Champions League semi-finals preview
Champions League semi-finals preview
The four teams that will contest the two semi-finals of this year’s Champions League in Lisbon have now been decided. For the first time in 24 years, there will be no representatives from either England or Spain in the final stages of the competition – instead two teams from Germany, and two from France, will compete for the right to meet in the final on August 23rd.
According to SoccerTimes.com, most soccer betting sites believe Bayern Munich are odds-on not only to beat Lyon, but also to go on and win the cup for the sixth time in their history, and the first time since 2013. They are overwhelming favourites – 5/19 – to beat Lyon, who are the outsiders of the teams left in the competition and are priced at 11/1 for this match. In the other game, PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) will also begin as odds—on favourites (4/5) against the other surprise team left in the competition, RB Leipzig, currently 7/2 for their match.
The PSG – RB Leipzig match will be played on Tuesday August 18th, and the Bayern- Lyon match the following night. Both games will kick-off at 9 pm local time.
Bayern are now the form team left in the competition. Bayern humiliated Barcelona on Friday night in a game that surprised the watching world. Not only did they win 8 – 2 but outclassed their opponents all over the pitch. A final shot count of 26 – 7 tells its own story.
In fact, Bayern have won every single game they have played in every competition since drawing with Leipzig in a league game in February since lockdown. In the interim, they have won the Bundesliga, the German Cup, and now look set to complete a historic treble.
They were fitter, stronger, faster, and had many more passing options that a Barcelona team that showed its age. Bayern also had much better options from the bench. Phillipe Coutinho – ironically, a Barcelona player – was only on the pitch 15 minutes, but in that time, he scored twice and provided an assist.
The German champions also possess arguably the best striker in Europe in the form of Robert Lewandowski. The Pole had a relatively quiet night on Friday, scoring just once, but that was his 35th goal of what has been his most productive season to date.
They will not underestimate Lyon but will surely not make the same mistake as Manchester City did in their own quarter-final with the French side on Saturday night by giving them too much respect. That saw Pep Guardiola switch to an unfamiliar back three, and play two holding midfielders, sacrificing one of his creative options further forward.
As a result, City failed to provide their usual attacking threat, and, once Maxwell Cornet had given Lyon the lead, they were able to defend deep on the edge of their own penalty area. Guardiola can also be accused of being slow to change tactics when it was clear Plan A was not working.
City did eventually find an equaliser through Kevin de Bruyne, but then were undone by defensive frailties. There may have been an element of controversy about Lyon’s second scored by Moussa Dembélé, but it was hard to argue that they deserved to win on the night, even if 3 -1 was a generous score line.
Lyon only finished seventh In Ligue 1 which was decided on a points per game basis and not resumed, and winning the competition is their only hope of European football next season. And they had not won any of their previous five games coming into the City game, having come through their quarter-final tie with Juventus on the away goals rule.
Bayern may need to be patient and disciplined against a team that will be well-organised at the back, and unlikely to afford them the same space as Barcelona. In the end though, they should have too much quality, and should prevail, by at least two clear goals.
The other semi-final is a match between two relatively new teams derided by fans of other clubs because of their ownership structure and wealthy financial backing.
PSG were formed in 1970, and whilst they have been a force in French football for many years, only began to make an impression in Europe once they were taken over by a Qatari-based investment fund, and began a policy of buying expensive superstars. The Champions League has been their Holy Grail for some time, and they may feel they will never have a better chance of finally getting their hands on the trophy.
They rode their luck in their quarter-final against Atalanta from Serie A. They trailed from the 28th minute, and looked to be heading for the exit, until Marquinhos rescued them with a 90th-minute equaliser. And then former Stoke City flop Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting proved to be an unlikely hero for them with the winner 146 seconds later.
The French champions did not play well on the night. They were pedestrian and devoid of ideas, heavily reliant on Neymar, who had a mixed night, mingling moments of brilliance with some glaring misses.
Much may depend on their ability to get Kylian Mbappé fit from the start. The French World-Cup winner was only fit enough for a place on the bench against Atalanta, but, when he did come on, he injected pace into the team that had been all too lacking before.
Leipzig are even younger, having been founded as recently as 11 years ago. They are owned by the Red Bull Energy company, a rare example of corporate ownership in a country where the vast majority of clubs are owned by the fans. As a result, they are widely hated in Germany because it is felt they have bought their success.
This is the first time they have ever reached the knock-out phase of the Champions League and possess the youngest manager still left in the tournament – Julian Nagelsmann is only 33 years old.
Leipzig arrived in Portugal having sold one of their main assets, and main striker, Timo Werner to Chelsea. Arguably they missed his incision against Atlético Madrid on Thursday night, but they still were fully deserving of their 2 -1 victory over Diego Simeone’s team.
In Dayot Upamecano, they have a centre-back who was wanted by all the top clubs in Europe before he signed a new contract, whilst, in the absence of Werner, Marcel Sabitzer and Dani Olmo help provide a cutting edge.
PSG will probably win, but they will need to perform at a higher level then they showed against Atalanta.
August 16, 2020 / email@example.com /
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