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UEFA Champions League Final 8: Where do Things Stand?

Champions League Final

EURO 2020 taking place in 2021—with no name change—does not mean there won’t be any European championships in the soccer world this summer. Despite a five-month delay, the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League wrapped up this past week. Friday August 7 saw Manchester City end Real Madrid’s quest for 14 and Lyon survive a Cristiano Ronaldo onslaught en route to an aggregate victory on away goals over Juventus. The next day, Bayern Munich trounced Chelsea and Barcelona beat Napoli, punching the last tickets to the quarterfinal.

But five months is a long time, so what happened everywhere else? Who’s left in the world’s biggest club competition? Here’s a look at each quarterfinal match-up and what’s to come in the weirdest ever iteration of the UEFA Champions League.

Atalanta vs. PSG 8/12 at 3:00 pm ET

The biggest question coming into the match was whether or not 21-year-old star Kylian Mbappé would be healthy enough to play. While it seems like he has recovered enough to make an appearance, manager Thomas Tuchel has said that he won’t be able to play a full 90 minutes. This, combined with a suspension to Ángel Di María, means it will be Neymar’s time to shine for the Parisians. PSG will also be without midfielder Marco Verratti, who suffered an injury in training early this week.

It will be interesting to see how PSG reacts to a competitive match like this, as they have only played two non-friendlies in the last five months. Despite this, they did win the French Ligue and won the finals of both of France’s domestic tournaments in July.

Atalanta, on the other hand, had a full schedule after the Serie A restart in June. In their final 13 league matches after the restart, they managed to amass 21 points. This was good enough for third place in the league. Despite the third-place finish, Atalanta had the highest goal differential and most goals scored in the 2019/20 Serie A season.

They will be led by the attacking quartet of Josip Illicic, Alejandro Gómez, Luis Muriel and Duván Zapata. The attackers combined for 58 goals in the Serie A this season. Illicic also added five in seven UEFA Champions League appearances. Hopefully, their high-scoring offense will lead to some entertaining play.

Prediction

Atalanta 4 – 3 PSG (ET)

Injuries and rust will catch up with PSG while Atalanta’s attack will run wild. Neymar will grab a goal, if not two, but the Italian side will go through in extra time.

RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid 8/13 3:00 pm ET

Leipzig will be without their leading scorer, Timo Werner, after he joined Chelsea this transfer window. Despite finishing third in the Bundesliga this season, Leipzig struggled a bit down the stretch. They seemed poised for a second place finish to Bayern Munich, but a loss to Borussia Dortmund saw this slip away. They took only four points from their last three matches.

UEFA Champions League
With Timo Werner now at Chelsea, how will RB Leipzig fare? (via football.london)

Atlético come in on a much better run of form, having not lost in their last 18 competitive matches. They took 11 points from their five games in the month of July. Saúl Ñíguez leads the midfield, while Àlvaro Morata led the team in scoring in the leage with 12 goals. They also feature arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, Jan Oblak. He will look to subdue the already weakened Leipzig attack.

Prediction

Atlético 2 – 0 Leipzig

The loss of Timo Werner will prove to be too much for RB Leipzig. Atlético will do what their city rivals couldn’t this year and go on to the semifinal.

Bayern Munich vs FC Barcelona 8/14 3:00 ET

Perhaps the two biggest names left in the competition, these European giants come into the final eight after seasons with different levels of success. Barcelona finished a disappointing five points behind rival Real Madrid, while Bayern once again won the Bundesliga.

Barcelona went into the restart first in La Liga, but three draws in June and a loss in July saw them unable to secure another league title. They are, of course, led by arguably the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi. He’s one part of the strong Barcelona front three featuring Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann. Messi is looking for his fifth UEFA Champions League title, which would tie him with archrival Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona are looking for their sixth Champions League title in their history and first since 2015.

Unlike Barcelona, Bayern are on an absolutely absurd run of form. En route to winning their record 30th Bundesliga, Bayern Munich did not lose a single competitive game after the restart. They also threw in a win in the German domestic tournament, the DFB-Pokal, final as well. The German champions are led by striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored 34 league goals. They have dominated the UEFA Champions League thus far, with a 7-1 aggregate win over Chelsea in the round of 16 topping their 7-2 drubbing of Tottenham Hotspur away in the group stage.

Prediction

Bayern 2 – 1 Barcelona

Barcelona may have the best player on the pitch, but the German champions will be too strong. While either team is capable of winning on their day, 2-1 may be a bit kind to Barcelona. With the form Bayern is in, don’t be surprised if they run away with this one. That being said, don’t ever count out Lionel Messi.

Manchester City vs Lyon 8/15 3:00 pm ET

Lyon have played two competitive matches since March and lost both. Manchester City took 18 points from seven Premier League matches in July alone. Manchester City came in second in the Premier League after winning it the previous two years. Lyon came in seventh in Ligue Un after finishing third the previous two years. This match seems like it might be the most lopsided on paper.

Thankfully, soccer isn’t played on paper. Manchester City are without their star striker, Sergio Agüero, which bodes well for Lyon. They will also be without Leroy Sané, who joined Bayern Munich earlier this summer. Thankfully for the Citizens, their owner, brother of the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, seems to have never-ending pockets and excellent lawyers. In Agüero’s stead will likely be Gabriel Jesus, a 23-year-old Brazilian who had 14 league goals this season. He will likely be flanked by Raheem Sterling (20 league goals) and Riyad Mahrez (11 league goals). In a complete embarrassment of riches, behind them will be the best midfielder in the world, Kevin De Bruyne, and any two of David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Rodrigo. After this tournament, 34-year-old David Silva will end his storied career with Manchester City, seemingly to go to Lazio.

UEFA Champions League
Aguero’s out, but Man City should have plenty of options to get past Lyon (via 90min.com)

Lyon features attackers Moussa Dembele (not the former Tottenham midfielder), Maxwel Cornet, Bertrand Traoré and Memphis Depay. Depay is coming off of an ACL tear from this December, though before the injury he scored nine times in only 13 Ligue Un appearances. Dembele led the scoring for Lyon with 16 goals in 27 appearances. Arguably the club’s best player, however, is midfielder Houssem Aouar. He had 7 goal contributions and an 86% pass success rate in the league.

Prediction

Manchester City 4 – 0 Lyon

Matches may not be won on it, but predictions are made based off what’s on paper. And on paper, Manchester City may be the strongest team left. They have probably the second best player left in the competition, an absurd attack and good form coming in, so don’t be surprised if they walk out with the trophy. Lyon have a league game scheduled on the day of the final; they won’t have to reschedule it.

 

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1 comment

UEFA Champions League: Quarterfinal Review and Semifinal Preview August 18, 2020 at 9:45 am

[…] but that’s what happens in single-elimination tournaments. Anybody can win on their day. Predictions were made for this past week, but they were awful. Instead, here’s a look back on a wild quarterfinal week and ahead to […]

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