And then there were four.
The Champions League has entered its semifinals stage yet again with a number of major surprises, some bigger than others. The matchups are setting, leaving the four remaining teams in both differing positions.
But which team has now become the runaway favourite to win the title? Here is a ranking of the remaining Champions League contender.
4. Manchester City
The English side is playing with house money at this point. Few expected the team to get past the quarterfinals against Paris Saint-Germain, but by most accounts that alone was considered a major achievement.
So now the team is home in its first ever semifinal against a Real Madrid side that has turned around
its season both domestically and in this very competition. Few have City winning this matchup and the reality is that Madrid will likely eat the team alive regardless of the style City chooses to play. If Madrid lets the Citizens possess the ball, then its fearsome counter attacks will win the day. If Madrid seizes possession, then it will simply be too much for a team that lacks much diversification of style.
3. Bayern Munich
The German champs should be the favourites to win it all under Pep Guardiola but their showing in the knockout rounds in this tournament have yet to be impressive to say the least. Blowing a 2-0 lead against Juventus and then coming within 20 minutes of being eliminated is not a good sign.
But the play against Benfica was far less promising with the team unable to muster more than a 1-0 win at home before having to overcome a 2-2 draw on the road to move on. The dominance has not been there for Bayern and now it plays a team that knows exactly how to counter its style of play.
2. Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid has a more favourable matchup than people realise. The team is coming off a huge shut down of Barcelona in the quarterfinals, is now tied for the lead in La Liga and looks as composed as ever under Diego Simeone.
The aggressive nature of Atletico coupled with its defensive solidity should win the day against a Bayern side that has looked rather uninspiring on the offensive throughout the knockout rounds. Moreover, Atletico looks like a team on a mission to reclaim the trophy after a disappointing showing in 2014. But they are still not the favorites.
1. Real Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane’s side is revitalised after a horrid start to the season under Rafa Benitez. Zidane has found a way to get his team hitting on all cylinders, has found an ideal midfield combination to suit his front three and is employing impressive rotations to keep his players fresh.
Throw in the fact that the team has a favourable matchup in the next round and suddenly Madrid looks set for its second final appearances in three years.
While Atletico Madrid could prove a difficult proposition in the final if the two sides meet up, the team’s star players are all clicking at the right moments. Bayern Munich is far less of an intimidating option with Madrid’s dominant counter attack likely to prove too much for Guardiola’s side. Throw in Ronaldo returning to prominence and you have a team that is simply too good at this moment.