Champions League semi-final previews: predicting who will reach the final
The UEFA Champions League semi-finals have thrown up a repeat of last season’s thriller, as well as a Derby della Madonnina between two clubs with ten European Cups between them.
This articles previews both semi-final match-ups, and predicts who will meet at the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadyumu in the final on 10 June.
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Manchester City vs Real Madrid
First leg: 9 May. Second leg: 17 May – read more: Man City vs Real Madrid- 5 most memorable meetings
Will Manchester City remain on course for the treble, thereby exacting revenge on Real Madrid?
So far in the Champions League, Pep Guardiola’s team have scored 26 goals in ten matches, smashing both RB Leipzig and then Bayern Munich in the knockout stages.
Meantime, Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Leeds extended their advantage at the top of the Premier League table, having won ten league matches on the spin.
So, with an FA Cup Final against their city rivals to come too, the Sky Blues are on course to match Man United’s crowning achievement from 1999 by capturing the treble.
To do so, they’ll have to oust the kings of this competition, and Man City are well aware just how tough a challenge that can be.
Just last season, Real Madrid ousted the Premier League champions at this stage, doing so in dramatic circumstances.
Los Blancos were heading out, only for Rodrygo to score twice in 77 seconds in stoppage time, thereby forcing extra time, in which Karim Benzema’s penalty completed the breathtaking remontada.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team went on to beat Liverpool in Paris, meaning Real have won the Champions League in five of the last nine seasons, their most successful period since the ‘50s.
So far this year, los Merengues have swatted aside both Liverpool and Chelsea, but this’ll be a far tougher challenge.
On Saturday night, Real picked up the Copa del Rey, beating Osasuna 2-1 at the Cartuja, but this is the trophy they really want, which is just as well given how frequently they do win it.
Unlike last season, the second leg will take place at the Etihad, which makes Manchester City even heavier favourites to progress than they otherwise would be.
AC Milan vs Internazionale Milano
First leg: 10 May. Second leg: 16 May
Classic pub quiz question: which is the only city to be home to two different European Cup winning clubs?
The answer is of course Milan, with Inter having lifted this trophy on three occasions, while A.C. Milan’s tally of seven is only bettered by Real Madrid.
I Nerazzurri are competing in the semi-finals for the first time since 2010, when they last won the competition, while I Rossoneri have reached the last four for the first time since 2007, when they most-recently won the trophy.
There will be Milanese representation in İstanbul, but will it be those donning red and black or black and blue?
A.C. Milan sprung a real surprise in the previous round, knocking out run-away Scudetto winners Napoli 2-1 on aggregate.
Olivier Giroud landed the decisive blow in Naples, tapping home from close-range after Rafael Leão had run over 70 yards with the ball.
Stefano Pioli’s side have conceded just one goal in their last six Champions League matches and, while they’re far from an old-school catenaccio side, solid defence is their best-bet of success.
As for Inter, they’ve knocked out Portugal’s top two in the knockout phase, doing so in contrasting fashion.
Simone Inzaghi’s team battled to a 1-0 victory over Porto in the round of 16, before a 5-3 victory over Benfica last month.
This was a lot more comfortable than the scoreline suggests, given that Il Biscione won the first leg 2-0 at Estádio da Luz.
Despite the fact both Milan giants have got this far, there’s no guarantees that either will qualify for next season’s Champions League, unless they go all the way of course.
A.C. beat Lazio 2-0 on Saturday but, having won just two of their previous nine, are currently fifth in the table.
Inter meantime have now won four on the spin, following to Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Roma, so sit fourth, two points above their rivals with only four games to go.
This tie is extremely tough to call but, with home advantage in the second leg, as much as that matters when both games are at San Siro, Inter are slight favourites to reach the final.