Champions League 2016 – The Final Countdown

We are at the semi-final stage of this season’s Champions League and as we head closer to the final in Milan’s impressive StadioSan Siro next month, let’s now take a look at the four contenders vying for European club football’s top prize.


Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is entering his final month at the helm of the German giants, before making the switch to the Premier League to join Manchester City this summer. That he could still meet his new employers in the final is a subject for another day, but the Catalan tactician’s obsession with the Champions League matches that of the club itself; a match made in heaven? Well, almost. The Bavarian’s have only lost one of their 10 matches played so far in this season’s competition, a 2-0 group stage defeat at the Emirates against Arsenal blotting their copybook. In the round of the last 16 after a 2-2 first-leg draw in Turin against Juventus, Guardiola’s team looked down and out after the Italians took a two-goal lead at the Allianz Arena. Then Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller turned the tie on its head in the final quarter. Goals from Thiago and Kingsley Coman in extra-time, sealed their passage to the quarter-finals. A slender 1-0 win at home against Benfica, set up a great night in Lisbon a week later where goals from Arturo Vidal and Muller once again, booked their place in the last four. The five-times winners of the competition now face Barcelona’s conqueror’s Atletico Madrid in next Wednesday’s first-leg in Spain.



Real Madrid’s season, both domestically and in Europe, has taken a turn for the better. Galvanised by the El Clasico win at the Camp Nou against Barcelona, the team is riding the crest of a wave and of course, the man pulling all the strings is the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Los Blancos are now looking to claim their 11th Champions League title and the Portuguese superstar will be back in familiar territory next week, when his squad heads to Manchester to face City in the semi-final first-leg. Having won seven of their last eight outings in the competition, the way that Ronaldo almost single-handedly dragged his team into the last four was one of the most memorable moments in this season’s tournament. His fifth Champions League hattrick as Real overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Wolfsburg, puts him level with his great rival Lionel Messi; with superlatives running out to describe some of his five-star performances and his 16 goals putting him way out in front in the goalscoring charts in this season’s competition, the betting exchanges have closed the book on who will win the golden shoe this time around.



If points were given out for style in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid would have failed to get out of the group stage of this season’s competition. Coach Diego Simeone has got his side what is commonly known in football parlance as “Well organised”. But the way they eliminated Barcelona in the quarter-finals must be applauded, not criticised. After grabbing a vital away goal for his team in the Camp Nou, striker Fernando Torres lost his head and two quick yellow cards saw his match come to an end before half-time. But rather than panic, Simeone’s meticulous attention to detail on the training ground paid off in the second-half and although they headed back to the capital beaten 2-1 on the night, the astute Argentine knew his team held the upper hand for the return at the Estadio Vicente Calderon. Within 36 minutes of the commencement of the second-leg, the tie was level once again as Atletico showed their more skilful side to produce a wonderfully worked move, expertly finished off by French striker Antoine Griezmann. With the fans at their most fanatical best, that other old football saying that they can be the “12th” man has never been more in evidence, as Atleti frustrated their opponents before finishing them off with a dagger to the heart thanks to a Griezemann penalty; you write the 2014 finalists off at your peril, Bayern Munich! You’ve been warned.




Manchester City are in unfamiliar territory but then, they’ve been in unfamiliar territory since they qualified for the knock-out phase (for the first time) in this seasons competition. Coach Manuel Pellegrini has delivered on the biggest stage time and time again en route to next week’s meeting with Real Madrid, and although the best football betting sites see them as rank outsiders to reach the final, to under estimate this Manchester City team would be a foolish thing to do. You could forgive the Premier League side, for thinking that they’ve gate-crashed a party that they were never invited to, because they were never meant to get this far. They were never meant to eliminate PSG in the quarter-finals, it just wasn’t in the script; that Belgian international Kevin De Bruyne took that script and ripped it up right in front of the French champions, speaks volumes about the way the players are fighting for their (soon to be departed) coach. So often the favourites domestically, it seems that the Citizens are revelling in their status as underdogs in the Champions League. That they’ve come this far is credit to the way their Chilean coach has maintained his professionalism amidst all the hype surrounding his high-profile successor’s imminent arrival. But then the pressure is off isn’t it? After all, they were never supposed to get this far….were they??


Semi Finals here we come! #CMONCITY #cityvpsg #mcfc

A photo posted by Manchester City FC (@mcfcofficial) on


Odds courtesy of Bet365


Steve Mitchell @barafundler

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