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UCL semifinal 2nd leg preview

Posted: May 2, 2022
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Did you pause? And so did you miss it? Or did catch it all? Take it all in. Because there was just so much to take in. Two matches and so much action, you would be forgiven had you been left wanting more. And what is funny is that there is more. Yet it may not seem nearly enough. The UCL semifinal 2nd leg games are now upon us. Two matches for two teams to take one more step to the Promised Land.

Two matches for two others to ponder and wonder. Think and probably lament. But football players are known to get over defeats. That is just how this game is. In fact, that is just how all of sport is designed. To pick a winner and one that did not win. And just like clockwork, these mighty people of our times who excel in strength, character and kicking a ball get back to work. Only that semifinals hurt a whole lot more. And UCL semifinal 2nd legs will hurt a bit more than whole lot more. And that is just a fact.

Our great game, thus, is set in backdrop of multiple such facts. Some will be on display once again on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Spain will deck up for the set of games. Hoards of Brits will make a boozy trip, singing songs of glory and football conquests. Pep will scratch his head and his team will play a brand of scintillating and geometry sharpening football. Real Madrid will not let go of this tournament, their great companion. Liverpool will leave you breathless. And Villarreal will fight every available inch.

Roll on the UCL semifinal 2nd legs then!

UCL semifinal 2nd leg - Villarreal vs Liverpool


UCL semifinal 2nd leg LiverpoolThe first leg at Anfield was a red schooling in breakneck pace. Liverpool run The Yellow Submarines ragged. It was as breathless a game as any. And one that only Liverpool can play. Or perhaps, to put it more accurately, one only a Jurgen Klopp side can play. It is football without any full stop, comma, exclamation mark. No punctuations to take breath. It just goes on.

"Van Dijk to Konaté back to Van Dijk to Thiago and in a flash Thiago’s gone and he gives it to Fabinho Fabinho to Robertson and he’s running oh God he’s running and Díaz is making the run Henderson is making the run you see Salah out of the corner of your eye but Robertson is cutting inside and there’s a big space between Juan and Pau so you close it but now Mané is free and Robertson crosses Díaz goes for it plus some other red shirt is that Mané and the ball runs out for a goal-kick and breathe you can finally breathe. Oh Christ, is that Jota getting ready to come on?," writes Jonathan Liew in his description of the first leg.

Villarreal, on their part, had not done much wrong. In fact, the discipline, tact and character on display would have done Unai Emery proud. And, for 45 minutes, that physicality and suffering for one another did bear fruit. However, then came the second half and arrived the real football. Defences and teams are not yet equipped to deal with that kind of barrage. Almost like wanting to control a torrent of water from ten different taps with a baking sheet.


UCL semifinal 2nd leg preview 


Champions League semifinalSamuel Chukwueze VillarrealVillarreal is likely to once again approach the game from a tough, workmanlike discipline. Emery is a master of that style. And, in big games, changes seem unlikely. Not as though Emery cannot pick a more attacking game. However, the opposition may halt that thought, even with a two-goal deficit to overcome. If Villarreal are too ambitious, the Mane inside dart and the Salah flash, with space for either full back to march on. Thiago on the ball with the ability to find water in a desert. And the home side could be in for an early night very quickly.

Villarreal will also need a bit of injury luck to smile down upon them. Gerard Moreno and Francis Coquelin remain doubts for this tie. Both are absolutely key to Emery's plans, especially the former. The last time Villarreal was at this stage of any European competition, the forward Moreno was their go-to man. He was key in Bavaria too, last round.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are not nursing any major injuries despite Roberto Firmino remaining doubtful. Luis Diaz has made a resounding start to his Anfield career and is likely to keep his place from the first leg. Resultantly, Mané will move central. The rest of the team picks itself with Konate at the back pairing the ever impressive Van Dijk.


UCL semifinal 2nd leg - Real Madrid vs Manchester City


Champions League semifinal BenzemaThere was a moment in the first leg when the tie was as pivotal at a stage as any. Prior to the moment unfolding, City having pulled away were in their celebratory mood. The crowd, usually tense on European nights, was starting to slowly get into their loud best. Boisterous Etihad was slowly getting. It seemed how European nights in Manchester has always been. Loud, proud and confidently behind the players.

And then that moment arrived. An innocuous penalty for Real Madrid. It is as though even fate conspires to set them a lifeline. There is an innate romantic attraction between Europe's prime attraction and this mega club from Spain. Karim Benzema clutched the ball with little worry or second thought. There was as a slight delay pausing proceedings and lending that undeniable air of inevitability. Looking at the Frenchman, one would never presume he had missed two from the spot just the preceding weekend.

The referee then blew the whistle and Benzema stepped up to simply drop jaws. A panenka in the UCL semifinal at 4-2 down in the 82nd minute after missing two penalties over the weekend? The sheer audacity to even attempt that. Only a display of the great Madrid-ismo that has carried them to great heights in this tournament!


UCL semifinal 2nd leg preview


Bernardo Silva Phil FodenDespite that Karim Benzema penalty, City are walking into this game at the Bernabeu with the lead. In fact, the English club has lost only once in their previous fifteen outings across all competitions. Real Madrid's form has been patchy in comparison. However, they are fresh off once again winning La Liga.

Real Madrid will also be buoyed by the return of fit again defensive midfielder Casemiro. It was evident that the Brazilian's absence in Manchester  hurt the Spanish side. He is crucial to Madrid's system, protecting the back four and in general being a nuisance for the opposition, covering a lot of ground. Centre back David Alaba, however, finds himself in a race against time to be fit. In case he cannot make it, Nacho will slot in with Casemiro taking Rodrygo's place pushing Fede Valverde further forward.

City themselves have a couple of worries. Experienced right back Kyle Walker will miss the game and John Stones also remains a doubt. Gabriel Jesus may also get a start after his recent hot streak. City will likely score and so will Madrid, it is a game of who defends better.

A classic night at the Bernabeu awaits to decide the final entrant into Paris.