The four best teams in Europe this season are going head to head in the Champions League semi-finals. Juventus against Real Madrid, and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich take on Barcelona.
Juventus hosting Madrid in the first tie and the first leg in Turin. Juventus adopted a defensive set up to hold off what was left of the BBC (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo). The Italian team played an experienced back four and the doubters where definitely left surprised as an assured showing kept Madrid mostly at bay. Experience throughout the team showed and Juventus continuously frustrated Madrid and with Carlos Tevez rolling back the years to produce a superb performance and a goal to give Juventus the advantage heading into the second leg next Wednesday.
The main talking point of Real Madrid’s performance was their lack of creativity and the ability to play a simple short pass. Sergio Ramos was the preferred choice in midfield in the absence of Luka Modric, and his passing was far from capable in such an important game. The Spaniard continued throughout to play the long ball and it played straight into the Italians hands. A subdued Gareth Bale received most of the criticism for the defeat. Returning after two weeks out with an injury, Bale looked tired, whenever he received the ball he played it back instead of being the attacking talent we all know he can be and taking on his opponent.
Real Madrid need to improve before next weeks second leg before their hold on the trophy disappears. Bale especially needs a big performance or his days at the club may be numbered. Madrid did take a goal away from Turin and have therefore left this tie with plenty to play for. Juventus will look to continue that superb defensive display, but they will no doubt face a more attacking Madrid side, with an impatient crowd. The Italians have won the battle of the first leg, but can they win the war over the Spanish side.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Madrid 2-0 Juventus (Agg 3-2)
The second tie saw Guardiola return to his old fortress of the Nou Camp to face a Barcelona side with an exciting front three of their own in the shape of Neymar, Suarez and the ever impressive Messi.
The Bayern boss began the game with three defenders man marking Barcelona’s magnificent front three. But with the Spanish side opening up too many gaps and creating eye opening chances, the German side reverted back to a traditional four piece defense which enabled the team to be more solid. With the Bavarian’s missing Robben and Ribery, it was left to Lewandowski to do the business at the head of attack and he very nearly did after 18 minutes. With Manuel Neuer doing everything he could to keep Barca at bay, it seemed like the game could end in a stalemate.
But the main man Lionel Messi had other ideas. With just 13 minutes left on the clock Messi struck from the edge of the area and beat the best goalkeeper in the world at his near post to give the Spaniard’s the lead. That to many would have been enough but Barcelona pressed on and within three minutes of his first, Messi got his second. The Argentine raced into the box, twisting and turning to confuse Boateng to the floor before then lifting a superb chip over the stranded keeper Manuel Neuer to move back ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (his number one rival) to the all-time Champions League goal scoring table.
To add insult to injury to Bayern’s luck ending with 15 minutes to go, Neymar, a player who may not have and perhaps shouldn’t have even still been on the pitch after two earlier yellow card offenses slotted home, after being played through on goal by that man again (Messi), the Brazilian never looked like missing in the 94th minute.
Going into the second leg and all but a miracle for Bayern will see Barcelona head through to their first final since 2011 at Wembley with a potential El Classico waiting for them in Berlin.
Prediction for 2nd leg: Bayern 1-1 Barcelona (Agg 1-4).
Pictures courtesy of The Daily Mail and The Telegraph