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Previewing the 2019 Champions League Semi-Finals
Even the biggest Champions League fan could not have predicted the excitement, shock, and controversy that surrounded the four quarter-final ties, and now we are down to the final four of the biggest club soccer tournament in Europe.
It is difficult to know where to start with the quarter-finals.
Ajax upset the odds — once again — with their defeat of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus. After going to Spain in the last round and demolishing Real Madrid, Ajax repeated the trick by beating the Italian champions in their own stadium to go through to the semi-final stage.
There was high drama in Manchester as Tottenham was helped by VAR decisions — and the apparent lack of defenses in the first 20 minutes — to go through on the away goals rule. A disallowed 94th minute Sergio Aguero goal sent the north London side through.
The other two quarter-finals were slightly less eventful but saw some wonderful soccer played by both Barcelona and Liverpool to set up the last four very nicely.
I’m going to take a look at the updated prices for the remaining clubs before providing my Champions League semi-finals preview.
Latest 2019 Champions League Odds
With just four clubs left, the prices have obviously narrowed for all involved, but with such unpredictable results throughout the competition, there are definitely no guarantees in this season’s Champions League.
Here are the latest Champions League outright winner odds.
With Manchester City finally out of the way, Barcelona has now been installed as the favorite to lift the famous trophy in Madrid at the start of June. The Catalan giant was incredibly impressive against Manchester United, especially in the second leg, and Lionel Messi was able to conjure up enough opportunities for Barcelona to go through with ease in the end.
Ernesto Valverde’s side may have felt aggrieved that they weren’t considered the favorite earlier on in the competition, as they have been performing to an incredible standard throughout. But Manchester City — with the talent at their disposal and Pep Guardiola pulling the strings — was seen as the better bet. The Spurs tie was seen as something of a formality outside of Tottenham, so that also influenced the shorter odds.
The bookmakers obviously now feel that whoever wins the Barcelona vs. Liverpool semi-final will win the Champions League. But both Tottenham and Ajax have repeatedly proven that they are more than a match for anyone and may be able to cause at least one more upset this season.
With some of the other bigger teams now out of the way, it seems to me it is Barcelona’s cup to lose. The three other remaining clubs are no pushovers, but I can’t see the Spanish champions losing to any of them.
My colleague has taken a more in-depth look at who will win the 2019 Champions League that’s worth checking out.
Now I’m going to look a little deeper into both semi-final ties.
Barcelona vs. Liverpool
Liverpool can now claim to be one of the four best clubs in Europe for the second successive year after Jurgen Klopp’s side comfortably beat Porto in the quarter-final. A 2-0 lead from the first leg was always going to be difficult to overcome for the Portuguese side, and although the second-leg score line of 4-1 does not really reflect fairly on Porto, goals from the usual suspects saw Liverpool through to a semi-final tie with Barcelona.
I feel as though if Liverpool was drawn at home first, the English club would have more of a chance of progressing to the final. Anfield has played its own part in helping Liverpool through the years, and a good first-leg result there might have been able to influence the outcome of the tie.
But with Barcelona at home, I expect Jurgen Klopp to try to somehow stifle the creative genius of Lionel Messi and keep the score manageable, believing that even a narrow victory can be turned around in the second leg.
Liverpool has played better soccer than Manchester United this season, but its great rivals never looked like competing at the Camp Nou as Barcelona attacked at will and was completely in control for the majority of the game. A David de Gea mistake was perhaps unfairly magnified for one of the goals, but it shows that teams need to get absolutely everything right if they are to beat Barcelona when they are in the mood they showed in the quarter-final.
If Liverpool can somehow keep Barcelona down to just the one goal — or even better, score one of its own — then the second leg could be very interesting indeed. But I feel if the English Premier League side does manage to score one in the first leg, it will be because the game is more open than I expect, and that will result in Barcelona being able to attack more and possibly run away with the game.
This season’s Champions League has thrown up a number of surprises over the last few rounds, but I think Barcelona can cope with the attacking thrust of Salah, Sane, and Firmino over the two legs and make its first final since 2015.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Ajax
Before the quarter-finals kicked off, these two clubs were way down the list of teams favored to lift the Champions League trophy — with odds of 21.00 and 34.00 respectively. But with a few upsets under their belts over the past few weeks, one of the two will be stepping out onto the turf at the Wanda Metropolitano in June.
Tottenham’s first-leg thrashing of Dortmund in its quarter-final signaled the club’s intent, but when Harry Kane was injured before the second leg against Manchester City, it seemed as though its European adventure was over. But Spurs are not a one-man attack anymore with Son able to lead the line just as effectively and Lucas Moura and even Fernando Llorente able to contribute.
If Tottenham can attack the Ajax defense as it has been showing recently, then this could be one of the games of the season. Spurs scored twice within the first ten minutes against Manchester City, and I feel if Mauricio Pochettino’s side can repeat that against a very good Ajax side, it might be able to upset the rhythm of the Dutch team just like it did in Manchester.
Ajax must feel as though anything is possible now and will not be afraid of returning to Amsterdam a few goals down from the first leg considering how they have performed in the previous two rounds.
It seemed like a changing of the guard when Ajax stunned Real Madrid in the Bernabeu to win 4-1 and progress to the semi-final. The youth and speed of the Dutch side contrasted with the complacency of an older Madrid team and gave Erik ten Hag’s team a famous victory.
The fact that Ajax then went and beat Juventus in the same manner shows just what a special team of players this is. Pundits in the media were already looking ahead to Ronaldo’s reunion with Barcelona in the final, but Ajax stuck to its game plan and was just too much for the Italian giant to handle.
From a betting perspective, it would seem that surely the same trick cannot be pulled a third time. But Tottenham — as good as they are — is no Real Madrid or Juventus. Even with Ajax’s proved ability to go away from home and get remarkable results, I think a lot hinges on the first-leg score with this tie.
But Tottenham is capable of playing at pace in a way that the two fallen giants are perhaps not, and that is how it can get past Ajax and into the final of the Champions League for the first time in its history.
This season’s Champions League has featured some of the best European soccer in the past few years — and not just from the usual teams and players. Technology has played its part, too, and that is something that fans will have to get used to in the coming years.
With just four teams left, we are now set up for five more exhilarating games before the champion is crowned. By visiting one or more of our recommended online betting sites, you can get some money down on the Champions League and make it even more exciting!