With the quarter-finals of the UEFA champions league play in the books, the tournament is now down to just four teams. The four remaining teams are reigning Italian league champions Juventus, German champions and perennial powerhouse Bayern Munich, Spanish giants F.C. Barcelona, and reigning European and FIFA club world cup champions Real Madrid. With the tournament down to just four of Europe’s biggest and successful clubs and the matches being drawn, soccer fans around the world should expect to see some quality soccer matches in the coming month. To see how each time should expect to stand in the coming matches of play, let’s look at the journey that each team has had leading up to the semifinals.
Compared to the other four clubs that have made it to the semifinals of this tournament, Italian champions Juventus appear to be the weakest team still left. For the group stage of the tournament, the Italian champions found themselves drawn into a group that contained the champions of the Spanish league, Atletico Madrid, Greek league champions Olympiacos, and Swedish league champions Malmö FF. In the group stage, Juventus managed to compile a 3-2-1 record, scoring 7 goals and allowing 4 through 6 matches, and managed to finish second in the group with Atletico finishing on top.
In the first round of the knockout stages, the Italian squad found themselves drawn against Borussia Dortmund of Germany. Juventus managed to make easy work out of a Borussia Dortmund side that had been struggling through the season in the Bundesliga, winning 2-1 in Turin and 3-0 in Dortmund. In the latest round of play, Juventus found themselves playing French team AS Monaco. A penalty goal from the first leg of the quarterfinal knockout stage would prove enough for the Italians to advance over the French team as Juventus won the first leg 1-0 and kept onto a scoreless draw in the second leg. The Italians now find themselves paired up against reigning champions Real Madrid.
Probably the most famed and storied club in the history of the UEFA champions league, Spanish giants Real Madrid seek to be the first team to win back-to-back champions league finals since AC Milan accomplished in 1989 and 1990. For the group stage of the tournament, the reigning European champions found themselves drawn into a group that consisted of Swiss champions FC Basel, Premier League runner’s up Liverpool FC, and Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad. Compiling a 6-0 record in the group and scoring 16 goals while only allowing 2, Real saw no problem topping off their group stage.
In the first round of the knockout stages, Real found themselves drawn against Schalke 04 of Germany. Real managed to win the first leg in Germany with a 2-0 victory, but ended up losing 3-4 in the Bernabéu. Despite nearly letting the Germany side get the better of them, Real advanced through with an aggregate score of 5-4. For the quarterfinals of the tournament, Real found themselves meeting local rivals, and the team they beat to become champions of Europe for a record breaking 10th time, Atletico Madrid. In the first leg, Real found themselves playing to a scoreless draw at the Vicente Calderón stadium. Needing to leave the Bernabéu with a win, Real found themselves unable to score and it appeared as if the game was going to go into extra-time, until Javier Hernandez found himself scoring the game winner off a pass from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 88th minute, thus guaranteeing themselves a trip to the semifinals of the tournament. Real Madrid now see themselves facing Juventus, with what many consider to be one of the strongest, if not strongest, squad in Europe.
A club known for its youth academy and tiki-taka style of play, Spanish giants FC Barcelona seek to earn a 5th champions league trophy. For the group stage of the tournament, Barcelona found themselves drawn into a group that contained French champions Paris-Saint Germain, Dutch champions AFC Ajax, and champions of Cyprus APOEL FC. Like their Spanish rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona managed to top off their group stage after composing a 5-1 record while scoring 15 goals and allowing 5 to find the back of the net.
For the first round of the knockout stages, Barcelona found themselves matched up against English power Manchester City. At the Etihad, Barcelona managed to defeat City 2-1, with Luis Suarez scoring both goals. At Camp Nou, Barcelona found managed to pull off a 1-0 victory against Manchester City and advanced to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, Barcelona found themselves in a group stage rematch against Paris-Saint Germain. For the first leg, Barcelona found themselves traveling to Paris to meet PSG and would find themselves leaving the city as winners, winning 3-1. Needing to either draw against PSG or win, Barcelona managed to shut-out PSG and earn a 2-0 victory, with both goals coming courtesy of Neymar, and advance to the semifinals of the tournament. FC Barcelona now find themselves awaiting German perennial powerhouse giants, Bayern Munich.
The most successful club in Germany, which also happens to be composed of most of the players that were members of the Germany team that won the most recent world cup in Brazil, Bayern Munich find themselves facing FC Barcelona in the semifinals. In the group stage of the tournament, Bayern found themselves drawn into a group that also contained Manchester City of the premier league, AS Roma of the Italian Serie A, and Russian league champions CSKA Moscow. Bayern managed to top off their group as the winners by amassing a 5-1 record through which the scored 16 goals and let in only 4 through 6 matches
In the first round of the knockout stages, Bayern found themselves matched up against Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukrainian premier league. In the first leg, Bayern found themselves held to a scoreless draw in Donetsk; needing to win to advance, Bayern made a statement at the Allianz arena by crushing Shakhtar in a 7-0 win. In the quarterfinals, Bayern would find themselves facing Porto of the Portuguese league. In the first leg, Bayern were beaten 3-1 by Porto. Desperately needing to beat the Portuguese side by at least more than 2 goals, Bayern entered the second leg with several players out with injury. Despite the injuries, Bayern managed to crush Porto 6-1 and advance to the semifinals. Bayern Munich now seem themselves waiting to face FC Barcelona in what are sure to be two of the most intense matches in Europe.
Seeing the individual journeys that each team has had to take to get this far, we see that the remaining matches will be matches full of intensity where everything will be on the lines for each club. All 4 clubs that are left have great histories in their countries and are all considered powerhouses in their respective leagues. Seeing just what each team has accomplished this year and how each team has performed in the tournament so far, it looks as if Real Madrid, who boast one of the most loaded squads with big stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez, and Bayern Munich who have scored the most goals in this tournament and features most of the players that brought the 2014 FIFA world cup to Germany, are the most likely to make the finals. Despite the stats and compositions of the squads left, Barcelona and Juventus should not be counted out yet because if there is something that I have come to learn about soccer it’s that anything can happen. These matches will surely be great and a treat for any major fan.