UCL Semi-Finals Preview

Welcome to The Spectator’s semi-finals coverage in soccer’s premier competition!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We’re back with The Spectator’s coverage of the UEFA Champions League, where we’ll break down both semi-final ties and give our predictions for them! 

Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

The old guard versus the new guard. History made versus history yet to be found. Manchester City take on Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s Champions League semi-final. In last year’s edition, City appeared to be heading to Paris, leading 5-3 on aggregate in the second leg until the 90th minute. Rodrygo then turned the tie on its head, scoring two goals in quick succession and forcing extra time. Karim Benzema coolly stepped up and slotted home a penalty to send Madrid to the final. This time around, City will be looking to get revenge for last year’s collapse and move one step closer to securing the club’s first Champions League trophy.

There are so many storylines coming into this tie from City’s perspective, the main one being the rise of Erling Haaland. The Norwegian leads UCL scoring charts with 12 goals and has scored a UCL-record five goals in one match against RB Leipzig in the round of 16. City have developed a reputation for capitulating in big knockout matches, but with Haaland’s prolific form, they may finally add the elusive UCL to their impressive accolades. The semi-final will also be a decisive moment for City Coach Pep Guardiola, whose legacy has become tarnished after his failure to replicate his European success with Barcelona in Manchester and Munich.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid will be chasing down their 15th Champions League title to cement their status as European royalty. As defending champions, Los Blancos have history on their side and have also demonstrated the character to win crucial games. Though not playing up to par domestically, they still have a deep squad with superstars galore. With Ballon d’Or winner Benzema and speedy winger Vinicius Jr. in the attack, Croatian veteran Luka Modrić manning the midfield, and Yashin Trophy winner Thibaut Courtois in net, this Madrid side is filled to the brim with talent.

Clear all plans on May 9 and May 17; this matchup is a must-watch. The individual battles across the pitch, as well as the tactical one between Guardiola and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, will make this a competitive battle throughout.

AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

The Milan Derby, a historic fixture that shakes the Serie A landscape every season, is here to delight the Champions League. The head-to-head record is on Inter’s side, as they have triumphed 87 times out of the last 235 meetings between the two, while AC Milan have a slightly lesser 79 derby victories. However, history has one thing to say about this matchup: expect the unexpected.

Inter Milan’s 5-3 dismantling of Portuguese side Benfica in the quarter-finals was quite commendable. Their midfield overpowered that of Benfica’s, and their counter-attacking system worked wonderfully against the Portuguese defense. However, Inter have disappointed domestically, having only won one of their last five games in Serie A. The team’s league woes are shown in the league table, standing in sixth place and thus reducing the likelihood of their return to the Champions League next year. Whether their shaky form will translate into a poor performance against AC Milan is yet to be seen. Inter will be relying on Lautaro Martinez up top, whose goal won them their last match against AC Milan, as well as a confident showing from their midfield maestro Nicolò Barella.

That being said, AC Milan aren’t faring much better than Inter in Italy. Sitting just above Inter in fifth place by two points, they are essentially in the same boat as the Nerazzurri. However, AC Milan’s form has been much better than Inter’s. After defeating Serie A leaders Napoli resoundingly in a 4-0 victory earlier this month, the Rossoneri followed up with a 2-1 aggregate victory over the Neapolitans in their quarter-final fixtures. Portuguese winger Rafael Leão has been sensational recently, and Inter Milan will certainly be hoping that he isn’t playing at his best on matchday. With a well-rounded squad boasting both breadth and depth, as well as the perfect mix of experience and young talent on the team, AC Milan have a lot to offer and will be aiming for their eighth Champions League title.

This tie has a different feel to it due to the rich history in the stadium, teams, and competition. The San Siro––the stadium for both legs, as both teams use it as their home stadium––will be buzzing for the full 90 in both legs. AC Milan versus Inter Milan in the UCL semis will be one for the ages.

Writer’s Predictions:

Duncan: Manchester City tie the first leg 0-0 in a snoozefest of a first leg at the Bernabéu. In the return leg, City’s home advantage helps them pull through to the knockouts with a 1-0 victory. As for the Milan derby, it’s hard to say, but I’ll pick AC Milan simply because of their quality across the pitch. Inter isn’t the strongest in my book, and AC Milan have such a strong legacy in the UCL. The first leg will be a 1-1 nail-biter, and the second will have AC Milan punch their ticket to Istanbul 2-1 on aggregate.

Soham: Madrid will win the first leg 1-0 at home, but City will win the reverse fixture 3-0 at the Etihad, sealing a 3-1 aggregate victory in favor of the English side. On the other hand, AC Milan will win the first leg 2-0 at home and follow it up with another 1-0 victory in the second leg, sealing the tie 3-0 in favor of the Rossoneri.

Jack: Manchester City and Real Madrid will draw 1-1 in the first leg, but the Mancunians will come out victorious in the second leg by winning 1-0 and advance to the final. On the other side of the bracket, AC Milan will win the first leg of their semi-final matchup against rival Inter 1-0. In the second leg, however, Inter Milan will score a goal to tie the semifinal on aggregate. Then, the game will advance to extra time, where the Nerazzurri will score again to advance to the final, 2-1.

With numerous storylines to be told and stars to be born, the Champions League is serving up another classic this year. The world awaits, as these four gargantuan teams face off for a trip to Istanbul.