The first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals gave us quality sporting events despite the lack of live spectators. English clubs Man City and Chelsea each have an advantage going into the return leg.
The month of trophies and triumph is here. All domestic leagues are close to early ends except for La Liga (Spain). The Champions League is close too: Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey will serve as the venue for the final match on May 29th. This week is the final push for all four teams to make it.
MATCH-DAY 12 MATCH PREVIEW
Chelsea vs Real Madrid: On Tuesday, Chelsea held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw away from home. Now the Blues with one foot in the finals will host the Spanish giants in London. A goalless draw will be enough for Thomas Tuchel to book his team’s tickets to Istanbul. In preparation, Chelsea has comfortably defeated Fulham 2-0. Many key players were rested: Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic and Azpilicueta. The London outfit remains 4th in the EPL.
In Madrid, Zinedine Zidane reduced the gap with leaders Atletico Madrid to only 2 points, defeating Osasuna with goals from Casemiro and center-back Militao. The French tactician was able to achieve the victory while resting Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in anticipation of the tough tie against Chelsea.
Recommended areas of selection: Chelsea had the upper hand against a tired Real Madrid in the first leg. When your team can bench Hakim Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Oliver Giroud while not missing Kovacic in midfield, you expect to control a match against a tired and old Real Madrid midfield. Midfielders from both teams should be fired up. Many critics predict a dead match with Chelsea parking the bus, but with Kroos and Modric going at full throttle the match may prove otherwise. Havertz, Werner and Mount are in top form for Chelsea.
Man City vs PSG: Man City played a different game in each half of the first leg match, bouncing dramatically from the shy first half performance to scoring two goals and have a major advantage at home this Tuesday. Kevin De Bruyne and Cancelo chemistry was too awkward for anyone to overlook. Di Maria also played a hand in disrupting the Citizens left-back confidence.
PSG needs victory with at least two goals in Manchester. A score of 1-2 will add 30 minutes. Domestically, PSG defeated Lens in Ligue 1 to keep the pressure on league leaders Lille with a 1 point difference only. Mauricio Pochettino rested key players such as Kylian Mbappe (with a knock), Paredes, Angel Di Maria and Marco Verratti.
Man City won 2-0 on the road over Crystal Palace with a completely rotated squad except for Ederson, Cancelo and Rodri. The Citizens may celebrate winning the EPL title this week if Man United loses to Liverpool their GW-34 fixture Monday. The irony is that Liverpool may cause the early celebrations. If United earns all three points, then City will need just one more win from four remaining game-weeks.
Recommended areas of selection: Guardiola should resume the press play style he managed in the second half of the first leg match. The “luck” involved in the goals is just an outcome of the tremendous amount of pressure exerted upon the Parisian defences. Marquinhos’ certainly reduced the score gap, which could have gone to 4-1 or 5-1 with ease. In my opinion, this is a match that will be decided by the quality of the depth of Man City’s squad (basically Pep’s selection) vs the quality that PSG’s attacking trio brings to the field on Tuesday.
Early Injury Outs & Doubts
Real Madrid: Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vasquez, Valverde, Ferland Mendy were all major doubts ahead of Osasuna. They were all not risked but are expected to be ready to travel to London. Dani Carvajal is out.
Manchester City: A clean bill of health for Pep and company.
PSG: Mbappe is a minor doubt after being left out of the 2-1 victory against Lens with a calf problem. Dagba was hauled off the field in the same match at minute 19 for a twisted ankle and is not expected to return with Florenzi available. Bernat is the long term injury and Gueye is suspended after receiving a red card in the first leg.
Chelsea: Tuchel has three doubtful players in Mason Mount (substituted in the match against Fulham for back discomfort), Rudiger and Kovacic.
MATCHDAY 12 BUILD UP
CreweGuy has already posted NMA’s Player Picks for Leg 2 of the semifinals. David will publish a Rate My Team article Monday, and I will be posting the UCL Live Chat with late team news early Tuesday — be sure to join in!
What’s on your mind as you shift gears from domestic league play? Do you have any substitution dilemmas? Need help deciding where to move your captain’s arm-band? Have you started shopping for quarterfinal transfers? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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