentine manager has made them into a crack team (and squad) that takes no prisoners but when they need to play football, boy they can. They disposed of the holders Barcelona in the previous round and fully deserved their victory, the 2-0 home leg that clinched the tie was an outstanding performance and the Catalan side could have no complaints about their exit. Personally I’d love to see Atletico make the final again, but I feel that it is Guardiola’s men that will prevail. The one thing the German side do have is the steel to match their Spanish opponents, something they have to do to earn the right so their undoubted flair, pace and clinical play edge can lead them to victory. Again two titanic battles will ensue, with Pep the victor, but only just.
So my prediction is for a Real Madrid v Bayern Munich final – don’t quote me on that by the way. Whatever the outcomes of these matches we are in store for two cracking ties and may the best teams win (oh and hopefully my predo’s right too).
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