Sunday, April 20, 2014

Breaking Down the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League Semifinal Matchups

We're down to the last four teams in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, and they are four of the best. The four remaining teams are Real Madrid, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and defending champions Bayern Munich. Bayern have already won the Bundesliga title, as Chelsea, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are all involved in title fights. The Blues of Chelsea sit second in the Premier League. Atlético Madrid lead second place Real by 3 points as they sit numbers one and two in La Liga.

They were paired up as follows: Real Madrid will face Bayern Munich and Atlético will face Chelsea.

Here I will break down these matchups, and say what I think will be some of the key battles in the ties.

Real Madrid - Bayern Munich
Leg 1: Madrid - April 23 - Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
Leg 2: Munich - April 29 - Allianz Arena

Defending champions Bayern Munich will face a real test, as they take on the most successful team in the competition's history, Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to make his return for Los Blancos after missing two weeks and a Clásico with a hamstring injury. He will go up against arguably the best defender in the world on his left side, facing Munich and Germany captain Philip Lahm. Arjen Robben is facing his old club, and he will likely match up against another player making a return from injury, Marcelo. Both teams have incredible pace and play counterattacking styles. Between them, they have five of the best outside midfielders in the world and two Ballon D'Or finalists.

Player to Watch: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Coming off of possibly his best performance for Real Madrid against Barcelona, Gareth Bale will play a huge part in Real Madrid's attack. He can play on either wing, giving the fullbacks misery, or can attack down the middle, to exploit the inconsistent partnership of Jérôme Boateng and Dante.

Prediction: Bayern Munich advance on aggregate 5-3.

Atlético Madrid - Chelsea
Leg 1: Madrid - April 22 - Estadio Vicente Calderón
Leg 2: London - April 30 - Stamford Bridge

This year's surprise package comes from the other side of Madrid. Atlético Madrid have not only impressed in their Champions League run, but also sit on top of La Liga. Diego Simeone's men look to be solid in every position, and have one of the best attacking partnerships in Europe, with David Villa and Diego Costa. Costa is currently second in the race for the Pichichi, and has the strength and intelligence to worry any defender. Chelsea are coming off of a very disappointing loss to bottom-of-the-table Sunderland that has all but killed off their chances for the Premier League title. Eden Hazard, who was just named as a candidate for both the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year Awards, is doubtful for the first leg with a calf injury suffered against PSG. Fernando Torres will face the club where he made his name, and Tiago will also face the side where he spent one year, with much less success. Probably the biggest story is whether or not goalkeeping sensation Thibaut Courtois will be able to represent Atlético, as he is only on loan from Chelsea.

Player to Watch: Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid)
Costa has been a revelation for Los Rojiblancos, earning himself a spot in the Spanish National Team and competing for the title of leading scorer in La Liga. He is coming off a shin injury, but did score in Atlético's 2-0 victory over Elche on Friday.

Prediction: Atlético Madrid move on 2-1 on aggregate.

Who do you think will face of in the final in Lisbon? Let me know in the comments section. And for breaking news and information, be sure to follow me on twitter right here.

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