With the UEFA Champions League Semifinals underway as of Tuesday, Europe’s top leagues inch closer to crowning the world’s best club.
The lone remaining Premier League representative, Liverpool, currently leads 5-2 after routing Roma at home. However, Roma may not have walked off Anfield with their heads as low as you’d think with that scoreline. The Italian club snuck two late goals that could prove crucial if they are able to play similar to how they did against Lionel Messi and Barcelona in their shocking comeback during the Quarterfinals.
The fact of the matter is that Liverpool is the more talented club with the more talented players. Mohamed Salah has played his way into talks of rivaling Ronaldo and Messi for the next Ballon D’or award, and Firmino and Mane have partnered alongside him to form a devastating attack. Roma will need to conjure up another miracle to get a 3-0 or 4-1 result that would put them through. Barring any more major injuries, Liverpool will likely be waiting for the victors of Bayern Munich versus Real Madrid feeling confident about their chances.
With that being said and Bayern Munich hosting Real Madrid tomorrow, it is an interesting game to look forward to compared to the first matchup. Both teams would have likely been favored against both Roma and Liverpool, but the luck of the Champions League draw would not serve them kindly and the two giants will meet for the second straight year. Last year, Real Madrid defeated Bayern Munich behind current Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo’s two extra-time goals enroute to winning the Champions League Final over Juventus.
The defending European champions from Spain are back in Munich tomorrow, but the Germans have been in fantastic form. Bayern Munich have already secured the Bundesliga title and have won six straight in league play, as well as defeating Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate in the Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Real Madrid has looked shaky in recent games despite a great performance in the first round against Juventus. Ronaldo’s 98th-minute penalty sent Real Madrid through to the Semifinals, and with his scorching-hot run continuing (when Zidane doesn’t rest him), Real Madrid are the favorites to move on in their quest for a third straight Champions League title.
So who should we be keeping an eye on in Wednesday’s goliath matchup?
Cristiano Ronaldo, F
What more needs to be said of the Portuguese superstar? The 33-year old has stormed back from an early season slump to get back into the driver’s seat in the race for the European Golden Shoe award given to the player with the most goals in Europe’s top leagues. He currently has scored 42 goals in just 39 games, trailing Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah’s 43 goals in 47 games for the time being. Ronaldo always seems to show up in the biggest games at the biggest moments, you’ll want to keep a close eye on him whenever he’s on the pitch.
The 26-year old Spaniard has played well off the bench for Real Madrid and could feature in the starting lineup for Los Blancos to open play against Bayern Munich. His goal and assist in his most recent start carried Madrid to a 2-1 victory and his wizardry passing the ball during both legs against Juventus gave manager Zinedine Zidane plenty to consider when he puts together his team sheet. Whether Isco is in from the first whistle or comes off the bench, make sure you pay attention to number 22.
Robert Lewandowski, F
Lewandowski’s name has been linked to Real Madrid as the Spanish superclub weigh their options as current striker Karim Benzema continues his miserable play. Perhaps Lewandowski would make for the perfect partner to Ronaldo, as he continues to bash in goals for Bayern Munich and Poland. The 29-year old has scored seven goals in his last six games, bringing his season tally to 39. If Bayern Munich can break down Real Madrid’s inconsistent back four, the Polish phenom could be the difference maker in the first leg.
James Rodriguez, M
After a strange spell of time at Real Madrid, James Rodriguez was loaned to Bayern Munich from Real Madrid last season, and is likely to get bought out by the club this summer. The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner has seen more consistent playing time in Germany and his play has stepped up as a result. With six goals and 11 assists this season, the Columbian has been a pivotal part of building up the team’s attacks. Look for James to play with some extra flair against his old club.