The second leg of a UEFA Champions League tie is always the most enthralling. This is the true match where the victor progresses and the loser must simply wait until next season. At this point of the tournament only four teams remain, and the winners will meet in the final match for all the glory of Europe.
In both cases, the pundits would declare that the underdog teams won the first leg. Bayern Munich scrapped a very late goal through Mario Gomez against Real Madrid which gave them a 2-1 victory. Now they will travel to the legendary Bernabeu and hold on for dear life. Real Madrid will be thoroughly invigorated due to their victory over Barcelona on Saturday that basically assured them of the La Liga title.
Bayern Munich desperately want to win the semifinal. As Borussia Dortmund recently claimed the Bundesliga, the Champions League presents their only opportunity for silverware on the season. With the future of Arjen Robben up in the air, this may be their last chance to win a major trophy with the current make-up of the squad. The Dutch playmaker is a crucial attacker to the side and will be extremely difficult to replace.
Further providing motivation for the German side is that the final will be held at Bayern Munich’s stadium. The ability to play the ultimate match on one’s home turf would give Bayern much more favorable odds. Look at how host nations have fared in recent world cups. Germany excelled in 2006, as did South Korea in 2002. In 1998, France won as hosts. If they can hold onto their lead, Bayern Munich will like their chances to win the Champions League.
Chelsea stunned holders Barcelona 1-0 in London last week. Salt was added to the wounds when Barcelona lost El Clasico and the Spanish League. Many moons have passed since Barcelona was defeated two games in a row, and morale must be low within the team. Overturning the deficit will be quite challenging, especially as Barcelona failed to secure an away goal against Chelsea. Due to the UEFA rules, if Chelsea scores a goal in the game, Barcelona would actually need to score at least three goals and win by a two goal margin.
Chelsea seems re-invigorated and their manager, Roberto Di Matteo, will see the Champions League trophy as a route to securing a permanent job with the club. Both ties are set for great excitement. The Spanish clubs were deemed the favorites heading into the semifinals, and both teams lost the first legs. Therefore, we will get to see them really go for it in front of their home fans. I predict that only one of either Real Madrid or Barcelona will make the necessary turnaround to earn a final spot. My money is on Real Madrid. They are on a hot streak and are finally showing the poise that we expected when Jose Mourinho was brought in to be manager.