Various internal storylines in the Champions League semis add extra intrigue

Various internal storylines in the Champions League semis add extra intrigue
Nuno Mendes of Paris Saint-Germain (left) and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund during their Champions League semifinal at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany, on 1 May 2024. (Photo: ANP via Getty Images)

The second leg of the Uefa Champions League semifinals are evenly balanced, adding more flavour to fixtures that have already proven to be tasty in the respective first legs.

There was outstanding soccer on display in the Champions League first-leg semifinals a week ago, and when it all ended the margins of separation were minimal. 

On one end of the spectrum, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (with 20 Champions League titles between them) played to a breathtaking 2-2 draw in Germany. On the other, a Borussia Dortmund side that epitomised organisation and discipline stifled a star-studded Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) outfit to record a hard-fought 1-0 win.

A week later the four teams are set to do it one more time. Their reward? A place in the final at London’s Wembley Stadium. 

Healthy German game 

Within all of this there are a few internal themes. If Bayern and Borussia both book their tickets to the final it will be an all-German affair. 

Ironically, the two sides clashed in the 2013 decider at Wembley, where the Bavarians conquering their fellow Bundesliga side 2-1. The following year, Germany won a fourth Fifa World Cup crown in Brazil. 

Champions League

Julian Ryerson of Dortmund fights for the ball during their Champions League first-leg semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany, on 1 May 2024. (Photo: Mika Volkmann / Getty Images)

In subsequent years the national team has regressed substantially, with their ultimate low coming during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, when they were eliminated in the group phase. 

Over the past couple months the national team has shown some promise. With Germany set to host the 2024 European Championship, having two teams in the semifinals of the most prestigious club competition in the world is an indication that the country’s soccer is in a healthy state. 

Over and above that, newly crowned German champions Bayer Leverkusen are on the cusp of qualifying for the auxiliary Europa League final. They are yet to lose a match, in any competition, this season. 

Of course, beyond the positive feelings these clubs have brought to German soccer, they have their own ambitions. 

Bayern are desperate to avoid a trophyless season. If they fail to win the Champions League, which is the Bavarians’ sole hope of silverware after they lost out on the Bundesliga for the first time in more than 10 seasons, their fears will become a reality. The last time they went trophyless in a campaign was all the way back in 2012. 

“Everything we’re fighting for is in this competition. We’ve just got to find a way to get it done. Real Madrid away is going to be tough. But we’ve got to go there with full belief and go for the win,” Englishman Harry Kane said. 

Eric Dier of Bayern Munich vies with Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League semifinal first-leg match at Allianz Arena in Munich on 30 April 2024. (Photo: Stefan Matzke – sampics / Getty Images)

Champions League

Harry Kane of Bayern Munich is challenged by Toni Kroos of Real Madrid during their Champions League first-leg semifinal clash at Allianz Arena in Munich on 30 April 2024. (Photo: Stefan Matzke – sampics / Getty Images)

The lethal striker joined Bayern from Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the 2023/24 campaign, aiming to win the first major piece of silverware in his career. At Spurs the trophies eluded him, despite sensational individual performances over the past decade. 

Since his arrival in Germany he has shone, comfortably scoring more than 30 goals in his maiden campaign away from his homeland. But he and his teammates have not been able to capture a domestic title – which adds to the significance of a great performance in the Champions League.

“The situation is now clear. A win in Madrid and on to Wembley. It’s still a 50-50 game for me. Let’s see what happens,” Bayern manager Thomas Tuchel said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Kylian Mbappé eyes fairytale PSG exit in the form of Champions League glory

Of course, the Germans face a Los Blancos outfit fuelled by recently winning a 36th La Liga title, and which has a mind-boggling record of 14 Champions League trophies, double that of the second-most successful team on the continental competition’s winners’ list (Italy’s AC Milan). 

It promises to be an exceptionally entertaining second-leg clash between two heavyweights with talented squads and stacks of respect for each other. 

History favours the Spanish club though. At the intimidating Santiago Bernabéu, Bayern are without a victory in seven games. Six have ended in defeat, while one was a draw. 

Noussair Mazraoui of Bayern Munich about to challange Jude Bellingham of Real Madrid during a Champions League first-leg semifinal at Allianz Arena in Munich on 30 April 2024. (Photo: Stefan Matzke – sampics / Getty Images)

Hungry Parisians 

Then, of course, there is PSG and their talisman, Kylian Mbappé. The supremely talented forward is set to depart Paris at the end of this season and has expressed a wish to deliver a maiden Champions League title for his hometown club before then. 

In the first leg, one-time Champions League winners Dortmund managed to keep Mbappé relatively quiet. In France, with the backing of home support, he is likely to be more motivated to punish the German side. 

Should Dortmund remain as determined and disciplined as they were in the first leg one week ago – when they were marshalled astutely by the experienced Mats Hummels in defence – the Parisians will become increasingly frustrated. However, an early goal for Mbappé and company will turn the tide in their favour. 

“You have to earn your way to Wembley. All we need now is a draw in the second leg, but we also want to win. We have a small lead and a good opportunity. We have to do everything together. With a good plan, with a good idea. Paris will certainly be better than last week. We want to earn this ticket to the final. We will tackle that together,” Dortmund manager Edin Terzić stated. 

PSG and Dortmund tussle at 9pm on Tuesday, 7 May. Real and Bayern face off at the same time on Wednesday, 8 May. DM


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