Man City v Real Madrid, Atletico v Bayern: Breaking down the Uefa Champions League draw
Ian Hawkey breaks down the Uefa Champions League semi-final draw and predicts which teams will prevail to take their place in the final.
Manchester City v Real Madrid
If Manuel Pellegrini hopes his status among the most respected coaches of the 21st century is to be sealed this season, and privately acknowledges this may the last chance for him to do so at club level, he now has a poignant set of dates to achieve it. Sacked by Real Madrid in 2010 after just a season in charge, Pellegrini has never had a finer opportunity to remind Madrid they ought to have shown more patience with a savvy tactician who led Madrid to second place in the Primera Liga.
Pellegrini has already taken City further than they have ever been in the Uefa Champions League. The fact that he once upon a time he did not deliver titles for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, newcomers when he took over at Madrid, is hardly a stain on his record, and his reception at the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg will not be hostile. Not, that is, unless City have built up the first-leg lead they will probably feel is necessary to progress. They will know Ronaldo’s appetite for emphatic performances in front of his crowd is especially gluttonous right now.
Forecast: Madrid to go through, their front three finding enough holes in City’s rearguard.
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
A Bayern accustomed to routinely racking up heavy scorelines have lately found wide margins rather scarce, not least in Europe. They needed extra time to go past Juventus. They beat Benfica in the quarter-finals by just 3-2 on aggregate. On that form they will not be escaping Atletico’s fortress Vicente Calderon with a nice first-leg cushion.
Among the most intriguing duels, those between Bayern front men Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski, such an effective tandem on their day but both prone to quiet spells, and the iron defence of Atletico, marshalled by Diego Godin. There is the prospect of Fernando Torres, back from suspension, testing his veteran speed against Philipp Lahm, who he once outran to win a European championship final for Spain against Germany.
There’s some edge too. It’s less than a month since Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern executive president said: “We should talk to Uefa about why PSV Eindhoven or Atletico can be in the last eight of this competition while Juventus aren’t.” Even if Bayern really think Atletico are a big enough club for executive tastes, they will find them plenty big-hearted.
Forecast: Bayern to go through, after a tight first 90 minutes.
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Published: April 15, 2016 04:00 AM