The Champions League semifinal stage is set! Here are my predictions on which clubs will make it to the final in Cardiff.
Friday’s semifinals draw placed Europe’s top scoring club Monaco against defensive masters Juventus and La Liga leaders Real Madrid will face Diego Simeone’s scrappy Atletico Madrid in another Champions League Madrid Derby.
Monaco vs. Juventus
Europe’s best attack vs Europe’s best defense.
These two clubs meet again and Monaco will be out for revenge. Two seasons ago these clubs faced off in the knockout round which saw Juventus move on after a 1–0 on aggregate in the quarterfinal. Monaco are a completely different club now since Portuguese manager José Leonardo Nunes Alves Sousa Jardim took over in 2014. Now, he’s developed arguably Europe’s fearful attack and the most exciting club to watch. Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev stated “It will be a matter of revenge, clearly,” he said to reporters. “We’re better than two years ago, no doubt about it.”
Leading the Monaco attack is the sensational young talent Kylian Mbappe. He has scored 16 goals in his last 16 Monaco games and is the first player to score in each of his first four Champions League knockout matches. Monaco have several young players that have been standouts. Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibe, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar have become household names.
Jardim has developed this team to play fast, attacking football and it has worked. This could be their greatest chance to achieve Champions League glory before big clubs come in to swoop up their stars this summer.
Monaco face a Juventus side that hasn’t allowed a goal in 441 Champions League minutes and completely broke down Barca in both games in the quarterfinals.
Juventus are seeking their first Champions League trophy since 1996. They lost the to Barcelona in the 2015 final against Barcelona but dumped them in this years quarterfinals 3–0 on aggregate.
Massimiliano Allegri has won the Serie A title and the Coppa Italia in each of his first two seasons in charge and have a real shot at adding the Champions League trophy to his accomplishments.
This Old Lady is a threat in attack as it was evident in the first leg against Barcelona. Gonzalo Higuain has 29 goals and Paulo Dybala has 16 and scored twice against Barcelona. They also have Miralem Pjanic and Juan Cuadrado who can pick out key passes and get in on goal as well.
The Bianconeri defense makes them the biggest threat in the tournament and would cause a lot of frustration any of the remaining clubs. Gigi Buffon is the leader of the club and still is one of the worlds best. Leo Messi still hasn’t scored against him and is capable of flustering Monaco’s attackers just from his presence alone. The backline is anchored by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci who form a defensive mountain for attacking players to try to get through. Dani Alves and Alex Sandro have both had a fantastic season for the Bianconeri. When it’s all said and done, this defensive could be recognized as one of the greatest in recent time.
This is by far the most exciting tie of the semifinals as Monaco are the neutral favorites and Juventus are the most complete club remaining. As scary as Monaco are in attack I have to go with defense here. You can’t overlook how Juve completely shut down Barca’s MSN and now have people talking about Barca being slow and needing a new midfield. I’m going with Juventus.
Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
Here we go again. Another Champions League with another Madrid Derby. This is almost becoming expected, as the top Spanish clubs keep finding themselves reaching the late rounds of the tournament. Hey, at least you don’t have to see another Madrid final right?
These clubs have faced off in two finals and a quarterfinal in the past three seasons, with Real Madrid winning in extra time in the two finals. This tie will be emotional for both sides. We will see the last derby at the Estadio Vicente Calderon and can expect to see the highest levels of passion from both sets of fans. Atleti will hope to give their fans a storybook ending before leaving the historic stadium. Is it finally Atletico Madrid’s year?
Atletico will have confidence after pulling off a late equalizer at the Bern in the last Madrid derby. Make no doubt about it though, this tie is all about Diego Simeone. Can he finally best his rivals in Europe’s biggest stage or will we see him implode on the sidelines again?
Atleti have a chance. I can’t remember the last time Real Madrid have kept a clean sheet in La Liga and they haven’t had one in Champions League this season as they have shown a lack of focus in a majority of their matches. One could make a case the Real Madrid have had luck on there side or that you can just never count them out.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will need to tighten up a lot of things in order to get past Atletico Madrid again. It helps that Cristiano Ronaldo has been incredible lately but others will need to step up and finish chances. Players like Isco and Asensio have shown that they can fill in for Gareth Bale who has been injured and ineffective at times this season. Defensively, they will have to be at their best. Varane will be back but he hasn’t been reliable as of late. Nacho proved in the tie against Bayern that he can fill in but it was his defensive error that allowed Griezmann to score the late equalizer in the last Derby after Pepe had to be taken off due to an injury to his ribs.
Los Blancos are the better side but their discipline will be the factor in this tie as it has been in issue with them this season. Atletico will be fighting to get over the Champions League hurdle that is Real Madrid and will be looking to leave the Estadio Vicente Calderon on a win that will take them to the Final in Cardiff. Both clubs know each others strengths and weaknesses but this will come down to who has the most quality players and that’s Real Madrid. Real will book their ticket to the Final in hopes to raise their 12th Champions League trophy.
Juventus and Monaco will face-off in the first leg at the Stade Louis II on May 3 then head to Turin on May 9.
Atletico Madrid will head to the Bernabeu in the first leg against Real Madrid on May 2 and then play the their final game at the Calderon on May 10.
The final will be played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday June 3.