UEFA Champions League 2nd Leg Semifinal Preview

– Angela Nicholas

SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS:
Juventus (ITA) 2 – 1 Real Madrid (ESP)
Barcelona (ESP) 3 – 0 Bayern Munich (GER)

Last week in the 1st leg of the Champions League semifinals, Barcelona put on a late show against Bayern Munich to win 3-0, while Juventus upset Real Madrid 2-1. This puts Barca on top of Bayern 3-0 in aggregate scoring, and Juventus over Madrid 2-1 aggregate.

For those who are unfamiliar with the aggregate scoring that is done in UCL soccer, it is a combined score between several matches. In the Champions League, each team gets a home game. These are referred to as “legs”, so there is a first and second leg of each round. The team that advances is the team with the most goals forward at the end of the second match. Where it gets tricky is the away goal rule. The AGR was put into place a long time ago, when there was a ton of political, social and economical unrest throughout Europe. It was used as a tiebreaker for aggregate scoring. While highly controversial and heavily debated today, it remains in use. When two teams are even on goals forward, regardless of their record, the team with the most away goals advances. When calculating a tiebreaker, away goals are counted as two goals, while home goals are counted as one. For example, Real Madrid trail Juventus 1-2 on aggregate right now. Madrid is home tomorrow, so if they pull out a 1-0 victory, it will be 2-2 aggregate, and Real Madrid will have one goal on the road, while Juventus would have none. In this circumstance, Madrid would advance on the AGR tiebreaker.

So, back to our match ups for tomorrow. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while suffering first leg losses on the road, are hosting tomorrow. You can count on both teams coming out with a spark lit under them. Barcelona and Juventus are in better positions as they’re both up on aggregate scoring, but they will each have to go into the lion’s den tomorrow afternoon against an opponent seeking revenge.

BARCELONA AT BAYERN MUNICH (BERLIN, GERMANY)
Barca are sitting pretty on this one. They’re up 3-0 agg. and have all of their major players healthy, while Bayern has been absolutely decimated by injury. They’re missing a lot of attack with the loss of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, while Barcelona has a lethal top three of Neymar Jr., Luis Suarez and none other than Lionel Messi, who has absolutely been the difference in this round. Keep your eye on others like Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic. They may not be as flashy as the others, but they are incredible playmakers. It is hard to ignore the talent on either of these rosters. Robert Lewandowski has returned to the German squad’s lineup after a broken jaw and concussion. They also have one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now in between their posts, if not the best: Manuel Neuer. Other unbelievable players to watch are Thomas Müller, Bastien Schweinsteiger (the most German name ever), and Mario Götze.

Prediction: Barcelona advances. They’ve laid the groundwork, and Bayern Munich will need to take chances right from kickoff to make up the goal deficit, while Barca can play conservatively and keep possession. This will open them up to counter attacks from a fast team with the most talented attacking trio in soccer right now. 1-1 tie, Barcelona through on aggregate 4-1.

JUVENTUS AT REAL MADRID (MADRID, SPAIN)
This is the game everyone needs to watch, quite honestly. This is such an intriguing match up, and the first leg upset by Juventus has created some drama. Juventus took game one at home 2-1 against Real Madrid, and could have had more if it weren’t for some poor finishing. They are the “weakest” team of the four left and are taking on the reigning champs in their house. That being said, Juventus gets Paul Pogba back from injury, which is a huge help for Juve, and a concern for Madrid’s already weak midfield. Playing for Juventus also happens to be one of my all time faves: Andrea Pirlo. If you don’t know him, watch the game – you will. He’s the class act in the center midfield with the awesome hair. And yes, I am wearing his Azzurri jersey in my photo on here. Others to watch for are Claudio Marchisio, Carlos Tévez, and Gianluigi Buffon in goal. He wears bobby pins in his hair, and he’s flat out awesome. Real Madrid’s talent is self-explanatory. There is no denying the absolute class of Cristiano Ronaldo. He, like Leo Messi, is just playing soccer at a different level than everyone else. On the attacking side as well is Gareth Bale, who has unbelievable pace and technical ability. Other players to watch out for are Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas in goal.

Prediction: As much as I’d love Juventus to pull this one out, I have to give this one to the Spaniards. They don’t need much to offset Juve’s aggregate lead, they’re at home, and they just seem to always find a way. 1-0 Real Madrid, Madrid through on aggregate tiebreaker.

Champions League is a beautiful thing, and my absolute favorite. It’s so awesome to see all the big dogs across Europe go head-to-head to win one of the greatest titles in soccer, when these teams wouldn’t otherwise ever meet. Not very often you can see this amount of talent and world class players all on one pitch. Let’s have some fun tomorrow! (Força Barça!)

– Angela Nicholas, @angelanicole_xange

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