Champions League semi-finals set to be dramatic Jonathan Kaner and Alex Reiner

After a quarter-final round full of drama, intensity and heartbreak, the UEFA Champions League semi-final fixtures are set: Monaco will face Juventus, and Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will clash in a derby rivalry on May 2 and 3, respectively.

“Juventus vs. Monaco should be a very intriguing matchup,” Alejandro Perez Elorza ’18 said. “With Juventus in tremendous form and Monaco coming off a strong victory, it’s a tight one.”

Led by Paulo Dybala, Juventus was able to survive FC Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” play in the midfield and lethal attack in the quarter-final round. Juventus defeated FC Barcelona, a prior favorite to win the trophy, 3-0 on aggregate.

In the prior round, Barcelona miraculously came back from a 4-0 defeat in the first leg to win 6-1 on aggregate. When Lionel Messi and the rest of Barcelona traveled to Juventus, they were favorites to take the victory. However, Juventus’ impermeable defense and quick counter-attacking proved enough to advance to the next round.

“Juventus proved that they could take on any team in the world,” Perez Elorza said. “That is why they are considered a top club right now – maybe even the best.”

Juventus celebrates their win

Monaco, on the other hand, had a pretty comfortable quarter-final stage against German side Borussia Dortmund, where young American Christian Pulisic has taken the soccer world by storm. However, Monaco was able to handle Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pace and Marco Reus’ technical skill, and Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappé were able to punish Dortmund’s weak defense to win both legs of the draw with an aggregate score of 6-3.

“They were some great matches to watch with a lot of scoring,” Harry Azadian ’19 said. “It will be great to see what [Mbappé] will be able to do in the semis, as well as internationally in the future.”

It is going to be very entertaining to see how Juventus’ strong defense will be able to hold up against Monaco’s quick attacking soccer. On the other side of the field, Juventus has the talent to be able to penetrate the Monaco back line and give goalkeeper Danijel Subašić a lot of work to do.

“It should be a great game with a great offense in Monaco and a very steady defense with Juventus,” Azadian said.

Kylian Mbappeé poses after his breakaway goal against Borussia Dortmund

The Madrid derby, or “El Derbi madrileño,” goes back 89 years, but in most recent Champions League memory, the 2016 final, Real Madrid defeated their counterparts in a nail-biting penalty shootout. “Real Madrid proved in last year’s final that they were the best club in the world,” Abi Genser ’18 said.

Atletico Madrid is coming off of a respectable 2-1 aggregate victory over Leicester City, the club that shocked the world last year after winning the British Premier League. After defeating Sevilla, Leicester City proved that they were to be taken seriously in this European tournament, and Atletico Madrid knew this would not be an easy task. “They play vertically and are clinical in attack. I do not believe that they will concede possession,” Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said in an interview with Marca. “That is what has brought them to the European stage.”

Key players in this victory included Antoine Griezmann and Saúl Ñíguez, who provided the goal scoring, and Jan Oblak, who was a brick wall in goal. According to The Guardian, Atletico Madrid dominated possession with 62 percent, while Leicester City had no shots on goal in the first leg.

Real Madrid, who is currently on top of the La Liga table in Spain, arguably had a tougher task in their quarter-final matchup, having to play German powerhouse Bayern Munich. “Real Madrid vs. Munich was one of the most physical and high-intensity games I have seen this season,” Perez Elorza said. He added that the matches were overshadowed by numerous refereeing decisions that went against Munich.

Real Madrid won the Champions League last year and is looking to continue their success

“I don't like talking about referees but you always have to look at yourself and the mistakes you make or what you have done wrong,” Munich winger Arjen Robben said in a press conference. “In this case, it wasn't one, it's more and crucial decisions decide games.”

Aside from controversial refereeing, the matchup between the two giants of Europe ended in a 6-3 aggregate victory for Real Madrid, sending them through to a semi-final clash with their Madrid counterparts.

“I could definitely see Real Madrid raising the trophy for the second year in a row,” Genser said. Although Real Madrid is favored to win the Champions League out of the four teams remaining, it would not be a surprise if Atletico Madrid has something up their sleeve. They will surely want to take revenge on two final defeats in the last three years against their rivals, so this matchup will be very intriguing.

Atletico Madrid look to spoil last year's champions Real Madrid on repeating for the title

“It’s hard to say that statistics means anything in today’s game,” Perez Elorza said. “Time and time again, we have seen upsets, especially in the Champions League, and the remaining teams have lots of talent all around.”

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