The UEFA Champions League is back in action at the semifinals stage. We will see a Milan derby as well as a rematch of last year’s instant classic between UCL kings Real Madrid and England’s best, Manchester City, over two legs. The perception of the vast majority is that the winner of the latter semifinal is as good as nailed on to win the whole thing; it may not be so straightforward though, here’s why.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City
Firstly, the favourites. Tuesday sees Real Madrid host Manchester City as the sky blues hope to exorcise the demons of last season.The script has somewhat flipped this year with the majority touting City as favourites, and with good reason.
The second half of City’s season has been staggeringly good, and they find themselves in the midst of a *checks notes* 20-game unbeaten run. At the forefront has been Erling Haaland and his absurd 51 goals and counting, but Pep Guardiola has also quietly remodelled his defence; which has been just as vital to their form. City have conceded only seven goals in their last 15 games and their new 4 centreback setup has afforded them increased stability at the back and control in possession; with John Stones being the standout. City are hitting their lofty heights at the perfect stage of the season and are a dangerous prospect.
For the Galacticos, it hasn’t exactly been a vintage season in La Liga, currently sitting third behind city rivals Atlético and old foes Barcelona. While they’ve been off-the-pace in the league, their typical gleaming effervescence in their favourite competition has been on display. Madrid have only conceded twice in four Champions League knockout games this season and their front three of Vinicius, Benzema and Rodrygo looks like one of the most dangerous in world football. Manager Carlo Ancelotti just knows how to get it done on the big occasion, so expect his side to be resolute. However, both Luka Modric and Benzema missed Madrid’s last game, and if they aren’t fit for this first leg it could be a long night.
Prediction: City’s depth and quality just prove too much for Real, as Haaland continues his goal feast and vanquishes the reigning champions.
Madrid 1-1 City; City 3-1 Madrid ~ City into the final 4-2 on Aggregate.
Milan vs Inter
Only two points separate the two iconic Milan giants in Serie A this season, and Inter have won two of their three meetings so far.
Both sides have been underwhelming in league play but have also pulled out clutch performances when needed that has assured that a Milan club will have the chance to challenge for Europe’s biggest crown.
Inter navigated what was an extremely tricky group, with their victory against Barcelona the biggest one that propelled them into the knockouts. Their win against Porto was ugly, followed by two impressive games against a difficult Benfica. Simone Inzaghi’s 3-5-2 gives Inter a great base to stifle opposing attacks, while Lautaro Martinez is in sparkling form with six goals and two assists in his last five games.
The Rossoneri, against all expectation, edged past now Italian champions Napoli in the Quarterfinals to book this storied clash. Stefano Pioli is one of the most respected managers in world football today, and deservedly so after guiding Milan to their first Scudetto in over a decade last season. Unbeaten in their last six UCL games, and fielding one of the youngest teams in the tournament, look out for superstars Rafael Leao and Mike Maignan to be the differences at either end of the pitch, should Milan pull out a victory.
Prediction: These teams look equal for the majority of the tie but Milan barely edge it over two legs behind an all-time clutch Giroud goal.
Milan 2-1 Inter; Inter 1-1 Milan ~ Milan into the final 3-2 on Aggregate.