The final four await their fate. Many battles, entertainment and surprises has led us to the four remaining teams. The Champions League semi-finals stage has arrived with four European heavyweights and two mouthwatering match-ups.
Firstly, Real Madrid took on Chelsea in the Spanish capital in their first leg encounter. A Real Madrid side who came off the back of a lethargic showing in their 0-0 draw at home to Real Betis. Meanwhile, Chelsea geared up for the contest with a hard-fought 1-0 away win at West Ham United.
Then it was the turn of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Two teams with projects firmly focussed on this continental prize. PSG arrived in this tie after a convincing 3-1 away win at Metz. On the other hand, Manchester City claimed their first silverware of the season by overcoming Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final.
The first leg matches are in the book. Here are five takeaways from the Champions League semi-finals first-leg.
Champions League Semi-Finals: What Has Happened So Far?
Advantage Chelsea But Blues Deserved More
It was an assured performance from The Blues, who deserved more than the draw taken on a rainy night in Madrid. The away team played the more composed and confident football. Their application was duly rewarded, deservingly scoring through a fantastic strike by Christian Pulisic.
The side successfully nullified much of the threat from Madrid thanks to a majestic performance from N’Golo Kante, yet Chelsea will rue that they did not put the tie to bed as they had Real firmly on the ropes. The tie is still evenly poised but Thomas Tuchel is in a good position to return to the final once again.
A Lethargic Showing from Real Madrid
Recent matches have shown Real Madrid look leggy and tired. This match highlighted that fact. Zinedine Zidane’s men were off-colour for the majority of the match, mustering only one shot on target. But, they made it pay. Once again, their talisman Karim Benzema came up trumps with a wonderful volley and his 71st Champions League goal. The Frenchman is finally getting the plaudits he deserves after years of being undervalued and underestimated. He has given his team hope in the second leg.
Although Chelsea hold the advantage with the away goal, the tie is far from over. Chelsea had the chance to kill off Madrid but they were unable to land that knockout punch. And you have to pummel them into submission without a chance. If not, Real are more than capable to raise their game in a one-off match in their fabled competition. With Sergio Ramos potentially back for the return leg, anyone who thinks this tie is done and dusted has not seen the history of Los Blancos in this tournament. Write them off at your peril.
Manchester City Produce Performance of the Season in Champions League Semi-Finals
Any doubts anyone had about the potential of this Manchester City side were blown away with a breathtaking second-half performance in Paris. Pep Guardiola orchestrated a second-half masterclass as his side produced a football clinic and put on a real show. It was a game of two halves with Paris confidently taking an advantage in the first half. However, City turned up in the second and pressured the life out of the Parisians.
Their defence was rock solid and gave them the springboard to shine. But central to their impressive victory was Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden whose class, movement, touch and guile were just too much to take for PSG once they turned the screw. City have won 18 away matches in a row and their imperious form has given them the perfect platform to secure their much-coveted Champions League final berth.
Paris Run Out of Steam
Paris produced a great performance in the first half to attack City with venom and vigour. The trickery of Neymar and skill of Angel di Maria were giving City real problems on the counter-attack. But, as City took control in the second half, PSG faded fast and burnt themselves out. Most of all, their lack of composure was alarming.
Firstly, Idrissa Gueye deservingly receiving a red card for a reckless challenge on Ilkay Gundogan and then Neymar was kicking lumps out of his opponents. Once City hit their stride, Paris had no answers and their man protagonists could not get a foothold thereafter. Paris now face an almighty uphill task to reach a second successive final.
Kevin De Bruyne the Man of the Moment
The Belgium international is enjoying the best form of his career and is performing at his best at just the right time. The 29-year-old is in a happy place after recently signing a new deal until 2025. His reading of the game, dictating a high tempo, passing ability and expert crossing are the main reasons City are on the verge of a landmark first Champions League final. Overall, he has five goals and four assists in eight knockout rounds of the tournament.
This game had his hallmark of class written all over it. City’s beacon of hope and leader on the field led by example with his goal and all-round display in propelling his side to another famous Champions League win.