‘El Cashico’ and Chelsea make Real outlier in Champions League semis

Updated on Apr 15, 2021 08:41 PM IST
  • “It is the second time in the semi-finals so it is not history in the club, but we start to build it,” said City coach Pep Guardiola after Wednesday’s 2-1 win away to Borussia Dortmund broke a four-year semi-final jinx.
Real Madrid's Rodrygo in action with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson.(REUTERS)
Real Madrid's Rodrygo in action with Liverpool's Andrew Robertson.(REUTERS)

Only one team in this season’s Champions League semi-finals know what it takes to win in Europe multiple times. Of the 14 titles, Chelsea won in 2011-12 but the rest belong to Real Madrid. Manchester City and Paris St Germain (PSG), who play in one semi-final, have been here only once before.

“It is the second time in the semi-finals so it is not history in the club, but we start to build it,” said City coach Pep Guardiola after Wednesday’s 2-1 win away to Borussia Dortmund broke a four-year semi-final jinx.

“I’m incredibly happy to be in the semi‑finals, to be one of the best four teams in Europe, to be against big, strong teams and we will try to be good. We break this bridge from quarter-finals to semi-finals,” he said. Reason enough for Guardiola to let City celebrate “with a lot of wine.”

Riyad Mahrez’s 55th minute penalty cancelled Jude Bellingham’s 15th minute goal which could have but did not give City another bout of heebie-jeebies. Then Phil Foden, whose late goal in the first-leg had helped City win 2-1, scored in the 75th minute and Guardiola enveloped him in a hug.

“For the club it's so important, we cannot deny,” said Guardiola. This is the eighth time Guardiola is in the Champions League semi-final but he hasn’t won it since 2010-11.

City have bossed the Premier League winning it four times since the Abu Dhabi royals took over the club in 2008. Another domestic league title is theirs to lose and they remain on course for the quadruple of Premiership, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the Champions League. But in Europe, they had just one Champions League semi-final berth to show for till this season. That was in 2015-16 when Manuel Pellegrini’s team lost 0-1 on aggregate to Real Madrid.

Till last season, the Champions League semi-finals were a Neverland for PSG. They met RB Leipzig in a clash of outliers and won 3-0 to make the final where PSG lost 0-1 to Bayern Munich. So one of the finalists in Istanbul on May 29 will be a team that hasn’t held the nearly 7.5kg trophy also known as “Big Ears”.

Chelsea have but they have come this far only once, in 2013-14, since beating Bayern Munich on penalties in the final. It was the culmination of a consistent run in the 2000s when they made the semi-finals five times.

That makes Real, who ousted Liverpool 3-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at Anfield, the odd one in this quartet. They have qualified for the semi-finals nine times in the past 11 seasons. “We didn't score and then the experience of Real Madrid played the tie (out),” said Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp.

Not long ago, Real’s season looked beyond repair but now they are just a point behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga. And they are among the survivors in the Champions League with a makeshift central defensive pair and an irregular right-back. “We’re all pulling together and this side always does that and it always wants more,” said coach Zinedine Zidane.

But if Chelsea surprise them it would mean that no final has had fewer titles between the contenders since Porto beat Monaco in 2003-04. European football’s old order didn’t yield to the new then. But it could now, given that City, PSG, Chelsea have the greenbacks to compete with Europe’s elite. The PSG-City games are already being labeled ‘El Cashico’ and Foden asking Kylian Mbappe on Twitter if he is ready can be the clash of future titans.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata with over two decades as a sports journalist. He writes mainly on football.

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