Four things to look out for in the Champions League semis
UEFA Champions League fanfare has officially reached its penultimate stage — the semi-finals and the last stage before Europe’s best team is coronated. The first leg matches are guaranteed to be electrifying with Barcelona and Ajax on the hunt for the treble while Liverpool and Tottenham on the cusp of bringing the European title back to England after five years of Spanish dominance. Here’s what we can expect from the four teams when they go head to head.
Messi’s the Magician
Lionel Messi is the Houdini of football, the gift that has not yet stopped giving. We can count on the Messi magic to delight the crowd come Wednesday evening. The combination of Messi, Coutinho, Suarez is perhaps one the deadliest attacks in Europe at the moment. Despite a hard-fought first leg, Barcelona made light work of dismissing Manchester United in the quarter-finals, unsurprisingly due to the Messi magic. To add to that, Barca have already been crowned Spanish champions with a few games to spare, meaning they have the luxury to focus on the UCL silverware unlike their opponent. Liverpool are still playing cat and mouse with Pep’s Manchester City for the English Premier League’s top prize. For these reasons and more, Barcelona maybe the current favourites to win this year’s title.
Dynamic African Duo
Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are top contenders for the EPL golden boot with 20 and 21 goals respectively. Their efforts this season have put Liverpool in a tightly contested race against Manchester City to take win the Premier League title. Jurgen Klopp has done a stunning job with the team and the players, a Champions League title will cement his legacy in the Premier League as one of the greatest Liverpool managers in history. The attacking force that is Mo Salah and Sadio Mane which has been the catalyst to Liverpool phenomenal 2018/19 title campaign will once again play a vital role against Barcelona.
The “fighting Dutchmen”
Ajax may have the lowest odds of the four teams, but don’t cancel them out just yet. The Dutch side has fought with impressive resilience and tactical sophistication, going head to head against some of the strongest teams, and managing to make it to the top four. After knocking out Real Madrid (3-5 on aggregate) in the round of 16 and edging past Juventus to win the quarterfinals, 3-2 on aggregate, the underdog story is quickly being rewritten. Maybe just maybe, that underdog has become the competition’s bigdog.
Tottenham’s missing front line
Tottenham’s injury woes will be a major hurdle for Mauricio Pochettino come the semi-finals. Harry Kane has been out with an ankle injury since the first leg of the quarterfinals, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks’ fitness has been in doubt. Heung Min Son is suspended from the first leg of the semi-final after he picked up a third yellow card in the tournament. Pochettino will need to inspire his team once more to forge ahead in the midst of the injuries and the absences of Son and Kane in Spurs’ attack against.