Wednesday, July 24

All-English final or Spain to reign in Champions League semis?

Agencies

Premier League leaders face La Liga giants in the Champions League semi-final stage this week.

England is represented by title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the Champions League. Liverpool face Spain’s Villarreal while Manchester City lock horns with Real Madrid in the semifinal starting from Tuesday night.

The first semifinal is scheduled for 20:00 GMT (12:45 am NST) between City and Real.

Will the Champions League be an all-English final? Can Villarreal upset the odds? Is Carlo Ancelotti going to claim his fourth European Cup?

According to the BBC, the top two Premier League sides have largely swept aside all they have faced this campaign as they go toe-to-toe for every trophy on the table.

City and Liverpool are favourites to win their respective semi-finals and continue England’s recent dominance of the Champions League.

After being absent from the final for five seasons between 2013 and 2017, the Premier League has provided five of the past eight finalists. The news agency reported that two of the past three showdowns were an all-English affairs.

For Liverpool, this is familiar territory. They are bidding for a third final in five seasons, having lost to Real Madrid in 2018 before beating Tottenham to lift the trophy 12 months later – their sixth time overall.

They are also hoping the Champions League will be part of a historic quadruple this season. They already have the Carabao Cup in their possession, are through to the FA Cup final and trail City by a single point with five Premier League games remaining.

According to the BBC, City are looking for a double themselves while desperately hoping to follow a similar trajectory to the Reds in Europe as they bid to make amends for their agonising 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in last year’s final.

They have been wildly successful domestically, but the Champions League has become something of an obsession for big-spending City under Guardiola, who has won it twice before as boss of Barcelona.

Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, Real Madrid were invincible in Europe, winning three successive Champions Leagues under Zinedine Zidane with a squad packed with players at the top of their game.

The current side, managed by Carlo Ancelotti, are not of the same calibre, but do still have some of the stars of that era and certainly know how to win games of football, as their 15-point lead in La Liga attests.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is one of only three managers to have won the European Cup/Champions League three times and has won 74% of his 35 games in charge of Real in the Champions League – the best win percentage of any manager with at least 20 games for a single club in the competition.

This will be a record 31st Champions League semi-final for the club, and they are going for an unmatched 17th victory.

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