After the completion of all the quarter-finals, four teams have booked their places in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions league. They are Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Barcelona had the toughest passage of the lot after being held to a goalless draw in the first leg quarter-final tie hosted by AC Milan. But Messi made the difference to the defending champions as he scored twice in a 3-1 demolition of the Italian side, at Camp Nou, on Wednesday, after a barren first half. Fabregas was the other outstanding player for Barcelona who have clearly established themselves as the team to beat.
Chelsea had earlier eased their path to the semi-finals by edging Benfica 1-0 in the Portuguese outfit’s home turf. Benfuca gave a better account of themselves in the return leg at Stamford Bridge after they were reduced to 10 men, just before the interval, when Maxi Pereira was sent off following a second yellow card. Chelsea rode an early lead on the back of Lampard’s twentieth minute strike. Benfica did not let up and the pressure on the Chelsea defence told eventually when Javi Garcia’s header off a corner kick on 85 minutes brought the sides level at 1-1. But Chelsea had the last laugh when Raul Meireles scored in injury time to see his side comfortably through.
Real Madrid had the easiest of the quarter-finals opponents in APOEL Nicosia whom they beat 3-0 in the first leg in Cyprus. In the return fixture at Santiago Bernabeu, on Thursday, Jose Mourinho’s men went on the rampage demolishing the Cypriot side 5-2 for an aggregate lead of 8-2. Contrary to expectation, marquee players like Ronaldo and Higuain were not rested, thereby reflecting Madrid’s seriousness of purpose against a much weaker side. Kaka, Callejon and Di Maria added to the brace of goals by Ronaldo to help the Spanish side to a deserved win.
Bayern Munich rode a brace by Olic to a 2-0 win over Marseille at the Allianz Arena to double the aggregate after an identical 2-0 win earlier in the first leg hosted by Marseille. the French side proved no match for the Germans who left out star striker Mario Gomez to accommodate Olic.
The first leg semi-finals are scheduled for April 17 and 18, while the second leg ties are due to be played on April 24 and 25. The following are the line-ups for the semi-finals:
1. Chelsea Vs Barcelona
2. Real Madrid Vs Bayern Munich
So who will win the semi-finals? These are my predictions:
Barcelona are likely to demolish Chelsea, the last remaining English Premier League squad in the Champions League. While the Stamford Bridge squad have genuinely talented players such as Torres in attack, they have been inconsistent this season. Their defence, in particular, has been less than impressive and that could make a difference, with the likes of Terry apt to prove too slow to stop the rampaging Barca attack led by Messi.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Chelsea (aggregate)
While Real Madrid have been in great form this season, having taken an almost unassailable lead in the La Liga, over arch-rivals, Barcelona, they are far from invincible. While they have been relent;less against weaker opposition, they have floundered when confronted by rivals who were not afraid to attack, such as for instance, Barca, who beat Madrid on their home turf. In Bayern Munich they are up against another team with a great forward line led by Mario Gomez who is second only to Messi in the goal scorers list of the Champions League, this season. Incidentally, Bayern are currently table leaders in the German Bundesliga and in contention for a treble of league, cup and Champions League title wins. Despite possessing a great attack themselves, with the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain, Madrid are likely to find the Bayern defence a different proposition from that of some of the weaker sides they have played recently.
Prediction: Bayern 4-2 Real Madrid (aggregate)
About the Author (Author Profile)
Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.