UEFA Champions League - Semi Finals Preview
The final four teams in Europe have made their way to top of the ladder. With two contrasting match-ups having been drawn during last Friday's proceedings, we are certain to get a highly entertaining array of fixtures in this seasons version of events.
Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Roma can all see themselves as a part of the finale in Kiev, and with the window of opportunity to grab that elusive title, we should expect to see a full commitment to capture the ultimate club trophy in European football.
20410 Liverpool vs 20411 Roma
Anfield, Liverpool, England
4-24-2018 - 2:45 pm ET
The match that is getting little fanfare sees two clubs who are no strangers to European competitions. English giants Liverpool welcome Italian side Roma to Anfield, which is sure to be a mad house as the Reds supporters have finally returned back to a Champions League Semi-Final.
Roma enter the round of play as the ultimate Cinderella. Having dug themselves out of a 1-4 deficient to Barcelona, the Romans then posted a 3-0 score-line in the Eternal City, shocking the entire footballing world with their unexpected result.
Eusebio Di Francesco has led his side to Semi-Final appearance in just his first season on the sideline. After playing for the club during his almost 20 year career, the Italian head man has now been immortalized in Roma lore for eliminating the Spanish giants in such dramatic fashion.
The Romans have often flown under the radar during this European competition, although the "I Giallorossi" do present their own set of dangers to the Reds during this two-legged affair.
The "Magic Ones" offer pure attack within their 4-3-3 formation, often to creating enough space to launch a high percentage of long range shots and using set pieces to their advantage.
Edin Dzeko is the true danger man in Roma's front-line assault, the Bosnian has flourished during his time with the "I Giallorossi".
Dzeko is a huge presence in front of goal, scoring 21 goals in all competitions. The Roma talisman is surprisingly graceful for his imposing size, able to finish inside and outside the box with an effortless ability. He also poses a imposing status during Aerial duels, which has been an Achilles' heel of the Liverpool defense.
Stephan El Shaarawy looks to play a prominent role during his time on the pitch. The Italian winger has revitalized his career with the Capital City club.
El Shaarawy uses his hold up game to involve others, while producing and receiving pin-point through balls from his Attacking Midfield position.
The true Roma Generals on the pitch will occupy their traditional Midfield positions, Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan are true professionals in the Italians attack and this partnership allow for "La Lupa" to be at their most dangerous while going forward.
The visitors will look to this combination of aggressive play-makers to lead them past a Liverpool defense who have gained confidence as the season has progressed.
The member on the squad who may play the most significant role on the team is GK - Alisson. The Brazilian number one will truly be tested by the lethal fire-power possessed in the Reds attack.
Alisson has proved to be a wall between the sticks, his efforts are irreplaceable during a 90 minute shift. Expect this brilliant keeper to make huge saves if the Italians have any hopes of visiting the Ukraine in May.
Roma consistently found the back of the net away from the Stadio Olimpico, scoring an average of 1.4 Goals per match, in their last 5 Champions League road games.
But during that span the "I Giallorossi" have been less than spectacular on the back-end, conceding 2.4 Goals per match, in their last 5 Champions League road games.
Liverpool make their long awaited return to Champions League play, their first since the 2013-2014 campaign. The Reds welcomed the competition by becoming a goal scoring juggernaut, routinely placing multiple scores on the board during their time in Europe's top tournament. They now look to complete the task they sat out to finish in August.
Jürgen Klopp has resurrected this proud English club. After several years of under-performing, the German head man has lead them back to prominence during his time in charge.
Klopp now embarks on returning to the Champions League finals. After guiding Borussia Dortmund to near victory during the 2012-2013 season, the Liverpool manager now looks to redeem himself based off his past experiences.
The Reds front-line alignment have become world class attacking threats. The partnership of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane present a constant threat to opposing defenses throughout the Premier League and Europe.
Mohamed Salah will have an added bit of motivation going into this match-up, the Egyptian was sold from Roma over the summer to the Reds, after spending one season with the "I Giallorossi".
Salah has since lit the world on fire. The explosive winger fits like a glove in Klopp's 4-3-3 formation, using his lethal pace to exploit defenses in the open field, while proving he is just as clinical at finishing the final product in tight situations. With 40 Goals scored in all competitions, the Liverpool speed burner will certainly draw much of the attention from the Roma defenders.
Firmino and Sane present their own set of challenges. This two-some could be the main threats on most sides in the world, although they have swallowed their prides for the overall good for the team.
The Reds have transitioned well since the departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in the Winter transfer window. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been a major contributor in filling that void left in the Midfield, as the former Arsenal man has seen his career take a positive turn while at Anfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain's dribbling and passing abilities give him the opportunity to consistently make the starting eleven, while also offering up a strong hold-up game and an accurate long range shot that keeps defenses honest.
Liverpool have been outstanding while at Anfield during their return to Europe's top tournament, scoring an average of 3 Goals per match, in their last 5 Champions League Home games.
The Reds defense has continued to improve since the signing of Virgil van Dijk, as the Dutchman has brought stability to the back-line.
The back-end have kept 4 clean sheets their last times out, while only conceding 0.4 Goals per match in their last 5 Champions League home games.
Liverpool have proved to be a dominant force at home, with Anfield being a intimidating structure to enter, especially under the lights.
The Reds play off their supporters more than other clubs remaining in the Semi-Finals pool. They look to once again use this motivation to achieve a first leg lead heading back to Rome.
Expect Liverpool to once again play to their crowd, placing at least 2 Goals on the score-line, while Roma may have a hard time breaking the newly found confidence of the Reds back-line.
20410 Bayern Munich vs 20411 Real Madrid
Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
4-25-2018 - 2:45 pm ET
The marquee match up features Bayern Munich from Germany, and Spanish royalty Real Madrid who are the reigning two-time Champions League winners.
This fixture has everyone's attention and based on the draw many believe this could have very well been the actual finale.
Real Madrid have continued to fight off all contenders to their title so far, knocking off the likes of PSG and Juventus to date. The Whites now face the Bundesliga champions for a right to travel to Kiev.
Zinedine Zidane seems to have shaken off any speculation he would not retain his position after a slow start to the campaign.The French orchestrator has guided his powerful side through many ups, and more recently downs during his almost 3 year tenure with the club.
Los Blancos have turned their season around over the last few months. After the turn of the new year the Madridistas began to solidify their starting line-up and find a regular rotation after several moves were made to their squad in the off-season.
The Madrid formation has seen changes based on personnel. Zidane has used variations of a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 alignment during the 2017-2018 season. He will have plenty of tactical decisions to make ahead of their battle with the German giants.
Cristiano Ronaldo will always be the first name you speak about when the topic is Real Madrid. The Portuguese forward has turned the Champions League into his own personal playground from match to match. Ronaldo has scored in 11 straight UEFA matches and 120 in total through his illustrious European career.
The Los Blancos target man is sure to see his name in the starting eleven over the course of two legs, his finishing skills areunrivaled in the biggest moments, giving the Spanish side a clear advantage in the attacking half.
The supporting cast must continue to lift their efforts in order to keep pace with the Madrid danger man. Isco, Tony Kroos and Luka Modric are irreplaceable from their Midfield positions and this trio handles much of the dirty work it takes in order for the Los Blancos attack to run at full strength.
Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will all battle it out for the right to partner with Ronaldo, at the top of the Royal Whites front-line.
Each have had their issues with consistency this season. With 34 Combined Goals scored during this trying campaign, each has a unique value they can bring to the Defending Champs assortment of talent.
Real Madrid have been at their best away from the Santiago Bernabéu, scoring an average of 3 Goals per match, during their last 5 Champions League road games.
The Madridistas are a well equipped side on the Defensive end, conceding a manageable 1 Goal per match, during their last 5 Champions League road games.
Bayern Munich welcome their old Spanish rivals to Munich for a re-match of last season's controversial Quarter Finals. The Bavarians will take another crack at dethroning the powerful Spaniards, as they look to lift the Silverware in Kiev.
Jupp Heynckes is one step closer to returning to yet another Champions League Finale. The Veteran German manager led the "FCB" to a title in his last reign with the club, now the Bavarian task master has set out to repeat his previous accomplishment.
The Munich side have their own world class striker within the squad, as Robert Lewandowski has emerged as one of the best finishers in the game today.
The Polish forward gives Bayern a special touch of class in their attack, feeding off pin-point through balls and tantalizing service into the box. Lewandoski has produced 37 Goals in just 40 appearances in all competitions, making him good for almost one score a match.
Thomas Müller has been at his best since the arrival of Heynckes. The German International had seen his production slip under the direction of Carlo Ancelotti. Now with a familiar voice back on the side lines, Müller has been placed in the positions to succeed on the pitch based on his unique set of skill sets in the attacking half.
The Germans have been transformed into a free-flowing 4-3-3 formation, with strong wing play carried out by James Rodríguez, Frank Ribbery, Arjen Robben and Arturo Vidal.
These attacking threats have helped unlock defenses with relative ease. They will now face a Real Madrid defense that have a bend, but not break, mentality. This combination of Midfielders will play a critical role in Heynckes game plan going into this classic European event.
The Germans understand that the first leg is important to their overall success, needing to take a substantial lead back to Spain for the second leg. They must not place themselves in the same position they were in last season.
Bayern Munich have been unforgiving to their opponents at the Allianz Arena, scoring an average of 3.6 Goals per match, in their last 5 Champions League home games.
The "FCB" defense has been a hard unit to crack, conceding an average of just 0.2 Goals per match, in their last 5 Champions League home games.
The Germans will be keen to erase their memories of the 2016-2017 UCL Quarter Finals. With a new style of play and a Manager who is well equipped to handle all situations, we should expect a different result during the first leg in Munich.
Scoring goals, while limiting Real Madrid from getting on the board, will be the main strategy of Bayern, but limiting Los Blancos from placing the ball in the back of the net during their travels has been a daunting task.
Look for the Munich side to grab at least 2 Goals in front of their passionate supporters, while Real Madrid look to get at least one away Goal during their time in Germany.
Best Of Luck To All