UEFA Champions League – The Race to Berlin

The battle to make it to the UEFA Champions League final reaches its conclusion this week with the semi-final second legs taking place. With four of Europe’s footballing heavyweights – Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus – all battling to proceed, it should make for compelling viewing.

A fantastic first leg home performance against German giants Bayern Munich offers Barcelona the luxury of a three goal advantage as they face off in their second leg at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night. A brace by Lionel Messi and a third by Neymar have left Bayern with a mountain to climb if they are to make it to their second Champions League final in three years. A disappointing league defeat at home to Augsburg at the weekend was the fourth straight defeat for Pep Guardiola’s team and not the result they would have liked in preparation for welcoming Barcelona to town. Barcelona meanwhile enjoyed a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday as they look for a La Liga, Champions League and Copa Del Rey treble in manager Luis Enrique’s first season in charge. With Bayern needing to score goals to proceed and the counter attacking prowess of Messi, Suarez and Neymar for Barcelona it should be an exciting match, and one not to be missed.

In the other semi-final first leg, Juventus beat Real Madrid 2-1, thanks to a second half Carlos Tevez penalty in an absorbing game in Turin. A one goal lead however, may not be enough for the newly crowned Serie A champions to take to the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening. With Barcelona already having one hand on the La Liga title, the Champions League is the last chance of silverware for Real as they look to become the first ever team to retain the Champions League trophy. Manager Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping his team score early against Juve with Cristiano Ronaldo looking to add to his incredible tally of 52 goals so far this season having already scored in the semi-final first leg defeat. It will be interesting to see if Juventus attempt to ‘park the bus’ and defend what they have in typical Italian football fashion.

Barcelona are now justifiably odds-on favourites to win their fifth Champions League title and can be backed at 1.57 (4/7) to lift the trophy again. However, of greater value may be the 4 (3/1) available on Real Madrid to lift the trophy. Progression against Juventus would see that price drop dramatically and also set up the likelihood of the first ‘El Clasico’ Champions League final against Barcelona in the Olympic Stadium, Berlin on June 6th.

Scott McGlynn

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