Autumn is upon us, which means mild temperatures, falling leaves, and for football fans around the world, the UEFA Champions League final. For those unsure, the Champions League is equivialent to a mini European club World Cup whereby the best teams in Europe battle it out to be crowned the Champions of Europe.
The four biggest teams in the world: F.C. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus will fight it out in the semi-finals to reach the final in Berlin.
As current Champions League holders, it seems like Real Madrid has a slight advantage but anything can happen.
F.C. Barcelona v Bayern Munich
A rematch of the 2012/13 season semi-final, where a strong Bayern Munich side won both matches convincingly by 7 goals against Barcelona. That was two years ago and both of these teams have gone through drastic changes – namely Pep’s departure from Barcelona to Bayern.
After winning 6-1 against Porto in the quarterfinals, the momentum seems to be with Bayern, but Barcelona has been convincing thus far in the competition. Barcelona has a rejuvenating Messi and a Neymar and Suarez combination growing in confidence and compatibility. But Bayern has a coach that knows Barcelona’s veteran players like the palm of his hand and a competitive German team.
Bayern also proved they were fighters after putting on a good display against Porto in the second-leg after a poor performance in the first-leg which made them inch closer to exiting the competition.
Bayern do have some injury concerns, notably with Robben (who’s returned to training but is yet to play) and Alaba, but they might have a mental advantage over Barcelona. However, their mental advantage might actually benefit Barcelona because the Catalan side might feel like they’re the underdogs and have a lot to prove.
“I almost cried when we drew with Bayern… It’s going to be an intense 180 minutes but I think we’ll scrape through. Hopefully Pep will help us out,” said Alison, a long-time Barcelona fan.
My prediction: It’s a tough call, but my money’s on the Bavarians.
Juventus v Real Madrid
Real Madrid, arguably the best club in Europe at the moment, will face off against a determined Juventus side in a repeat of the 1998 Champions League final. After winning La Decima (their tenth Champions League trophy) last season, the Spanish giants have had a steady but somewhat unconvincing Champions League campaign so far. At their best, they’ve showed tremendous skill and flair, but at their worst they’ve shown vulnerability and a lack of focus.
Juventus, on the other hand, has been a surprise contender for the trophy. Although they haven’t reached this stage of the Champions League in several years, they’ve dominated Series A for the past three years and have the benefit of coming into the semi-finals with no expectations placed on them.
Juventus also have the benefit of having a good combination of experienced youth players like Pogba (out with an injury but may return for the second-leg), and Morata, and veteran players like Pirlo and Buffon.
Two out of three of the BBC have been M.I.A and with Bale’s injury woes and Benzema’s less-than-great form, it’s up to Cristiano to take charge. Ancelotti has a lot of options on the bench though, with players like Isco adding creativity to a sometimes unimaginative midfield when given the playing time, and Kroos proving to be an essential anchor in midfield.
Unlike his contemporary Casillas, Buffon is only getting better with age and has proven time and time again that he’s as good, if not better, than he was before. Meanwhile, ‘San Iker’ is still trying to prove himself against nonbelievers, but has shown glimpses of his former self before the Mourinho years.
“Real Madrid is the Madrid of the impossible and last season’s final and the recent quarterfinal against Athletico proved it… Ancelotti could stick his hand in a toilet and pull out a gold Rolex,” said Tavonga, a Real Madrid fan.
My prediction: I think it’ll be close match but Real Madrid will win.