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UCL semifinal preview: Neymar or De Bruyne?

Posted: Apr 26, 2021

Oh my god! The last week in football. Oh my god! Descriptions will fail to document the tumult. European Super League. Champions League. Domestic league and football world's unison. Great change was accompanied by great revolt. Status quo was then restored. UCL semifinal will go on as we stand.

Business end again, then. Here is where it gets very serious. No room for the faint of heart. No place for mistakes. It is the time for big boys and bigger hearts. The time for carpe diem. This is where you write your history; enter your folklore. The moment where the better separate from the good. Here is where cream separates from the rest. Only for the great ones. He who blinks, perishes. This is where heartbreaks are the most painful. Here the difference between near and far is unbearable. This is the Champions League; the UCL semi final.

Four teams remain thus. Real Madrid and their pedigree. But, awaiting them are Chelsea and their German manager. Then there is Paris Saint-German. And their path is hurdled by Pep Guardiola's efficient blues. No inches given. Nothing here is afforded. Only grasped, snatched and guarded with fearsome grit. Because, those remaining are the best we have. And the best will now battle to determine who can truly be called the very best.

Four games. Four teams. Two shall remain.

UCL semifinal: PSG vs Manchester City

This one is the battle of the big boys. Not so long ago, they were European obscurities. Today, they are continental elites. Real draws for the very best of our planet. The most expensive and the most enchanting today. PSG and Manchester City are so similar in their journey that there could be a case for silent mutual hatred. Only one can be pioneers really. Two football teams. Two gulf states of great means. Both seeking the same end. Quite fitting that they clash - on respective soils once - to determine who remains.

Another coincidence between the two sides - both beat German teams to reach here. PSG beat Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Manchester City overcame Borussia Dortmund. Both teams overcoming past travails. PSG's victory was an emotional one. They had come extremely close last season to the very prize. But a Parisien, now in Bavaria, broke their hearts in Lisbon. Bayern Munich's European conquest came at PSG's cost. However, Neymar and Mbappe combined to wash away the pain of yesterday and setup the potential pleasure of tomorrow.

UCL semifinal: Similar Paths 

Foden PepManchester City's was as much a mental battle as of football. Perhaps more mental than football. They are very good at the latter. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and so many more exclusively picked, technically superior ball players. However, they have not always been very good at the former. Especially in Europe. So many times Pep has stabbed his ambitions with his great mind. A philosopher's mind. A thinking mind. These are the stages when it has often turned into an overthinking mind.

And he meets a familiar foe. Not in PSG as much as their manager. It was Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs that had so heartbreakingly knocked City out two years back. The moment of elation to exasperation and eventually submission. VAR intervening and almost colluding with Pochettino to break blue Mancunian hearts. That time, there was a clear favourite. This time, it is as equal as it has ever been. Pochettino's entire coaching career has been a battle of punching above. Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham.

Now, it is PSG. And they too have a mental battle. Their disintegrations have been all too sudden and precipitous. Barcelona and Manchester United have made great memories at their expense. This could be the opportunity for United's neighbourly rivals to make merry at their expense.

However, PSG's experience in the UCL slightly outweighs that of City. Their final appearance last season ended in great heartbreak. But their triumph over pedigreed defending champions Bayern Munich puts them perhaps slightly ahead of Manchester City.

UCL semifinal Prediction: PSG

UCL semifinal: Chelsea vs Real Madrid

ChelseaWow, this game has loads of recent context. If the previous semi-final is that of similar paths, this one is of divergent trails. The creators and destroyers of football's hottest recent topic collide in the tournament they initially, mutually wanted nothing to do with. Ironic or poetic depends on your disposition that they meet to decide who contests the right to lay claim on the very trophy.

It is definitely ironic that Real Madrid, the tournament's elite team in chief, were the proponents of a different league altogether. It is equally ironic that Chelsea fans were the first to publicly protest, causing hindrance to their team bus attempting to enter the stadium. Chelsea, after all, were the first team in the Premier League to benefit from its globalisation. R0man Abramovich and the injection of cash made them champions. Some may even say, relevant. And last week, their fans were the first to reject the idea of a league that was financially the most lucrative in the game's continental history.

Perhaps it is a different Chelsea today. Thomas Tuchel would certainly have you believe that way. Football wise. Chelsea are a rejuvenated side from the one that was under Frank Lampard. And they have earned the right to compete in the semi-final - a crux of the aforementioned tumult in our game. Chelsea's conquests have included Atletico Madrid and Juventus-conquering Porto. They have been an exhibition of defensive stability under their new German boss. Their attack, meanwhile, led by the industrious and gifted Mason Mount, have done just enough to find them victories.

UCL semifinal: Fight in Madrid 

Benzema and Vinicius Jr.Real Madrid, meanwhile, have been polar opposite to Chelsea's model this season. Chelsea spent big in the transfer market. Went shopping all around Europe. Madrid signed a grand total of zero players. They have suffered 52 injuries this season. Their right back against Liverpool at Anfield played with a swollen ankle. He was a midfielder filling in at right back. Second-choice even in that category.

Madrid, however, have one thing that no other team in the last four possesses. Genuine winning experience. The midfield three of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric showed exactly why they won three consecutive Champions League in the last round. The three absolutely played Liverpool out of the park in Madrid. They controlled the game, its pace - knew when to attack, play forward, when to slow the game down and when to keep possession.

Vinicius Jr. also came into his own with a double strike. He will once again be a threat with his pace and direct running. Chelsea will have to be very careful at the back. And moving forward, too, they will be up against an experienced Raphael Varane and familiar face of Thibaut Courtois. Perhaps, Real Madrid still have enough in the tank to see off Chelsea. Maybe only just though, and that promises an exciting tug-o-war.

UCL semifinal Prediction: Real Madrid