Liverpool and Manchester City bring the English final closer
The first week of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals was without surprises: Manchester City and Liverpool, considered favourites to play their opening games at home, began with victories over Real Madrid and Villarreal respectively. However, there were no crushing results, and we can note a characteristic pattern: the winners express dissatisfaction with the final score, while the losers do not panic and intend to fight for the final at home.
Even the coach, whose team has taken one shot at the opponent’s goal, is talking about revenge. Unai Emery understands that it’s not so bad to lose 0-2 in an away match, where Liverpool dominates, three times the ball possession and crushing your team 19-1 in shots. Obviously, for Villarreal this is far from a terrible result at Anfield, at least it leaves the team from Spain with hope before the home game. For their part, Liverpool could have cleared all questions with a 4-0 or 5-0 victory, but did not do so.
Manchester City left an even more dangerous beast – Real Madrid. Three times over the course of the match, the Citizens could have led by two goals and could have made it a big score, but instead they conceded goals. As a result, Guardiola’s team had only one goal advantage before the game at the Santiago Bernabeu. Once again, the scores show the frustration of the winners and the confidence of the losers. Behind the calmness of the Madrid side, you can even see hidden carnivorous smiles if you want to.
City and Liverpool did not achieve absolute superiority. The return matches could turn it all around
Let’s be frank. “Manchester City and Liverpool are by far the strongest teams in Europe and the world. “In a vacuum” they are now much stronger than Real Madrid and Villarreal. That is, if you force the Champions League semifinalists to play against each other 10 matches on a neutral field at intervals of once a week, the representatives of the APL will win 7-8 meetings each.
Fortunately, we are not in a vacuum, and in some places the circumstances are not quite normal anymore. The same “City” won, but let the team-boy feel the adrenaline rush of exchanging blows. “Real” likes to win such battles on experience, character and unwavering faith in themselves, even if the nominal team class of the opponent is higher. “Madrid need one shot to level the overall score, and then the magic of the Santiago Bernabeu will kick in.
There is speculation that at least one English team will pay for not finishing off an opponent with a royal component in the name on their field. Sure, City and Liverpool’s home advantage looked impressive and even overwhelming, but don’t be too quick to carry that over to the return fixtures in Spain, as several circumstances will change at once.
Ancelotti and Emery have chameleon teams. Real Madrid and Villarreal will switch roles
The reasons for the partial dissatisfaction of the winners and the calmness of the losers is that from within the teams the matches are evaluated not only by the result, but also by the compliance with the tasks set. Clearly, no one set the goal of losing, but Ancelotti and Emery must have allowed for this possibility in away encounters, given the two-match strategies and plans for specific matches.
Coaches of Spanish clubs understand that it is difficult for their teams to compete with some opponents in the open, so they resort to tricks, betting on segments and episodes, seeking to win rather than appear victorious throughout the duel. Say, for example, PSG seemed victorious against Real Madrid for two and a half hours, and then Benzema came in and kicked them.
Curiously, every Spanish club in the playoffs of this Champions League had an away match in which they forgot about other people’s gates. “In Paris, Real Madrid took three shots toward Donnarumma’s goal without hitting a single shot on goal. “Atletico, on the road against Manchester City, did not threaten Ederson’s calmness at all, 0:15 in shots. Now Villarreal has come to the club with one inaccurate shot at Anfield.
And now remember that Real Madrid passed PSG after such an unsightly away match, and Atletico Madrid played better than Man City, was close to a goal that would have moved the confrontation into extra time, and allowed the Citizens only once a shot on goal by Oblak. Changes in the play of Real Madrid and Villarreal compared to the matches in England are inevitable. They will be mostly provoked by the need to score, but that’s not the only factor.
City and Liverpool’s title rivalry in the AFL could undermine them in the Champions League
Real Madrid and Villarreal have the advantage of being adaptable and willing to play the right kind of soccer depending on the circumstances. In English stadiums Ancelotti and Emery decided to wait it out, but there will be a different approach to home matches. It is clear that Villarreal have fewer chances, because both the two-goal handicap needs to be won back, and Liverpool’s superiority in “goal class” is much higher. “Real” is closer to “City” in terms of opportunities, and in terms of the score, but there is a common great equalizer, which is on the side of the Spaniards.
While Real Madrid and Villarreal have the opportunity to prepare their best forces for the return semifinals in the week-long cycle, City and Liverpool do not have that luxury because of the absentee struggle to win the Premier League. Of course, Guardiola and Klopp will make some lineup changes for the away games against Leeds and Newcastle, but they can’t afford a massive rotation, as every slip-up could prove fatal. Struggling on two fronts has another side effect: it thinens and does not have time to replenish the stock of emotions, and that is the ultimate resource.
Now look at the Spaniards. “Real Madrid is the champion without two minutes and can afford not to engage the main players in the match against Espanyol. We already know for sure that Modric and Benzema won’t play, and I’m sure that many others will also get a rest. “Villarreal are seventh in the Primera but prioritize the Champions League. Emery sent out his second full squad in the league between the two games against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and there is no doubt he will do the same in the game with Alaves. Overall, the Spaniards will have the advantage of freshness and home field, and they can also surprise City and Liverpool. Do you still think things are going to an English final?