Fans are really in for a treat. All four teams at this stage – Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, and Monaco – have played some good football. Real Madrid got a straightforward round of 16 with Napoli being no match; they predictably swept aside the inexperienced Partenopei. Pitted next against Bayern Munich – and former manager Carlo Ancelotti – Los Blancos then saw off Bayern 6-3 on aggregate that was marred by controversy, but still provided good entertainment for the neutrals and saw Cristiano Ronaldo set a new record.
However, the most exciting side so far arguably has to be Monaco. Les Rouges-et-Blancs lived up their billing as the highest scoring side in Europe as Leonardo Jardim outwitted wily tactician Pep Guardiola to win 6-6 on away goals. Atletico Madrid successfully navigated their way through a tricky round of 16 draw with Bayer Leverkusen, then held their nerve to dump debutants Leicester City out of the competition.
And finally Juventus have conceded just two goals. That’s two goals so far since the start of this tournament. The Bianconeri shut down Porto, but arguably pulled off the most brilliant tactical performance against Barcelona. Shutting down the Blaugrana’s famed “MSN” attack is hard enough over 90 minutes, but to do it over 180 – and at the Camp Nou – is a testament to a team who has one of the most fearsome defenses in Europe.
For Real Madrid, they are just 180 minutes away from featuring in the final on June 3rd. Another 90 minutes remain for them to make history. Since the tournament was re-formatted in 1992, no team have ever won back-to-back titles. Los Blancos are the reigning champions, having won it last season against cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. But given that they have struggled against Los Rojiblancos, they surely were not too pleased with having to face Diego Simeone’s troops over 180 minutes.
Simeone’s squad have kept nine clean sheets in their last 13 fixtures in all competitions, conceding just four goals. This will be their third semi-cup appearance in four seasons, and they certainly will not want to be the bridesmaid this time around. Having lost in 2014 and 2016 to Real Madrid, fans will be hoping that this finally will be Atleti’s year, when they get their hands on the trophy that has eluded them for so long.
However, Los Rojiblancos are dealing with a spate of injuries. Veteran defender Juanfran is among those on the treatment table, along with Sime Vrsaljko, Miguel Angel Moya, Augusto Fernandez, and Jose Gimenez, whilst star midfielder Yannick Carrasco is in doubt for this fixture. That could see some shuffling around, especially in defense, but Atleti have not lost on the road since December. They surely will give Real Madrid a hard time, especially if they can score first.
Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane will be without the services of star winger Gareth Bale, as well as experienced defender Pepe. Both are effectively out for the rest of the season, with Bale going off injured during Real Madrid’s defeat to Barcelona in El Clasico last month. Still, Los Blancos have an excellent record thus far. As noted before, they defeated Bayern both home and away – ending the Bavarians’ long-standing winning home record – and have won seven out of their last 10 fixtures (whilst drawing three).
In addition, Real Madrid may struggle with Atleti in LaLiga, but the same certainly does not apply in Europe. The all-time Champions League winners have lost just one out of their last seven European encounters with Los Rojiblancos, and are responsible for denying them the chance to clinch the coveted prize in the past three seasons. That includes wins over their cross-town foes in 2014 and 2016, and narrowly edging them out 1-0 in 2015.
Who will draw first blood in what will be a fiery Madrid Derby? Don’t miss out on what will be a highly entertaining clash.