Today at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland the draw for the semifinals of the Champions League was held. In recent years there has not been a draw for this stage in the competition and the teams knew who they would face if they were to progress past the quarterfinals. This season UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, decided instead to have a draw for every knockout stage of the Champions League. The draw today produced the matchups of Real Madrid against Bayern Munich and Chelsea against Atletico Madrid.
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich
Coming into the draw today these two clubs were the prohibitive favorites and now they will face each other over two legs. The first leg will be held in Madrid on April 23rd and the second will be in the Allianz Arena in Bavaria on April 29th. This will be a familiar foe for Bayern Manager Pep Guardiola as he had many a battle with Real in his time at Barcelona. Although the manager he traded a lot of words with in those matchups is now in the other semifinal managing for Chelsea, Jose Mourinho.
Bayern Munich comes into the clash touted as the most complete, and some would say best, team in the world. They have not looked like the dominating force they did early on in this season after they had to struggle to beat Manchester United in the quarterfinal. However with nothing to play for in the German Bundesliga, since they already locked up first place and the trophy, all their attention will now be focused on this matchup with Real. In this tie Bayern main weakness will be called upon in the form of their defense. While the Germans have not given up a lot of goals this season it is mainly due to the fact that they dominate possession and do not let their opponents see enough of the ball to out score them. Guardiola may have to stray from his normal all out attacking style for his side to move onto the final for the third straight season.
On the other side of this tie Real Madrid come into it with one major question mark; the health of their star and reigning Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. He missed the second leg of their quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund with a hamstring injury. Real missed him very much as they had to defend with all their might to hold onto a 2-0 away loss that saw them go through to the semis on an aggregate score of 3-2. To beat Bayern Ronaldo will definitely have to be in the lineup and playing his best. They share the same weakness in defence as Bayern and will need to place a premium on defending if they want to move onto the final in Lisbon.
Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid
Seemingly these two clubs are the underdogs of the semifinals, although now one will be making their way to Lisbon for the final. The first leg will be on April 23 at the Vicente Calderon Stadion in Madrid and the return leg will be on April 30th in west London. Both the teams’ manager have been lauded for their wins in the quarterfinals and will now face off for a chance to be crowned champions of Europe. One very interesting wrinkle in this tie is Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who is on loan to the Madrid side from Chelsea. Earlier in the week it was reported that language in the loan agreement stated a fee would have to be paid to Chelsea by Atletico if he were to face his parent club. However this report has been squashed by UEFA as they say that Chelsea will not be able to enforce any fee on Atletico in their competition.
Atletico Madrid comes into the tie after defeating fellow La Liga foe Barcelona by an aggregate score of 2-1. They played incredibly well over two legs to defeat the heavy favorites who have yet to get the better of Atletico this season. Something about the physicality of which they play has the more finesse team in Barcelona very confused on how to beat them. Manager Diego Simeone will have to do a similarly amazing coaching job in order to defeat the special one, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. Atletico most certainly have the talent, and now the belief after defeating Barcelona to overcome their English foes to try to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history.
Chelsea come into the tie after an amazing effort in the second leg against PSG, overcoming a 3-1 first leg defeat to win 2-0 and go through to the semis on away goals. While their defense has been spectacular all through the competition their weakness has been scoring goals. This tie looks to be a low scoring affair as Atletico plays a very similar style of tough defending and scoring when there is a clear-cut opportunity. Manager Jose Mourinho will surely be studying incredible amount of game tape to find any and all weaknesses that his team can exploit. In his two terms as Chelsea manager Mourinho has yet to guide the club to the Champions League final. He will be hoping his club can regain the fighting spirit they had when they won the competition in 2012 and overcome Atletico to play for the title in his home country of Portugal.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius