The Champions League does exactly what it says on the tin. It creates a league of the best clubs in Europe and ultimately leaves one club victorious, labelling them “the best”. The competition usually includes the clubs we expect to see and doesn’t often veer far from that.
This year, the team that have arguably exceeded most expectations in their Champions League campaign is Liverpool F.C. The draw determined that Liverpool would welcome Manchester City, the only other English team left in the competition at that point, to Anfield in the quarter final. This meant that an English club was sure to make the semi-final.
Liverpool dominated Man City at Anfield under an electric atmosphere, beating the now Premier League champions 3-0. Many expected Man City to deliver at the Etihad in the second leg, as they have done all season, however, they faced a big disadvantage having not scored an away goal.
The Etihad saw Man City open the scoring after just 2 minutes, which caused people to question the likelihood of Liverpool holding on. However, this was the only converted attempt out of an overall 20 shots for City. It was only a matter of time before the unstoppable duo, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, both found the net, seeing their team progress to the semi-final after a 1-5 victory on aggregate.
Meanwhile, a team that defied expectation was Barcelona, however, for a slightly different reason. Barcelona are usually a dominant force in the Champions League, having won the competition 5 times. This season Barça have maintained a gap of 11 points between themselves and 2nd place in La Liga, which had many believing they would be victorious in the Champions League.
In the first leg of the quarter final against Roma, Barça graced Camp Nou just as we expected, claiming 4 goals. On the other hand, Edin Džeko managed to provide Roma with an away goal, but Barcelona were not in doubt.
The second leg at Stadio Olimpico told a different story. Roma managed an impressive 3 goals, taking the score, on aggregate, to 4-4. This saw the Catalonian giants beaten on away goals and knocked out of the competition, which came as a great surprise to many football fans.
One team in the competition who have conformed to expectation are the champions, Real Madrid. Real beat Juventus in the first leg of the quarter final at the Allianz Stadium, with Ronaldo scoring a brace and Marcelo solidifying the win in the 72nd minute.
Real then welcomed Juve to the Bernabéu, which proved challenging to the champions. Juve went 0-3 up in the second leg and had people thinking another unbelievable comeback was on the cards. However, the most unexpected moment occured in the 93rd minute of the game when goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon received a red card, in what was his final Champions League game, for abusive language towards the referee.
Arguably, the most predictable moment of the tournament thus far is Real Madrid clinching the victory in the final minute of the game. The goal came from a penalty converted by no other than Cristiano, winning an intense game 4-3 (on aggregate). This sealed the deal for many fans that Madrid will proceed in winning the title for the third consecutive year.
The draw for the semi-finals commenced with Roma drawing Liverpool, an outcome that Liverpool fans were delighted about. Additionally, Real Madrid drew German giants Bayern Munich who managed to defeat Sevilla in the previous round of the competition.
So, who will reign victorious? Will the victors subvert expectation? With the results of both legs of both games set to be decided by 2nd May, we shall soon find out.