The race for the biggest prize in club football has come down to the last four, and the winner of this season’s Champions League will be one of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus or Monaco.
Real Madrid are the defending champions and will be aiming to become the first side to ever retain the Champions League in its current format. If any team can do it, it is Los Blancos, a side that have developed the winning mentality and resilience of champions under Zinedine Zidane, albeit with some luck in getting past Bayern Munich.
However, last year’s runners-up and city neighbours Atletico are looking to put two painful final defeats behind them and reach the holy grail. The Champions League is now number one priority for Diego Simeone’s men who will be a very hard nut to crack. They are possibly the most well rounded team left in the competition.
Italian champions Juventus will be confident they can taste European glory for the first time in 21 years after comfortably getting past previous kingpins Barcelona. The Old Lady are built on a formidable defence including legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonnucci, who kept Barca’s much famed attack scoreless over two legs. They also possess forwards who can win them games and the best tactician around in Massimiliano Allegri.
French league leaders Monaco are the underdogs but they boast the most formidable attacking unit in Europe this season, having registered over 90 goals in Ligue 1. They are a young, fearless team that play an extremely attacking and off the cuff style of football. In truth, they have been a breath of fresh air and can not be ruled out despite their illustrious and more experienced opponents. It is very open between which of the four teams can win it.
However, let’s now take a look at which attacking star for each team could decide it.
In Real Madrid’s case it is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, whose goals against Bayern Munich made it an incredible 100 goals in the Champions League. The Portuguese will already go down as one of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch and he is still far from finished.
Atletico’s main man is Antoine Griezmann. He dazzled once again against Leicester City and aside from his goals, he has a ferocious work rate, perhaps unmatched by any of the other top forwards in world football. It is no wonder that Manchester United are said to be so keen on the French hitman.
Juventus’ Paulo Dybala has been a promising player for a few seasons but the Argentine has really come to prominence this season. His performance in the first leg against Barcelona showed he can do it on the big stage. Dybala is a very creative player who can assist and score goals. Juve finally have their star who can make all the difference.
Monaco’s man is sensation Kylian Mbappe. The 18-year-old has made an unbelievable breakthrough this season. Mbappe cannot stop scoring goals and has already made the French squad. He has naturally drawn the attention of many of Europe’s big guns and has been linked with a €100 million move to Manchester City. It is astonishing progress at his age in his first season at the top level.
Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena