After a scintillating two weeks of UEFA Champions League quarterfinal action, we have our four semifinalists in Europe’s premier club competition.
Real Madrid inexplicably blew a 3-0 lead against Juventus, but were saved by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 95th minute penalty after a thrilling, controversial and heartbreaking sequence of events that saw legendary Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon get sent off in his final Champions League match.
Bayern Munich coasted to a 2-1 aggregate victory over Spanish outfit Sevilla, clinching their passage in a dry 0-0 draw at the Allianz Arena.
Liverpool outgunned Premier League rivals Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate, highlighted by two second half goals at the Etihad Stadium to slay the English champions-elect.
And, quite remarkably, Roma stunned Barcelona 3-0 at home in the second leg, overturning a 4-1 deficit and advancing, knocking out superhuman Lionel Messi in the process.
This is the first time ever that all four Champions League semifinalists are from four different countries. Additionally, parity is everywhere: Bayern is first in the Bundesliga, but Real Madrid and Liverpool are third in their respective leagues, while Roma are fourth.
Essentially, many of the big boys (Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint Germain, and Juventus) are missing. Regardless, there is quality and pedigree in this last four, which should make Friday’s draw particularly exciting.
For arguments sake, let’s power rank the remaining sides in the UEFA Champions League.
I have the utmost respect for what Roma did. They slayed the dragon that is Barcelona, and in spectacular fashion– Roma are the third team to overcome a 3+ goal deficit from the first leg of the Champions League, and the first since… Barcelona, who did it last year against PSG.
Roma outshot Barcelona 17-9, and created 15 chances to Barcelona’s 5. Dzeko opened the scoring in the first half (his third Champions League goal against the Spanish side, more than any other team he has played against). Daniele De Rossi converted a second half penalty to make it 2-0, before Kostas Manolas scored off a corner in the 82nd minute to give Roma a 3-0 win.
Roma are a terrific side from top to bottom– Edin Dzeko is in fine form, and their midfield is stacked with quality talent (De Rossi, in particular, is enjoying a renaissance at 34 years old.
However, inspired home performance inside, Roma are quite obviously the surprise package in the semifinals– while they have the quality to win it, you can argue that any team at this stage has the quality to go all the way.
Roma are a good story, but they will be underdogs regardless of who they come up against in the semis.
With that being said, they were the underdogs against Barcelona…
For a second, I had Liverpool as the #2 team in the power rankings, but I had to resist– despite their ferocious attack, their defense still has me a little timid.
Trent Alexander Arnold, who is 19 (and was nine last time Liverpool reached the semifinals) led his team in both interceptions (13) and tackles won (7) over two legs against City’s mighty attack.