After last Wednesday’s matches, the semifinal matchups are set and in two weeks’ time we will know the identity of the two teams that will compete for Ol’ Big Ears at Allianz Arena at the end of May. First off, let’s see how I did on predicting the quarterfinal games. I correctly picked 3 out of 4 games, whiffing only on the Chelsea-Benfica tilt, in which I picked Benfica to advance. Now, on to the quarters!
Real Madrid v. Bayern Munich
This is the more compelling of the two semifinal games. Both sides boast quality at every position on the pitch, especially in attack. Real will look, as always, to Cristiano Ronaldo and secondarily to Karim Benzema, who has been having a stellar Champions League campaign so far. Bayern will look to striker Mario Gomez, their leading goalscorer, as well as to midfielders Ajern Robben and Franck Ribery. Real have an important game the Saturday between their two semifinal games, traveling to the Camp Nou to face arch-rivals Barcelona. How much of a distraction the game against Barcelona proves to be could be a deciding factor in this fixture. Real currently sit 4 points ahead of Barcelona in La Liga, and if that gap narrows between now and April 21, Real could be forced to field a first choice XI that could leave them tired out for the second leg against Bayern.
Prediction: Real advance, 1-2 at Bayern, 3-1 at Real.
Barcelona v. Chelsea
A whoooooooooooooooole lot of history here in this one. Here’s a quick primer. In 2009, Barca and Chelsea met in the Champions League semis. After a 0-0 draw at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Chelsea looked set to advance after Michael Essien’s 10th minute strike was followed by Barcelona defender Eric Abidal got sent off for a poor tackle. Barca battled on, and their efforts were rewarded with an injury time goal from Andres Iniesta to tie the game at 1-1 and send Barca on to the finals on the away goals rule.
Chelsea players and fans were pretty hot and bothered over the whole ordeal, feeling that they had been denied as many as five clear penalty shots by the referee. Three years later, and Chelsea is looking for revenge. Barcelona is motivated in their own way, looking to prove that they can beat Chelsea without controversy. I fully admit I am biased, but I think this one could get pretty ugly. Chelsea has some good players, but they do not boast the talent that is on display at the Camp Nou. Barcelona also have the Charlie Weis Schematic Advantage™, courtesy of head man Pep Guardiola.
Prediction: Barcelona advance, 3-1 at Chelsea, 4-0 at Barcelona.
I think we are going to be seeing a Clasico final in Munich in May, with eternal rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid vying for the ultimate prize. It would be a real “cracker of a match” as the commentators in FIFA often say.