So, it’s that time of year again. The evenings are brightening up a tad, the weather is moderately improving, oh and we have the small matter of the Champions League Semi Finals to look forward to!
The draw has been made, and the more high profile of the two ties has to be Real Madrid v Bayern Munich; as two giants of European football face off in what promises to be a mouthwatering tie.
There will be goals, that’s a guarantee, as well as an infinite amount of talent on display.
Both sides pride themselves on their attacking football, and have 14 European Cups between them.
Ronaldo is a doubt for the first leg, however we still have the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Kareem Benzema, Arjen Robben, and Franck Ribery to keep us entertained.
Indeed, Real Madrid v Bayern is obviously the more glamorous of the two Semi Finals, however Atletico v Chelsea will also be an intriguing encounter.
Both teams are defensively solid and have supremely talented managers. This tie will be a true tactical battle, and could well end up 1-0 to either side over the two legs.
Chelsea are expecting Diego Simeone to leave on loan keeper Thibaut Courtois on the bench, despite the fact that UEFA have cleared him to play against his parent club.
This will be a massive loss for Atletico, as the young Belgian has been outstanding over the past few seasons.
Chelsea’s key man Eden Hazard, and Atletico’s top scorer Diego Costa may also miss out, on the first leg at least.
A quick look at the final four:
The bookie’s favourites, and reigning European Champions. Munich have already won the Bundesliga, and can now firmly set their sights on becoming the first team to win back to back Champions League trophies.
There is no doubting that Bayern are an outstanding team, powerful, stylish and deadly in front of goal. However, they do look slightly vulnerable at the back this season.
Guardiola’s change in formation from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 has obviously worked for the team domestically, seeing as they have already won the Bundesliga, with one game more to spare than last years record breaking campaign.
However, that’s the Bundesliga, this is the Champions League, and the smallest defensive error can lead to Bayern going home empty handed.
Man City beat the German’s 3-2 away from home in the group stages, while Arsenal and Man Utd both managed to draw with them.
That being said they are still arguably the strongest team left in the competition, and it will take two top performances from Real Madrid to beat them.
Main Threat: Arjen Robben (who has played for three of the four semi finalists)
The skillful Dutch winger has scores 20 goals for the Bundesliga Champions as well as setting up 14. He is at his most dangerous coming in off the right flank to shoot with his wicked left foot!
The Londoners go into the last four as the bookie’s outsiders, however, it would not be at all surprising to see them winning the trophy.
The Blues have been a different prospect since Jose Mourinho reclaimed the throne at Stamford Bridge.
They have been solid defensively, and more consistent domestically. The team are also working harder and are more disciplined.
Chelsea’s attacking players such as Hazard, Willian and Oscar are playing a more responsible role for the team, pressing defenders, tracking back, ect.
Their biggest strength is arguably Jose Mourinho, the Blue’s boss is vastly experienced, and is more than capable of outwitting every manager left in the competition, on his day.
However they do struggle to score goals at times and are not half as offensively threatening as the likes of Bayern or Real Madrid.
Main Threat: Eden Hazard
This young Belgian has it all. Blistering pace, exquisite ball control, and always plays with high levels of energy and flare. Hazard is Chelsea’s top scorer with a total of 17 goals.
A powerful attacking threat, they have the talent to go all the way.
The injury to Ronaldo will be a worry though, Real do seem to rely massively on the Portuguese winger. However the likes of Bale, Di Maria and Benzema should still cause a few problems for the Bayern defence.
Ancelotti’s men have their weaknesses though, they haven’t been overly convincing domestically, and have a tendency to leak goals.
The away game against Dortmund was also a poor showing from the Spaniards and they are quite lucky to still be in the competition.
Main Threat: Christiano Ronaldo
Here is a man who needs no introduction. Last years Ballon d’Or winner possesses everything that a top attacking player should. The Portuguese winger has scored a staggering 52 goals in 45 games this season. Wow!
Some people may still be calling Atletico the dark horses of the competition, but they’ve earned to right to be considered as major contenders.
They are a dogged team, and are prepared to graft, and cover the ugly side of the game in order to come out victorious.
The Spaniards also have many talented attacking players, such as Diego Costa, Raul Garcia, David Villa and Koke.
Simeone’s men currently sit at the top of the La Liga table and are chasing their first league title since 1996.
Atletico’s weakness may be their lack of European experience, however it has not seemed to hinder them so far this season.
Main Threat: Diego Costa
The Brazilian striker is one of football’s hottest properties. His goals have helped Atletico to the summit of La Liga. He has scored an impressive 33 goals this season, a great return for any front man!
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea