The Super Bowl of Soccer: Predictions to Win and Recap of the Action
As the soccer world approaches the UEFA Champions League Final on June 1st, the last two teams to withstand the gauntlet will compete for the coveted UEFA Champions League (UCL) Cup. This competition is truly unlike any other, as 32 teams compete in a group stage beginning in September 2018 and ending June 1 after a grueling single elimination bracket. This excruciating process just builds on to the excitement of the final, winner take all game. Will a favorite like Manchester City, Barcelona, or Juventus win, or could an unlikely candidate surprise the world and make a run?
To understand predictions, you first need to understand how the competition works. After group stage play, 16 teams are thrown into a pool and drawn to matchup against each other. This process is unique because there is no finalized bracket. After each round, the teams are redrawn based off seeding to determine their opponents. Each matchup has two legs (games), one home game for each team, and this process continues all the way to the final game where they only play one leg on a neutral field. If two teams are tied on aggregate after two legs, the team with the most away goals go through, and if that is tied, they then play a standard overtime.
A life-long Tottenham Hotspurs supporter and follower of the Champions League, Steve Joebgen, said, “If it’s not the Spurs, I would want Barcelona to win [the champions league final]. They are perennial powerhouses, and I would love to see Lionel Messi win it. He is just a wizard with the ball.” The Spurs have a great chance to win as they rolled through Borussia Dortmund 4-0, securing a spot in the final 8, but Barcelona or Manchester City would be Joebgen’s next choice.
Trevor Sheets, an avid Liverpool supporter, wants The Reds to win, but if they get knocked out, he said, “I believe Barcelona will win it because I simply think it is Messi’s competition to lose this year with Real Madrid getting knocked out.” These are opinions of two average fans, but Manchester City have the best Vegas odds to win, as they are the front runner in this competition. Also, a dominating City performance against Schalke in the knockout stages just adds to the favorite's chances. The score after 2 legs was 10-2, so they will move on to the quarter finals.
The knockout stage this year has arguably been the most exciting one to date. There were major upsets, crazy come backs, and headline stories packed into each game.
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs. Manchester United
With arguably two of top five players in the world on PSG’s team, they would always have a good chance to go all the way. They are dominating the French League this year, being 17 points clear of the second-place team, and it seemed they would go through after a 2-0 win in leg 1. However, the hottest team in the English Premier League, Manchester United, came out firing in leg 2. The game was exciting from start to finish as Manchester United scored twice and PSG once a half hour into the game. Man. United needed one more goal to go through, and in the last minute of the game, Marcus Rashford sank a game winning penalty kick to send his team through to the quarter finals.
Real Madrid vs. Ajax
Real Madrid have established a dynasty in the UCL winning the past 3 years and 4 of the last 5. Because of this, no one expected a young Ajax team to beat them, especially after Real Madrid won the 1st leg 2-1 away @ Ajax’s stadium. However, the young lads went into Madrid’s stadium and waxed them 4-1 on the day sending them to quarter finals.
Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid
Juventus, with their new addition of Cristiano Ronaldo, were a favorite to win it this year, but after a 2-0 loss in the 1st leg, they would have an uphill climb to advance. However, the main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, stepped up once again and scored a hat trick in the second leg to come back and win 3-2 on aggregate. His final goal in last 4 minutes of the game not only knocked Atletico Madrid out, but he also snapped the all-time UEFA club competitions goal record with 125.
Bayern vs. Liverpool
This is the match up of the knockouts with two proven powerhouses in the tournament. Liverpool made it all the way to finals last year and Bayern Munich have made the semi-finals the past 6 years, so after a 0-0 tie in leg 1, it could have gone either way in leg 2. Liverpool went into Bayern’s stadium and beat them 3-1 keeping their champions league dreams alive.
The quarter final and semifinal draw is March 15th, 2019, and the first leg of the quarter finals start April 8th.