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The 2014 Champions League has finally reached the crunch stage of the tournament, with just four teams left standing.
Three of these are former Champions League winners, with Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all having won the tournament since 2000. There is one surprise entry into the penultimate round of the tournament, with Atletico Madrid on track to secure their first Champions League final appearance since finishing as runners-up in the European Cup in 1974.
There was little to separate the teams in the quarterfinals stage of the tournament, with only one tie won by more than a single goal. However, the draw has thrown up a surprise by pitching the two title-favourites against each other in the semifinals, with Real Madrid drawn against Bayern Munich while Atletico Madrid will take on Chelsea.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have been the form teams in the Champions League this season, but have reached the semifinals by playing very contrasting styles of football. Real Madrid have been carried by the efforts of strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, with the former having put away 14 goals in his side’s 10 matches in the tournament.
Meanwhile Bayern have played total football, with only Thomas Muller ranked amongst the tournament’s top 10 goalscorers, thanks to the strength of a powerhouse midfield that has shared goalscoring duties for the German club.
What won’t make for encouraging news for Real Madrid’s supporters is the fact that Bayern have been a bogey team for the club in the past. The two sides have met 10 times, with Bayern claiming six victories, three going the way of Real Madrid and just one producing a draw. Furthermore, Bayern are the only one of the two clubs to have achieved away wins, beating Real Madrid twice at home, while the Spaniards’ best result in Munich was a single draw.
What gives Madrid a real chance in this fixture is their attack. The two sides have defences of comparable quality, with Real Madrid conceding just 1 goal more than Bayern in the tournament. However, Real Madrid have scored 32 goals to Bayern’s 24 – a difference in firepower that should influence this fixture.
Real Madrid would have preferred to meet Bayern in the Champions League final, once the La Liga title was done and dusted, but will now have to balance their league and European ambitions while Bayern has no such problems with their league title already in the bag.
The odds seem to be against Real Madrid, but the numbers indicate the Spanish side’s edge on attack should be just enough to tilt this tie in their favour.
Chelsea will be happy with their draw for the Champions League semis, with dark horses, Atletico Madrid, to contend with in the penultimate round. While Madrid’s win against Barcelona in the quarterfinals was a major upset, the Spanish club is now going to have its hands full trying to balance winning its domestic league against securing the Champions League title.
The La Liga title is likely to be the priority for the Madrid side, which should play into Chelsea’s hands. While the Blues are also in a domestic title race, they’re more experienced at balancing the pressures of European and domestic football.
These two sides have met three times in the past, with a Champions League tie in 2009 and a UEFA Super Cup match in 2012. While Chelsea dominated Atletico in their two match Champions League tie, the Spanish club returned the favour with a 4-1 thrashing when they clashed against Chelsea in the Super Cup.
Atletico have the better stats of the two sides over the course of the 2013-14 Champions League. They boast the best defensive stats in this year’s tournament with only five goals conceded in ten matches, and have scored 22 goals to Chelsea’s 18.
Ultimately big games like this come down to experience and ability to focus, which levels the playing field for these two sides thanks to Chelsea’s familiarity with knockout round Champions League football. Atletico are going to be favourites for many, but we back the more experienced Chelsea to edge their way into another Champions League final.
We’ve been backing Real Madrid since the first day of the tournament, and while they couldn’t have been handed a tougher semifinal tie, we still back them to secure the win and earn a place in the final against Chelsea. We’ll publish an in-depth preview of the 2013-14 Champions League final once the two finalists have been decided.