UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals: Who makes it to Madrid?
We are now familiar with the four teams that have qualified, and who plays who in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League semi-finals. This is how they line up:
Tottenham vs Ajax – 30 April, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium// 8th May, Johan Cruyff Arena
Barcelona vs Liverpool – 1 May, Camp Nou // 7th May, Anfield Stadium
Tottenham and Ajax are probably the surprise packages. In the quarterfinals, Manchester City were favourites to beat Mauricio Pochettino's side, as were Juventus when they met Ajax. But football being the wonderful and unpredictable game that it is, proved once again that even the underdogs could emerge victorious. So, what now? Who will go on to make the final? Let’s have a quick look at the previous outcomes of meetings between the current semi-finalists.
Tottenham vs Ajax
The last time that Tottenham and Ajax met in a European competition was in the 1981/1982 European Cup Winners Cup, where Spurs won both legs. They beat the Dutch champions 3-1 in the Amsterdam, and ran out 3-0 winners in the second leg in London. Of course, assuming that the outcome will be that straightforward this time would be idiotic.
One worrying problem for Spurs is the injury to leading goal scorer Harry Kane. The striker picked up a nasty lateral ligament injury to his ankle, and there is doubt as to whether or not he will be able to take the pitch again this season. But if he remains unavailable, Spurs fans can have faith in Heung-Min Son, who has been banging in the goals left right and centre while Harry Kane has been struggling with injury.
The South Korean is in sizzling form. His three goals in the two clashes with the Citizens were vital in Spurs progressing to the semi finals. He is at the top of his game, as evidenced by the fact that he is currently leading the poll for being on the cover of FIFA 2020 ahead of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
As for Ajax, they are in dreamland at the moment. Having to pass numerous rounds of qualifying matches just to secure a spot in the group stages, absolutely no one would have seen this coming from Erik ten Hag's side.
The 'Golden Generation' has endeared themselves to the world with their fast-paced, attacking style of football, standing fearless in the face of some of Europe's biggest teams and coming out victorious.
These two legs promise to be very entertaining with both sides capable of scoring from fast break-outs, and we can expect no shortage of drama. But the fact that the two hottest favourites (Barcelona and Liverpool) have been drawn against each other means that one of the previously lesser fancied sides will be contesting the final.
Prediction: Ajax to outplay Tottenham and make it to the final.
Barcelona vs Liverpool
Barcelona vs Liverpool is perhaps the most mouth-watering of the two semis with two of the original favourites in the competition set to lock horns for a place in the final.
Liverpool find themselves in the semi finals again this season after comprehensively defeating Porto in the last round, whereas Barca made light work of their matchup against Manchester United, with Lionel Messi very much at the centre of proceedings.
Domestically, both Liverpool and Barcelona have been doing well. Barcelona have just secured another La Liga title with a win at home against Levante, whereas Liverpool are trailing defending champs Manchester City by a single point, in a characteristic Premier League title race that looks to be one that will go down to the last possible moment.
Looking at their past records, there is not much to choose between Barca and the Reds. In their last eight meetings, Liverpool just edge it by three wins to Barcelona’s two, and the two teams have drawn on five occasions, with most matches being low scoring, cagey affairs.
This season's tie however, is expected to be a exciting, fast paced tie with counter attacking and attacking football on full display. As Jurgen Klopp's famed gegenpressing going up against Barcelona's possession philosophy, something surely has to give.
Prediction: Barcelona to edge the Reds over 2 legs and make it to the Final