Champions League QF: Four European giants to battle for two semifinal spots

Sports Wednesday 17/April/2024 19:25 PM
Champions League QF: Four European giants to battle for two semifinal spots

New Delhi: After a night of unexpected twists and turns that saw Barcelona crashing out of the Champions League following a 6-4 (aggregate) defeat to Paris Saint-German, another night of European Giants trying to stake their claim to Europe's most covered footballing title will unfold on Thursday (IST) at Manchester and Munich.

After Paris Saint Germain and Borussia Dortmund survived tough challenges from Spanish giants FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester City, which are currently battling for the EPL title this year, will go to battle to keep their title hopes in Europe alive.

With two semi-final spots already decided, the battle is for the last two spots that offer a range of possibilities, including a possible all-English clash and the most successful team in the UCL squaring off against Bayern Munich, which failed to defend their Bundesliga title this year.

After playing out a 3-3 draw in the mouth-watering first leg of the quarter-finals under the closed roof of Santiago Bernabeu, Manchester City will host Real Madrid in an enticing tie that promises goals, drama, twists and turns galore.

Last year, when the Los Blancos visited the Eithad after playing out a 1-1 draw in the first leg, City thumped Carlo Ancelotti's side with a 4-0 win.

In Ancelotti's words, the clash between two sides is always 'spectacular', with both sides looking to seal the two available semi-final spots.

With one hand on the La Liga title already, Real Madrid would be eyeing a double to ensure that they end their season on a high note.

Pep Guardiola's side are not only fighting to defend their UCL title, but are also in the hunt for an elusive treble.

The Premier League champions will back themselves to come out victors on the back of going 30 home matches unbeaten in the UCL, an English record stretching back to 2018.

Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Julian Alvarez, Jeremy Doku and Erling Haaland have had a major influence on the outcome of games for Manchester City.

While for Real Madrid, in the absence of suspended Aurelien Tchouameni, the onus will be on the likes of Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr, Jude Bellingham and the experienced duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos to pull off a result in front of a sellout crowd.

Coming to the second clash that will run parallel with City and Real Madrid, Bayern Munich will host Arsenal at the Allianz Arena days after Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen ended their 11-year title reign.

The last time both sides confronted each other in the UCL knockout stage in 2017, Arsene Wenger was still Arsenal's manager, and Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were still running the wings for Bayern. Their last encounter resulted in a 10-2 aggregate defeat for the Gunners with Bayern scoring five goals each in both legs.

This time around, Arsenal have gone through a drastic change since the arrival of Mikel Arteta in place of Wenger.

In the first leg, Arsenal turned around the 2-1 deficit to finish the game on level terms. Ahead of the highly anticipated second leg, Arteta sent a message to his team to be themselves, irrespective of the stadium that they play in.

"I want my team to be ourselves, regardless of the stadium. Sometimes you want to do certain things and the opponent doesn't allow you to do it, and we're going to be very clear how we're going to play the game, how we want to play the game, and what is going to give us the best chance to win it," Arteta said in the pre-match press conference, as quoted from the club's official website.

While Thomas Tuchel, who is enjoying the final months as the coach of Bayern, feels the experience will prove to be the game-changing factor in the second leg.

"I think we have the slight advantage of experience in our team. We have players who have won [the Champions League], we have players who have played decisive matches in this competition. But to make an advantage, we still have to bring out our very best," Tuchel adde