Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid, Tuesday
One thing that is absolutely certain in the 2017 edition of the Champions League, there will be no repeat of the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, however at least one side from Madrid is sure of a place on centre stage for the third time in four years. Real Madrid are aiming to make Champions League history and retain their crown, having broken the record for consecutive semi-final appearances (seven) by successfully moving their way past Bayern Munich, albeit in some what controversial circumstances.
Zidane’s men have the luxury distraction of a title race but the Champions League is once again their top priority this season. Atlético also have a battle on their hands in the league, where they are trying to hold off Sevilla and secure a third-place finish and a spot in next season’s Champions League group stage, but winning this tie is also their main immediate goal.
The two teams matchup in similar shape in terms of results. They have both won 8 of their last 10 games, lost one and drawn one (against each other last month at the Bernabéu). Important fact Real Madrid have only beaten Atlético once in their last six meetings at the Bernabéu, but that was in the Champions League. They will be glad to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to form. He scored five goals in the quarter-finals against Bayern and was on the scoresheet against Valencia over the weekend. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick when these sides met at the Vicente Calderón in November and will fancy competing against Atlético’s young, makeshift right-back Lucas Hernández.
Real have prevailed in each of the last four Euro derbies, often inflicting defeat on Atletico Madrid in the cruellest manner. Atletico led going into stoppage time in the final in 2014 only for Sergio Ramos to equalise as late as the 93rd minute and take the game into extra-time where Real triumphed 4-1 and claimed la Decima. In the quarter-finals the following year, Real qualified by virtue of an 88th minute goal from Chicharito in the second leg at the Bernabeu. In the end it was all that separated them. Then, of course in last year’s final at San Siro, Antoine Griezmann missed a penalty in normal time and Atletico lost the shoot-out to their fiercest rivals. What can we expect this time around? We know for sure it won’t be a blowout and a must watch event, the key to the series is game 1 when Real Madrid will host without Pepe and Bale due to injury. They must win and we think they will.
Monaco v Juventus, Wednesday
The best attack in Europe against the best defence in Europe, what a dream semi final matchup!
The lower quality of Ligue 1 defences has helped Monaco score an incredible 95 goals in 34 league games, but they put six past Manchester City in the last-16 stage and another six past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, so they should not be underestimated.
Juventus’ credentials are solid after they beat Barcelona with room to spare in the quarter-finals. They kept two clean sheets against Barcelona and have only conceded two goals in the competition all season. But, if anyone can ruin that record, then surely it’s neutrals favourites Monaco.
This is a game of great intrigue, orchestrated by two of the continent’s most sought after managers, both of whom have silenced critics in recent years. When Massimiliano Allegri joined Juventus in 2014 his appointment was seen as uninspiring but the former Milan boss has elevated Juve to another level since replacing Antonio Conte. Leonardo Jardim, meanwhile, was thought of as a pragmatic, organised coach but has flipped that reputation on its head by building one of the most exciting young teams seen in many years. All eyes will be on Kylian Mbappé and Paulo Dybala after their performances in the quarter-finals, and the prospect of seeing the pair on the same field is enough to tune in on Wednesday.
The matchup is just as much youth vs experience as it is offense vs defense. Unlike Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, don’t expect Juventus to get into a shoot-out with Monaco. They will take a more measured approach and look to play several games within the game, for instance, knowing when to kick the ball into the stands and defend, as well as when to seize the initiative and take the game to their opponents.
No one has stopped Monaco scoring at the Stade Louis II this season, but if there is a team capable of doing it, it’s Juventus. Juventus are the most balanced, mature and complete opponent Monaco have faced so far. Against Barça, they got the balance just right and did an excellent job of limiting Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, cutting off the supply lines with expert positional play. We selected Juventus to win the trophy when everyone jumped on the Barcelona train, nothing has changed they are the best in europe!
To Win the Trophy