We are less than a week away from finding out who will be playing in the Champions League final in Lisbon, Portugal. This week’s first legs raised some questions of the participating teams and also set the stage for what should be an epic conclusion to the ties. Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich both traveled to the Spanish capital for their away leg of the semifinal against Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid (respectively). Here I will discuss both games individually.
Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid: In this game we saw the classic “park the bus” strategy that manager Jose Mourinho has adopted with Chelsea, in which the defenders and midfielders were sitting in their own half for the majority of the game, leaving former Atletico striker Fernando Torres all alone up front against a defense that was equally efficient in winning the ball back nearly every time Chelsea had cleared their lines. Their high-profile striker Diego Costa was unable to make his usual mark on the game due to some efficient defensive work by center-back Gary Cahill. There were few chances for either side. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was the busier of the two, until he suffered a shoulder injury early on in the game, leaving him certainly out for the season. Substitute goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer came on in his place and managed to keep a clean sheet against Atletico. Chelsea suffered another injury blow when captain John Terry came off early in the game as well. If that’s not enough, talisman midfielder Frank Lampard will miss the second leg due to an accumulation of yellow cards in the Champions League. This does, however set up for an enticing final leg at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea will be in a position where it’s win or go home, literally.
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich: An early goal from Madrid striker Karim Benzema was enough to give Madrid an advantage as they travel to the home of the current champions next week, with another advantage coming from Bayern not being able to score what would’ve been a crucial away goal. Most chances for Bayern were easy for Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas to handle, up until a close-range volley from Mario Gotze hit Casillas with some pace, however the shot was straight at the keeper and easily knocked away. Similar to the team that played their city rivals the day before, Madrid were playing a mostly defensive game, not being able to control the ball as much as their opponents. However, the quick counter-attack by Madrid managed the best chances of the game, from which Benzema found the back of the net. Madrid squandered a few chances that would have put Madrid in cruise-control of this semifinal, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria both missing chances.
Another 90 minutes will be needed to determine who will be on their way to the final. You could say that the Madrid teams have an advantage over their opponents: the benefit of not conceding away goals. Therefore they would only need a draw in order to punch their ticket to Lisbon. However they will be traveling to two of the toughest places to play in Europe. It is not easy to predict how things will go, especially in a Champions League semifinal. However, we are all looking forward to the second legs.