That's Odd: UEFA Champions League enters the business end
An extravagant week of UEFA Champions League football produced several stupefying results as Ligue 1 side Lyon caused a major upset, eliminating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City with an astonishing 3-1 win, while Paris Saint-Germain ended Atalanta’s dream run to make it into the semi-finals.
RB Leipzig, despite missing their top-scorer Timo Werner, managed to breach a stern Atletico Madrid defence, but the biggest win of the round was Bayern Munich’s 8-2 thrashing of FC Barcelona. With that being done, there is now a high possibility that the fans are in the line to witness an all-German final or an all-French showdown.
That said, here’s how the week is stacked, and what you can expect from the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League:
RB Leipzig vs Paris Saint-Germain
PSG’s record against German opponents is quite startling, to say the least, having progressed from all of their previous three meetings against the Bundesliga sides, which also includes a round-of-16 victory against Borussia Dortmund this season.
It is, however, the first time that these two giants are crossing swords, with both aiming to reach their first-ever European final. While Leipzig are relatively new to the Champions League setup, a win for PSG would make them the first French team to enter the final since AS Monaco did it in the 2003-04 season.
The team from the capital city of France are carrying an enticing Champions League record, having scored in each of their last 33 European games. Only Real Madrid have carried a longer streak (34). The last team to stop PSG from scoring was Manchester City in 2016, when a 1-0 win for Guardiola was enough to knock the Parisians out of the tournament.
Watch out for:
Neymar: Neymar lacked that clinical edge against Atalanta in the quarter-final, but all that was overshadowed by an enthralling return of an assist and a role in the build-up of the winner in the dying moments. Furthermore, he completed a total of 16 dribbles against the Italian side, which is now the most by any player in a single Champions League match since Lionel Messi v Manchester United in April 2008.
Since returning to action post lockdown, Neymar as scored five goals and an assist in his last six appearances (including club friendlies). When a player as staggering as Neymar is in the team, you just can’t overlook him. Expect him to make a telling impact.
Lyon vs Bayern Munich
Averaging a whopping 23.3 shots per game in the Champions League, Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich have scored 39 goals in a mere nine games in the competition, significantly more than the closest opponent, PSG, who have bagged 22.
Up against Lyon, many might consider this as an easy rout for the German champions considering their latest showboating against Barcelona, but keep in mind that Lyon are actually chasing the Champions League title to keep their hopes alive for the next season, having finished a lowly seventh in the league last term.
This will be the ninth meeting between the two sides, and Bayern hold the edge, having won four of their last eight encounters, while Lyon have two. Since being crowned champions in the 2012/13 season in an all-German final against Borussia Dortmund, the Bavarians have failed to progress from each of their last four semi-finals of the competition.
Watch out for:
Robert Lewandowski: With 14 goals and five assists in eight Champions League outings, Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski is the outright top-scorer of the tournament. After being a part of all seven goals his side scored against Chelsea (three goals and four assists) in the round-of-16 across two legs, the Polish striker continued his rich vein of form against Barcelona, scoring one and assisting another in an 8-2 victory.
With Lyon struggling to keep a clean sheet, Lewandowski is duly tipped to make a telling impact.
Wondering what to do next? Head to Sportsbet.io to select your picks.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Manu Fernandez