Manchester City and Bayern Munich bowed out of the competition and the two contestants of the UEFA Champions League final in Milan have been decided. On the 29th of May, a fierce local rivalry will be reprised on the grandest stage of them all.
Atletico Madrid pulled off yet another upset as they managed to score a decisive away goal at the Allianz Arena to edge past Bayern Munich despite a 2-2 aggregate score. Their cross town rivals, Real, set up a final date between the two Madrid clubs after a deflected shot from Gareth Bale proved to be the only goal in their two legs against Manchester City.
There were repercussions for the losing sides as well as the semi-final stage of the UEFA Champions League ended. Here are five conclusions from the UEFA Champions League 2015-16 semi-finals.
1. La Liga trio are currently the top dogs in Europe
The final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid is a repeat of the 2013-14 final where Atletico were undone by a late Sergio Ramos header and three extra-time goals to lose 4-1. The next season it would be Barcelona who would win the title, even as Juventus knocked out Real Madrid in the semi-finals. During this campaign, Barcelona looked invincible until they were dumped out by their La Liga rivals Atletico.
The past three seasons have involved at least two of the big three La Liga teams in the semi-finals and a Spanish club winning the title. Although La Liga may not be the most competitive league in the world, it’s three best clubs are definitely the standard bearers for European football in recent times.
2. Pep Guardiola may not be the best manager in the world
Pep Guardiola is considered to be a tactical genius and arguably one of the best managers in the world. His possession based, tiki taka passing game was the predominant feature of one of the greatest football teams of the modern generation. By the time Guardiola decided to leave Barcelona at the end of the 2011-12 season, he had won three successive league titles and two Champions Leagues in his four years as manager.
The Spaniard went on to emulate that domestic run in Germany, leading Bayern Munich to three Bundesliga titles. However, he has been a disappointment in European competition. His star studded Bavarian team has fallen short in the semi-finals on three occasions, and this is a significant blemish on his track record.
3. Manchester City can move even closer to Champions League dream
Manchester City are the club that will be welcoming Pep Guardiola next season, and they will both be ruing their missed opportunities in this season’s semi-finals.
City made a historic foray into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time ever, after dispatching a formidable PSG side in the quarter-finals.
However, it all came undone for them at the Santiago Bernabeu as a deflected goal sent them out of the competition. Though Manchester City were vanquished, it remained a tight affair and they showed enough promise against a strong Real Madrid team to be considered serious contenders next time around.
4. Real Madrid need a back-up for Benzema
Los Blancos managed to sneak into the Champions League finals rather than bang down the door, something which they are used to doing usually. Their goal scoring abilities were hampered by the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the first leg. Though CR7 returned for the second leg, Benzema’s absence meant that the only options for Real were youth team products Jese and Lucas Vasquez.
Although they may have the talent to develop into top players in the future, neither was quite ready to set the Champions League on fire. Real are known for being chalk full of global superstars, but they are now lacking a genuinely good backup for Karim Benzema and it is something the club need to address very soon.
5. Atletico Madrid are pulling a Leicester City in Europe
Leicester City scripted the underdog story of the new millennium as they won the Premier League title this season. Although Atletico Madrid may not be that underrated, they are definitely underdogs in Europe’s elite competition. Compared to the likes of Barca, Bayern, Real and PSG, Atletico need to play with heart and soul to counter the footballing superiority acquired through purchasing power.
Diego Simeone’s men have done so, wonderfully, knocking out favorites Barcelona and then second seeded Bayern Munich. An old foe now lies in waiting at the San Siro, and Atletico could pull off sweet vengeance for their loss from two years ago.