With both Dortmund and Bayern bowing out to superior opponents at the quarter-final stage, German interest in the Champions League has come to a somewhat disappointing end. And try as we might, it’s just too difficult to muster up anything more than a passing interest in the semi-finals. But we’ll put that down to the disappointment of watching two teams never look like they were going to go any further in the competition.
The fact is that once the ref blows the whistle at the Bernabeu on May 2nd we know we’ll be sat right in front of the TV with the millions of other football fanatics around the world. But who do we want to win the semis and more importantly, the final?
Of course, both Real and Juventus are joint favorites but do we really want to see either lift the cup in Cardiff? The neutral spectator simply has to root for the underdog, and in both Monaco and Atletico, we have the perfect candidates.
Monaco are having a superb season, and despite the 5-0 thrashing in the cup at the hands of PSG (it’s easy to see where their priorities lie), they are in a good position with the league seemingly theirs to lose. They also have the exciting Kylian Mbappé tearing up defenses at will and much and all as we hated seeing him destroy Dortmund, it would be good to see him make it to the final.
With Monaco, it’s also a matter of national pride as they look to become only the second French side to lift the European Cup. The fact that Marseille’s triumph in 1993 was tainted by their match-fixing scandal is something that brings shame to French football in general. A win for Monaco would certainly go a long way to eradicating the shame felt across the nation.
Then we have Atletico, the three-time runners-up who are hoping to make their third final in four seasons under Simeone who incidentally may be about to leave the club to take over at Inter Milan.
Atletico may have felt they did enough last year to avenge the 4-1 defeat Real inflicted on them two years previously, but we all know how last season’s final turned out. Losing on penalties has to be the worst feeling ever.
This year they face their illustrious neighbors in the semis, and it may be the perfect opportunity to serve that cold dish called revenge. It will be particularly sweet for Simeone who has turned the club from Madrid’s poor team into one that regularly challenges for silverware. And although he has made it clear that he sees himself as the Inter manager at some point in the future, he would attain a god-like status should he bring the European Cup back to the Vicente Calderón Stadium.
So back to that question we asked earlier. Do we really care who wins the Champion League?
Of course we do.
What we can’t decide, however, is which one of the underdogs it’s to be.