There are no English teams left in the Champions League and after our relegation was confirmed on Saturday, Latics are contemplating away games at Port Vale and Bury rather than Barcelona and Juventus.
But anyone with an interest in the beautiful game will be following the UCL in the weeks ahead as four teams are now within touching distance of the greatest prize in club football.
Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Monaco are all in with a chance of seizing glory, and neutral fans can look forward to two thrilling semi-final clashes.
The two Madrid clubs have met in the final twice in recent years, with Real narrowly prevailing on both occasions, but there will not be a repeat in 2016-17 as they were drawn against one another in the semis. Despite Real getting the better of their less heralded city rivals in two UCL finals, Atletico have been a real bogey team for Real in recent times. Real have won just one of their last eight games against Atletico, meaning they have a worse recent win record against Diego Simeone’s side than any other team.
Simeone knows Real inside out and knows how to get a result against them. His team have abandoned the marauding, attacking football they played earlier this season and gone back to their heartland, namely defending in numbers, staying tight and compact, pressing like lunatics and forcing the opposition into errors high up the pitch, while being extremely efficient in front of goal on the rare occasions they come forward. It has helped them grind out a series of 1-0 and 2-0 wins of late and allowed them to draw with Real in their recent league meeting. Atletico have already beaten Bayern Munich in the group stages and breezed through to the semis, so they should be a threat.
However, over 180 minutes, plus possibly extra-time and penalties, you would fancy Real to get the job done. In the crunch games they seem to overcome Atletico near the death. That madcap pressing game expends a lot of energy, and Real finally can break down the defensive wall as Atletico legs tire near the end of the game. If you are looking at betting options, the second half of both legs being the highest scoring half looks interesting. Before you make a bet check out Betonline review for soccer odds and more, and you will see that Real are the clear favourites to go through, but it will be extremely tight.
In the other semi-final it does not look anywhere near as close. Monaco have won admirers across the world for their enthralling football and have done really well to get this far, knocking out Man City and Borussia Dortmund in outrageously high-scoring ties and thrilling neutral fans. They have a young, dynamic team that is easy on the eye and leaves gaping holes at the back when they pour forwards, meaning they score plenty and also concede plenty.
Doing that against Man City and Dortmund – teams with a similarly gung-ho philosophy to Monaco – is one thing, but that just will not cut it against Barcelona; Here we are talking about the world’s most disciplined, organised and solid team, even more so right now than Atletico. The way the Juventus defence shut out Barcelona, with its lauded attacking triumvirate of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, over both legs of the quarter-final was a joy to behold, a defensive masterclass.
Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonnucci et al can do a similar job on Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao, while Juventus have excellent options such as Gonzalo Higuain going forwards and can exploit Monaco’s weakness in defence. Back Juventus to surge through to the final by winning both legs, where they will have a great chance of beating whichever Madrid club they face. Join in the debate on the message board here.
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