By Diego De Souza and Lucien Betancourt
The Champions League quarterfinals have come and gone quickly. Across these past two weeks, four teams have gone home and now four remain – Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The semifinals are due to be in the weeks of April 27th and May 4th, and from there we’ll know who will make the final in Istanbul. Here, we will review the quarterfinals and preview the semifinals. We’ll start with the most entertaining of the four games, Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain
The first leg of this 2020 Champions League final rematch was played in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. PSG got a quick lead through a goal via superstar forward Kylian Mbappe. Then, in the 28th minute, PSG center-back Marquinhos scored from a beautiful assist from Neymar which doubled their lead for nine minutes until Bayern forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, in for the injured Robert Lewandowski, scored a header. Once the second half got underway, Thomas Muller of Bayern scored a goal in the 60th minute to tie the game. But eight minutes later, Kylian Mbappe scored another goal, which would be the last of the leg as PSG beat Bayern in Munich 3-2, having a significant away lead with the return leg going to Parc De Princes in Paris. Bayern dominated the run of play in this leg with 31 shots to PSG’s 6 but PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas had a great game and was arguably the man of the match. This was a fantastic game and beautifully set up the second leg, in Parc De Princes. PSG looked the better side until the 40th minute, when Eric Choupo-Moting of Bayern scored a header and tied the aggregate score at three. That was the only action of the game as they drew 3-3 on aggregate but PSG advanced on by the away goals rule, scoring three away goals compared to Bayern’s one. Throughout the game, both teams missed some great chances as PSG forward Neymar missed five clear chances at a goal, including 3 shots at the post, whilst Leroy Sane of Bayern Munich for his part missed seven goal scoring chances. Overall, poor finishing in the game by both teams but PSG advance and will play Manchester City in the semifinals. For Bayern, the only competition left for them this season is the Bundesliga, which they will look to win for the ninth consecutive time (currently they are 5 points ahead in first).
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
This was another Champions League final rematch, this one being from the 2018 final where Liverpool lost 3-1. This time, however, many key players were injured on both teams, including both teams’ senior center backs. The first leg was played in the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid scored twice in the first half, goals by Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio, in the 27th and 36th minute, respectively. Both of these goals were caused by errors from Liverpool, with the second goal stemming from an especially bad error from right back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest of the first half stayed relatively quiet, but only five minutes into the second half, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scored a goal and got Liverpool back into the game, only for their hopes to be crushed in the 65th minute by Vinicius Junior, who capitalized from another error by Alexander-Arnold. The game ended 3-1, a big boost for Real Madrid going into Liverpool. In the second leg, the game was slow and frankly boring. Real Madrid were playing rather defensive with a comfortable two goal lead. Liverpool was quite cautious as well, having only four shots on goal, all of which were saved by Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Real Madrid’s experience and tactical fouling gave Liverpool nothing and they coasted through. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, meaning that the aggregate score was 3-1, so Real Madrid goes on to play Chelsea in the Semi-Finals. Liverpool will now have to finish top 4 in their league to be back in the Champions League next season.
Porto vs Chelsea
This was the least exciting of the clashes in our opinion. This was because Chelsea opened up as huge favorites and were in great form under manager Thomas Tuchel going into this game. The two legs were played in Sevilla due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the first leg, with Porto being the “home” team, they went on the attack. They had a number of goalscoring opportunities but Chelsea’s defense held strong. Then, against the flow of play, Chelsea’s attacking midfielder Mason Mount coolly spun off of Porto defender Chancel Mbemba with his left foot and shot with his right foot into the bottom corner. This fantastic turn and finish came at the half hour mark and changed the momentum of the game. Porto then looked for an equalizer but couldn’t find one. Unfortunately for them, Chelsea would go on to double their lead late, when Porto’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona gave a gift to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell who then went over to Porto’s keeper and scored. This gave Chelsea a very comfortable 2-0 lead going into their “home” clash, the first leg being an example of how individual mistakes and inability to convert chances into goals will cost you at this level. The second game played out as you might expect, with Chelsea looking to keep a clean sheet and Porto looking for the goal that would halve the deficit. Porto threatened little in this match, and while they would get a goal, a spectacular bicycle kick (rivaling Oliver Giroud’s goal from the last round) by forward Mehdi Tahremi in the 93rd minute, it mattered little in the end. Chelsea go through to the semi-finals 2-1 on aggregate where they will face Real Madrid. Porto will aim to finish in the top 2 in their league to be back in the Champions League next year.
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
Heading into this fixture, Manchester City were the huge favorites being that they were 11 points ahead in first place in the Premier League and were still in the running for the quadruple (winning all the trophies they are in play for). In contrast, Borussia Dortmund sit in 5th place in the Bundesliga, seven points out of 4th and face a real danger of missing out on the Champions League next year, when new manager Marco Rose will arrive. Failure to make the Champions League for Dortmund may force them to sell their biggest stars, namely Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. However, Dortmund gave Manchester City trouble early on, pressing hard in the opening 15 minutes of the match in which they were on the road. Unfortunately for Dortmund, their midfielder Emre Can gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and City made them pay with a lightning quick counter attack finished by attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne: another example of how mistakes cannot happen in games where you are the underdog. Dortmund would fight back though, and they were absolutely robbed of a goal at the end of the first half when midfielder Jude Bellingham was said to have fouled City keeper Ederson when in reality, it was Ederson who kicked Bellingham. So, Manchester City were fortunate to lead 1-0 at halftime, but they failed to add to that in the second half and Dortmund captain Marco Reus made them pay by scoring an equalizing goal in the 84th minute. This could’ve set up Dortmund very well where they would be in front due to the away goal for the second leg. Unfortunately for Dortmund, they switched off on the defensive end and Manchester City’s Phil Foden gave them the winner in the 89th minute. This gave City the 2-1 lead heading into the second leg, where Dortmund took the surprise lead in the 15th minute on a Jude Bellingham rifle into the top right corner. If it stood, the 1-0 result would mean Dortmund would go through to the semis, and that was the score at halftime. But the whole game changed when Manchester City was awarded a penalty early in the second half, as the ball hit Emre Can’s head and then hit his arm. It was a questionable penalty, and when you add this with the Bellingham disallowed goal in the first leg, Dortmund have a reason to feel slightly robbed. Riyad Mahrez smashed the penalty into the top corner to make it a 1-1 game, putting Manchester City back in front. Phil Foden wrapped it up with a beautiful shot into the bottom corner from outside the box in the 75th minute to send Manchester City through to the semis. The aggregate score ended up being 4-2 and Manchester City will now face PSG. Borussia Dortmund will now have to focus on getting top 4 in their domestic league and will look to finish the season on a positive note if they win the German cup competition known as DFB Pokal.
As stated before, PSG will play Man City and Real Madrid will play Chelsea. Let’s take a look at those games, as well as our takes on who will go on to play in the Final.
Man City vs PSG
This fixture is the tastier of the two. Both of these teams are on fire, both in their domestic league and here in the Champions League. Manchester City has had a near unstoppable run with nine wins and a single draw in their last 10 Champions League games. Although they’ve had the easier road here, they are no pushovers. Paris Saint-Germain has had their ups and downs throughout their season, first having to survive the dreaded Group of Death we talked about earlier this year. Then, they had to go through Spanish and German giants- Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively. They beat both teams away but at home they’ve had their troubles, and in that lies their main weakness. When they get too confident with their lead, they falter and their offense slows down and underperforms. On the contrary, Mbappe and Neymar of PSG, as well as the defenders surrounding goalkeeper Keylor Navas, have been outstanding. Although they don’t have many flashy players in the midfield, they are worth more than the sum of their parts. The first leg will be played in the Parc De Princes in Paris. We predict a large 3-1 win for PSG. The second leg will be played in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. We predict that Manchester City will win 2-1, but they will ultimately lose on a 4-3 aggregate and PSG will advance on to the finals.
Real Madrid vs Chelsea
Real Madrid has been a very difficult team to get a read on this season. They’ve had many embarrassing defeats including losing to Shakhtar Donetsk two times in the group stage and nearly failed to make it through. On the other hand, they are in the semifinals of the Champions League and this is their competition, having won it 13 times in their history, the most out of any team. In the knockout rounds, they made quick work of Atalanta and Liverpool and seem to be in top form at the right time to win a title. They also beat their fierce rivals Barcelona 2-1 this weekend, putting them squarely in the La Liga title race and giving them some momentum as they head into this matchup. Real Madrid are never to be counted out in this competition and their manager Zinedine Zidane will look to win it for his 4th time in 5 tries. Chelsea have similarly had an odd season to this point, starting off really slow with previous manager and club legend Frank Lampard until they replaced him with German boss Thomas Tuchel. Their form has been much improved since, especially on the defensive side. They are now 4th in the Premier League and find themselves in the FA Cup semifinals in addition to the Champions League semis. Tuchel’s work has been impressive for having taken over midseason. In the round of 16, they dominated a poor Atletico Madrid side and in the quarters made easy work of Porto. This will be no doubt their biggest challenge so far. We expect a pretty defensive matchup, with Real Madrid taking the home leg 1-0 and tying the away match 1-1. With this result, Madrid will have won 2-1 on aggregate and will advance to the final as they seek their 14th title.
Through the past 18 weeks of Champions League football, we’ve seen 32 teams in the group stages get whittled down to four. All four semifinal teams have had uphill journeys to get here (apart from perhaps Man City). Real Madrid had a rough first start to the campaign and barely got past their group but they held on tight with a close win on the final day before moving through the knockout round smoothly. Chelsea had an easy group stage, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 draws before going through the knockout stages. PSG had a very difficult journey. In the Group Stage they were drawn in the Group of Death with Manchester United, Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir. They got through, topping their group with 4 wins and 2 losses, having to win their last 2 games against Istanbul and Manchester United to scrape through before having to go through Barcelona and Bayern Munich back-to-back. Manchester City had the easiest road here, breezing past the group stage with 5 wins, 1 draw, and 13 goals while conceding only 1 before playing a demoralized Borussia Monchengladbach team in the round of 16. But as the four teams get set to play there can only be one champion, and we won’t have to wait long to find out who. The final will be played on Saturday, May 29th in Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.