For the first time in a number of years, there will be no English teams lining up in the semi-final stage of the Champions League. Inter Milan, Barcelona, Lyon and Bayern Munich make up the four teams who will al be battling hard for a place in the final at the Bernabeu.
The biggest tie of the week has to be Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side taking on Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side. The Spanish team have been hailed as the best in history and it will be extremely difficult for the Italian giants to hang onto Barca’s coat tails.
All eyes will be on Lionel Messi who scored four times in the second leg against Arsenal to dump the North London side out of the competition. Barca will probably feel a little more relaxed playing an Italian team who will not look to attack them as frequently as an English side would.
Mourinho’s job to stop Barca is actually quite simple. He either has to order his players to gang up on Messi, or the more likely, play two holding players. These holding players have to be disciplined because they will be the pair who break up the Barcelona attacks and get the ball forward for their team.
Neither side has any major injury worries ahead of the match, which means two strong teams will be pitted against each other. Expect to see Inter stringing five across the middle and Barca staying with the 4-3-3, which has served them so well.
In the other tie, Bayern Munich will fancy themselves to be Lyon having dumped previous European Champions, Manchester United out in the last round. Bayern will be full of confidence and Lyon will not be as difficult to break down.
The French side must not be counted out. They did not have it easy during the quarterfinals. They had to play Bordeaux, another French side, which they would have seen as more difficult than anything else that could have been thrown their way.
Keep an eye on Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben in the Bayern side. Both players have the ability to blow away the opposition, regardless of who they are playing. They will also want to prove to the whole of Europe that they are the best wingers in the business.
There is an opportunity for sides to do something they haven’t done in a very long time. However, this week sees the first leg matches. Whatever happens, there will still be time to bounce back.
All in all it should be a very interesting semi-final stage. With the World Cup fast approaching, there will be many players hoping to get noticed by their national coach. Barcelona against Bayern Munich looks the most likely final to happen in Madrid but stranger things have happened before in football and this is a big chance for the other two teams still in the competition to show us something special.
Paddy Power are offering 10/1 on Frank Ribery to be first goalscorer tonight versus Lyon. Take advantage of this great offer here.