Manchester City achieved what was deemed nearly impossible by toppling Zlatan and PSG to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in club history.
Unfortunately, getting this far means the competition only gets tougher and if Manuel Pellegrini, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne had trouble against the Ligue 1 champs they might find themselves overwhelmed by some of the teams still on the schedule.
Nothing is impossible of course and we know from this year of football alone that anything can happen, but it felt necessary to break down how hard a task the Citizens have against the remaining five teams on alive in the Champions League, and likely to face them in the semi-finals.
The weakest team in the group, but not ‘weak’ by any stretch of the imagination, Benfica overcame a tough Zenit team to make it to the quarter-finals and kept the high-octane Bayern Munich attack in check for much of their match in Germany during the first leg. Assuming they have better luck at home and can knock off Pep Guardiola’s team, Man City may find Benfica the only team they’d be favoured against in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately for the Citizens, Benfica are down 1-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich as of writing and need to beat the Bundesliga giants outright by more than one to advance. The odds are low, but maybe not insurmountable.
4. Real Madrid
Despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s masterful performance against Wolfsburg on Tuesday, their shutout loss in Germany the week before showed that the team is very vulnerable when Ronaldo isn’t having one of his usual dominant days. That said, Real Madrid have played so much better in the Champions League than they have in La Liga that it’s incredible to think they may only finish third in Spain.
Luckily for Man City, Real Madrid are vulnerable on the road and have been so during their only weak moments of the tournament, so if City can keep things close in Spain, they might have a better chance of beating Ronaldo at the Etihad than any of the other teams on the ranking.
3. Bayern Munich
It would be quite possibly the most awkward story in the history of the Champions League if Manuel Pellegrini found a way to beat Pep Guardiola, the manager who had already been signed to replace him, and knock his Bayern Munich team out of the tournament. That would prove no small feat as Bayern have scored 26 goals in 9 Champions League matches and allowed just 7.
Yet despite their scoring prowess, they have shown a susceptibility to giving up the first goal – a trait that could prove costly against Man City. Although Bayern Munich are only No. 3, they are still just as intimidating as the remaining teams on the list.
2. Atletico Madrid
In the group stage Diego Simeone’s side allowed just 3 goals. In the Round of 16 they shut out PSV Eindhoven over two legs. And at Camp Nou they pushed Barcelona to the limit, allowing just two goals – the fewest of any other Champions League team on the road – and came away with an away goal, giving them a golden opportunity to knock off the reigning Champions League title holders.
In fact, the only reason they aren’t ranked No. 1 is because they are very likely to lose in the quarter-finals to the top on the list:
Messi, Neymar and Suarez are taking no prisoners and giving no teams a chance to breathe this year. They control their own La Liga destiny, have crushed Arsenal under their boots in the Round of 16, have allowed just six goals in the entire Champions League and could very well make an example out of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
Man City will want to avoid Barcelona like the plague and hope beyond all hope that they either falter against Atletico or don’t get drawn against them in the semi-finals.
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