By FRANCO PANIZO
Real Madrid are a step away from reaching the UEFA Champions League final, but in their way stand the defending champions and a manager that they are all too familiar with.
Real Madrid will host Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday (2:45pm ET, Fox Deportes/Fox Soccer 2Go) in the first leg of their semifinals series. The Spanish heavyweights might be bolstered by the return of the healing Cristiano Ronaldo and will look to grab a victory before heading to Germany for the second leg on April 29.
Real Madrid have repeatedly and disappointingly fallen short of their Champions League goal in recent years, but this team might stand as good a chance as any to raise the tournament’s trophy in May. They will, however, have to find a way to beat a Bayern side that has proven to once again be as dominant a club as there is in the world.
Making matters worse for Real Madrid is that Guardiola is at the helm of Bayern. Guardiola has helped the German giants win the Bundesliga title in record time in an impressive first season in charge of the club, and he knows all too well what Real Madrid’s weaknesses are after going up against them so many times as manager of Barcelona.
Both sides will be looking to set the tone in the first leg, which should make for a wide open game that could demonstrate plenty of attractive soccer. Madrid, however, will need to be clinical in front of goal and sturdy defensively if they are to have a shot at picking up a win at home against Guardiola’s impressive Bayern Munich team.
In Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinals, Chelsea visit Atletico Madrid (2:45pm ET, Fox Deportes/Fox Soccer 2Go) in a series that should be as fun to watch for tactical reasons as it is for the players on the field. Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho are among the world’s best coaches right now, but both will be looking to add to their resumes by reaching the tournament final.
Chelsea are coming off a disappointing loss to relegation-threatened Sunderland, so a forgetful memory will be needed if they are to head into the Vicente Calderon Stadium and pick up a result against a strong Atletico team that might boast the strongest defense out of the four semifinalists.
The La Liga club has enjoyed a dream run in the tournament up until now in part because of Simeone, but veteran players like Spanish striker David Villa, Brazilian midfielder Diego and Uruguayan centerback Diego Godin will need to continue to use their combination of experience and skill to oust a Chelsea team that has a coach and plenty of players who have been through this type of pressure before.
Who do you see winning these matches? What are the keys to each of these two series? Which club do you believe as having the best shot at winning the whole tournament?
Share your thoughts below.