There’s a unique sense of belonging for the four teams in the Champions League last four. They are here on merit. Their performances in the long winding path to the semi-finals give them the unfettered right to call this theirs. Some have the history to back their claims up.
The others can only hope their heroics so far will be remembered fondly by the football purists for years to come. Chelsea has represented England in the semi-final more than any other Premier League club, Real Madrid are here for the 14th time, PSG and Man City are the new kids on the block with a monstrous intent to destroy all in their path.
Real are plausibly in the semi-final stage by right. Los Blancos are arguably one of the few clubs in Europe that can boast of a birthright in the Champions League knockout stages alongside Barcelona and Bayern Munich – the latter two booted out in the previous rounds. Zinedine Zidane has made it a bit of a habit to blossom when it matters the most.
Doubt him, and he rises to the occasion better than anyone else could. A slow start to the season saw them well behind Atletico Madrid in the title race by January, but a fine run has them now only one point behind their local rivals in the La Liga title race. Their Champions League form is no different.
Their recent swell – including how they dispatched Liverpool over the two legs in the quarter-final – makes them favorites for the European title yet again under the Frenchman, and suddenly a stunning double is on the cards.But the best team in Europe across the season is Manchester City.
The number of wins in all competitions, the manner of those wins, and the sheer brilliance in their play make them a real favorite. But not being considered in the bracket of the traditional top sides in Europe could have its perks. Their quarter-final tie against Borussia Dortmund gave them a few scares but they rose above them.
This is Man City’s furthest distance in the competition since Pep Guardiola took over in 2016 and their joint-best in their history. Another step further, and it will be a historic European campaign for them regardless if they win the trophy or not. City know how good they can be.
The aggregate 4-2 result is remarkable over a team that possessed some of the best young talents in world football. Against Paris Saint-Germain in the last four, though, City would once against fancy their chances but it certainly gets tougher. PSG controls a rich-attacking set of players that will unlock any defense with their immense technical ability and outrageous pace. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will be relishing the battles against Ruben Diaz and John Stones.
The great thing for Guardiola though is how his team managed to score four goals in the quarter-final without a dependable striker – also considering how many chances they created and missed. They are a force and PSG must be very wary.How PSG displaced Bayern Munich cannot be understated.
Bayern are the defending champions and was the team to beat. The first leg reminded everyone that PSG were beginning to jump into the elite orbit of European football. A sequestered greenfield that only the best of the best will hold tickets to. They were here to conquer, and that they did. Winning at the Allianz Arena 3-2 and then completing the job with a 1-0 defeat at home was as professional as it gets under Mauricio Pochettino.
After last season’s march to the final and painful loss to Bayern and the appearance in the semi-final again this year, they are no underdogs. A clear message has been sent around, the French giants will be taken seriously.The man who took PSG to their first ever Champions League final last season, Thomas Tuchel, is a man on the rise in the managerial world. Tuchel’s Chelsea will be proud of their feat so far.
They are firmly one of the best four teams in Europe this season and it is largely owed to the German’s radical changes in the team since he replaced the gung-ho Frank Lampard strategy. Chelsea are much more conservative in their play under Tuchel but their ambitions are still enormous. The Blues are chasing the double this season with the FA Cup semi-final tie against Man City awaiting them next Saturday.
They are one of the teams that feel an ownership of the semi-final stage in the Champions League. They are, after all, the English club with the most appearances – eight – at this stage of the competition, jumping ahead of Man United who are on seven.
Their sole victory in the European elite competition was in 2012 and the story in the sem-final has been a rather painful one, having progressed only twice – in 2008 and 2012 – missing out at times by depressing referee decisions or indecisions.
Eyes on the prize, everyone. Chelsea, PSG, Man City, and Real Madrid are going to give us an entertaining semi-final quartet of games. No one expects new stars to be born at this stage, but the writing is on the wall that this could go down as one of the best foursomes in Champions League semi-final history.
By Thierry Nyann|3news.com|Ghana