UEFA CL: How Group Winners – PSG, Madrid, City, Chelsea Face Off In Semi-final

UEFA CL: How Group Winners – PSG, Madrid, City, Chelsea Face Off In Semi-final

French giants, PSG will face Manchester City and Real Madrid will take on Chelsea in this season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

CHELSEA (ENG)

UEFA ranking: 13

European Cup best: winners (2012)

Last season: round of 16 (L vs Bayern)

This season

Record: W7 D2 L1 F19 A3

Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (6)

Quarter-finals: 2-1 vs Porto

Round of 16: 3-0 vs Atlético

Group E: winners

Campaign so far

An almost flawless group stage, founded on a solid defence and the record-breaking Edouard Mendy in goal, set Chelsea on their way to the last four. They were seldom threatened by the much-vaunted Atlético in the round of 16, and backed that up with a job well done against Porto.

Key player

Mason Mount initially became a regular fixture under Frank Lampard, but the England player’s game has gone up a level since Thomas Tuchel arrived. He opened his UEFA Champions League account in the first leg against Porto, and is contributing plenty more besides on the biggest stage.

Who’s in charge?

Appointed in January, new Blues boss Tuchel steered Paris to the UEFA Champions League final last season, as well as back-to-back Ligue 1 titles in 2019 and 2020. Before moving to France, he had success in Germany, leading Dortmund to cup glory in 2017.

Why they can win it

Still beaten only twice since Tuchel took charge, Chelsea really are starting to gel under their German coach. If the front players can continue their progress of the past few months, there is nothing – and no one – for Chelsea to fear. They changed manager mid-season when they won this trophy in 2012 – who’s to say lightning won’t strike twice?

Watch Foden’s City winner

UEFA ranking: 5

European Cup best: semi-finals (2016)

Last season: quarter-finals (L vs Lyon)

This season

Record: W9 D1 L0 F21 A3

Top scorer: Ferran Torres (4)

Quarter-finals: 4-2 vs Dortmund

Round of 16: 4-0 vs Mönchengladbach

Group C: winners

Campaign so far

The most telling point about City’s group stage campaign was that it ended with the competition’s best defensive record, with just one goal conceded following Rúben Dias’s arrival to join a revitalised John Stones in central defence. After winning Group C they posted home and away wins against both Gladbach and Dortmund to reach their first semi-final since 2016 still unbeaten.

Key player

City have an embarrassment of riches but Kevin De Bruyne remains their creator-in-chief. His elegance, vision and immaculate passing range – not to mention his driving runs and spectacular finishing – make him one of the most enjoyable players to watch in world football. If still in doubt, check out his pass in the lead-up to Foden’s first-leg winner against Dortmund.

Who’s in charge?

In 11 seasons as a first-team boss, Josep Guardiola has lifted eight league titles, but the last of his two managerial UEFA Champions League winners’ medals came in 2011.

Why they can win it

England’s champions-elect have the bit between their teeth in Europe this season. Their attacking brilliance is long established but they’ve added greater defensive solidity, with only three goals conceded in their ten games played so far. The psychological fillip of overcoming a quarter-final hoodoo to reach only their second semi-final should be an extra boost to their self-belief too.

PSG (FRA)

See how Paris celebrated Bayern win

UEFA ranking: 7

European Cup best: runners-up (2020)

Last season: final (L vs Bayern)

This season

Record: W6 D1 L3 F20 A10

Top scorers: Kylian Mbappé (8)

Quarter-finals: 3-3 vs Bayern (Paris win on away goals)

Round of 16: 5-2 vs Barcelona

Group H: winners

Campaign so far

Call it a season of extremes – hot and cold, highs and lows – but Paris have always delivered when it mattered. Beaten twice in their opening three games, the French champions pulled up their socks to win their group, changed their coach and have raised the bar with stunning, ruthless wins away to Barcelona and Bayern.

Key player

Second fiddle to Neymar in previous campaigns, Kylian Mbappé has seized the spotlight as he continues to fulfil his potential. The France striker did not get off the mark until Matchday 6, but since then the goals have flowed. Three at Barcelona, two in Munich – tie-winning contributions from a player whose pace, power and finishing take the breath away.

Who’s in charge?

Liverpool player ratings: Liverpool v Real Madrid - May 26 2018
Liverpool were knocked out by Real Madrid

Mauricio Pochettino ended a 13-month coaching hiatus when he took the Paris reins in January. The 49-year-old Argentinian reached the UEFA Champions League final with Tottenham in 2019 but departed before the close of the calendar year – the same fate as befell previous Paris boss Tuchel in 2020.

Why they can win it

Any team that can win 4-1 at Barcelona and humble Bayern deserves to be feared. Paris sawed through their psychological chains last season and their magnificent victories in Catalonia and Munich underlined their brutal attacking strength. With Neymar as orchestrator, Mbappé devastating defences and Keylor Navas performing heroics at the other end, anything is possible.

Real Madrid (ESP)

Highlights: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool (2 mins)

Highlights: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool (2 mins)

UEFA ranking: 2

European Cup best: winners x13 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Last season: round of 16 (L vs Manchester City)

This season

Record: W6 D2 L2 F18 A11

Top scorer: Karim Benzema (5)

Quarter-finals: 3-1 vs Liverpool

Round of 16: 4-1 vs Atalanta

Group B: winners

Campaign so far

It may have been an underwhelming start, but Madrid have slowly eased into this season’s UEFA Champions League and look to be revving up at just the crucial time. Convincing wins against Atalanta and Liverpool mean they seem well placed to reach yet another final – considering the run they are on, it would be brave to bet against them.

Key player

Casemiro is such a key cog in the Madrid engine. While perhaps not as technically gifted as Toni Kroos, nor as artful as Luka Modrić, the Brazilian is arguably the one of the midfield trio that Madrid dare not be without – as illustrated by his Player of the Match display at Anfield in the quarter-final second leg. He protects his back four so adeptly that he might well be the best player in his position in the world.

Who’s in charge?

One of the most vaunted players of his generation, Zidane’s reputation as a coach was equally high after leading Madrid to three successive UEFA Champions League crowns. He quit in 2018, but returned for a second spell the following year.

Why they can win it

This is Real Madrid in the Champions League – enough said! They know how to get the job done in this tournament, even when not at their best, and they have a wealth of experience on and off the pitch. The majority of this squad won three in a row between 2016 and 2018 and will be hungry to regain their crown this time.

Joseph Walker, Real Madrid reporter

Semi-final line-up

Paris vs Manchester City

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

PSG and Chelsea will play away in the first leg of the semi-final against Manchester City and Real Madrid respectively on April 27 while the return leg will be on May 4th, 2021.

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