Madrid ri­vals brace for col­li­sion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

NYON, Switzer­land — Holder Real Madrid will face Atletico Madrid in the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals while French up­start Monaco will take on Ju­ven­tus, fol­low­ing the draw on Fri­day.

The all-Madrid show­down is a re­run of the 2014 and 2016 fi­nals in Europe’s top club com­pe­ti­tion, with a Cris­tiano Ron­aldo-in­spired Real vic­to­ri­ous on both oc­ca­sions in tight, cagey af­fairs.

Real will host Atletico at San­ti­ago Bern­abeu on May 2 and Monaco is home to Ital­ian cham­pion Ju­ven­tus on May 3, with the sec­ond legs the fol­low­ing week.

Go­ing into the draw at UEFA head­quar­ters in Nyon, Switzer­land, all four teams pub­licly es­poused the be­lief there is noth­ing to choose be­tween them.

But 39-year-old Ju­ven­tus goal­keeper Gianluigi Buf­fon broke ranks, say­ing he would pre­fer to avoid a wily Atletico side be­cause it is out of the La Liga ti­tle race and there­fore can rest play­ers for Europe.

“The only dis­tinc­tion from the three teams is that Atletico Madrid has a more marked and de­fined po­si­tion in the (league) stand­ings,” said Buf­fon, who is yet to win the Cham­pi­ons League, call­ing Diego Sime­one’s squad “the trick­i­est” of the sides left.

“The other two (Real and Monaco) are fight­ing for the cham­pi­onship (as is Ju­ven­tus), so that could def­i­nitely be a fac­tor.”

Real Madrid, for whom Ron­aldo sniped a hat-trick in elim­i­nat­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich in the quar­ter­fi­nals, is fa­vored by Bri­tish book­mak­ers.

But Ju­ven­tus was hugely im­pres­sive in beat­ing Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg and then hold­ing the Span­ish champi- on to a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou on Wed­nes­day in a de­fen­sive mas­ter­piece.

Barcelona de­fender Ger­ard Pique pre­dicts Ju­ven­tus will beat Monaco and go on to lift the tro­phy it last won in 1996.

“Over the two legs they were bet­ter than us so they de­serve to go through to the semi­fi­nals. I think they can go all the way and win the Cham­pi­ons League this sea­son,” the Span­ish in­ter­na­tional said af­ter Buf­fon blanked Lionel Messi and Barcelona over 180 min­utes of soccer.

French league leader Monaco is the out­sider but has al­ready claimed victims in Borus­sia Dort­mund in the quar­ter­fi­nals and Manch­ester City and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur be­fore that.

The fi­nal is in Cardiff, Wales, on June 3.


Mar­cus Rash­ford scores Manch­ester United’s win­ning goal against An­der­lecht in their UEFA Europa League quar­ter­fi­nal sec­ond-leg match at Old Traf­ford, Manch­ester, on Thurs­day. Jose Mour­inho’s side re­mains on course to claim the only ma­jor tro­phy miss­ing from the club’s col­lec­tion.

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