Real Madrid C.F.:
Real Madrid did well to overcome a stern test from Bayern Munich, one of the favourites of the competition 6-3 on aggregate. Cristiano Ronaldo scored five goals overall against the German side and sealed his Champions League century in the second-leg of their Quarter-final tie with a hat-trick against the Bavarians.
Los Blancos managed to get the rub of the green with some of the decisions, however, with Arturo Vidal harshly dismissed for the opposition and Ronaldo scoring twice from offside positions. Nevertheless, the Champions are looking to defend their title but must first get past their city-rivals Atlético, who will be eager to get the better of the Merengues, having lost twice to them in last season’s Final and the 2014 Final in Lisbon.
Real Madrid’s obvious threat comes from the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, however, the unsung hero of the side Casemiro, has marvelled in his role as a central-defensive-midfielder. The Brazilian has broken-up a number of counter-attacks. Whether he puts in a firm tackle or makes a cynical foul, his mere presence allows Real Madrid to burst forward on the attack. His side are one of only two sides still unbeaten in the competition and the midfielder will be pivotal if his side are to break up the Atlético counter and keep Antoine Griezmann and his teammates at bay in the Semi-finals.
Atlético Madrid will be eager to make it third-time-lucky against Real Madrid this time around, having lost on two previous occasions to their Madrid-rivals, as mentioned above. The Rojiblancos haven’t beaten Los Blancos this season, with Griezmann’s late equaliser on the 8th of April, denying Real Madrid the chance to do the double over Diego Simeone’s men.
Atlético did well to defeat a spirited Leicester City on aggregate, having scored through Saúl Ñíguez’s away-goal. The Merengues have conceded 15 goals in the competition to the Rojiblancos’ five and with the pace of Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Ñíguez and Griezmann, Simeone’s men will be looking to add to the Real’s defensive woes. Griezmann will be the main focal point in the attack and the Frenchman will require the best service if he is to get beyond Sergio Ramos and find an away-goal.
Atlético have a very good workmanship and this is demonstrated by the few number of goals they have conceded. They conceded three against Real in November with Ronaldo grabbing a hat-trick but Diego Godín and Stefan Savić have been almost indestructible in recent matches, conceding just two goals from six matches, which have come from Jamie Vardy and Pepe. The side will have to be at their best defensively as they will not want to overturn a large deficit in the second-leg.
AS Monaco FC:
It came as a surprise to many that Monaco would defeat both Manchester City & Borussia Dortmund on the road to the last four of the Champions League. However their performances over both two-legged ties were very impressive.
With a youthful exuberance in Kylian Mbappé, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar, the side have a devastating attack, with the once deadly, ‘El Tigre’ Radamel Falcao leading the line.
The Colombian, who had a disappointing tenure in the Premier League with Manchester United and Chelsea, seems to have rediscovered some of his form from his time at Porto and Atlético Madrid, scoring 27 goals in 36 appearances this season (scoring seven in his last eight matches in the Champions League).
Eight-teen year old Mbappé has scored 21 goals already this season from 35 appearances, five of which have come in the Champions League. The Frenchman has shown a very high level of maturity throughout the season, along with his pace, trickery and composure, he will undoubtedly cause a number of problems for even the most well-disciplined and tactically organised Juventus defence, that has prevented the mighty Barcelona from finding the net.
However with youth comes a lack of experience. The side’s biggest frailties lie in their defensive ranks: with young full-backs Djibril Sidibé and Benjamin Mendy marauding forward, they leave themselves exposed on the counter-attack, which has contributed to a high proportion of the 16 goals that they have conceded throughout the competition.
Juventus have the best defensive record in the competition, conceding only twice but they also have a very good strike force too. They managed to keep a clean sheet over both legs of their Quarter-final tie against Barcelona, scoring three goals in the first-leg, courtesy of a Paulo Dybala brace and a Giorgio Chiellini header.
The Italian side will come into the game as favourites with Gonzalo Higuaín leading the line, alongside Dybala, Mario Mandžukić and Juan Cuadrado: ideal for the perfect counter-attack, which saw them defeat Barcelona. With both Monaco full-backs determined to surge forward, Juve will seek to capitalise and break swiftly. However they will need to be clinical. The Turin-outfit spurned a number of good chances at the Camp Nou and will be hoping to not make the same mistake as Manchester City, who were made to rue their missed opportunities in Monte-Carlo.
Massimiliano Allegri’s decision to continue Antonio Conte’s legacy at Juventus, of playing with three at the back, has paid off. Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, when fit, make defending look simple and elegant. Instead of clearing their lines, they tend not to panic and play the ball out from the back to set-up a counter-attack, which they did successfully against Barcelona. The defence know that they will be tested against a pacey and fearless Monaco side but they will be reassured knowing that they have Gianluigi Buffon behind them, should he be called upon.
The 39 year old goal-keeper, like wine, gets better with age. The veteran keeper has now kept 46 clean-sheets in the competition and has pulled off some magnificent saves, for instance, he made a fine stop from Andrés Iniesta in the first-leg to keep Juve ahead and prevent the Catalan side from scoring an away-goal.