The Champions League 2016-17 is nearing its end, which means the competition is intense with only four teams remaining. Spain (Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid) has two representatives while Italy (Juventus) and France (Monaco) have one each, and England have none.
All eyes will be on these four teams on Friday, with the Champions League semifinals draw set to take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Monaco are the dark horse of the competition, while all the teams in the pot would like to avoid Juventus in the last four.
Though Real Madrid looked brilliant against Bayern Munich, dumping the German club out of the competition, Juventus will be the team to beat in the contest, especially after their amazing performance against Barcelona across two legs.
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Juventus could be one of the major favourites for the 2016-17 Champions League trophy. The Italian giants are hungry for the Champions League title as they have not won the competition since 1996. So 21 years have passed by, meaning one of the stalwarts of Italian football, Gianluigi Buffon, is yet to win this trophy.
However, one has to applaud their players for their combined effort on the pitch. All of them know their roles to the T, and usually execute it to perfection.
Juventus have a solid team, which comprises some world-class players in all departments. They have Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic in the offensive front, and they are all prolific goal-scorers. The Higuain-Dybala partnership is a treat to watch, as these Argentineans have a great sense of understanding, which was witnessed in the first leg of the Barcelona-Juventus clash.
However, it is not their offense alone, which is brilliant. Their defensive line-up comprises Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who form a dangerous pair at the heart of Juve's defence.
Even the Champions League 2016-17 stats prove that Juve are a strong defensive unit to break down. A team with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar could not score any goal against Juve, which more or less defines the WALL of Juventus. They have just conceded two goals in the competition, and no team has scored a goal in the knockout stages. Now, if there is any team that can breach the wall, it is Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo.
If one had to choose a second favourite for the title, it will be Real Madrid. Any team, which comprises Ronaldo and his ability to lead from the front, can never be ignored. Along with Ronaldo, they have Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who form a deadly partnership in the offensive front for Real.
On a given day, Real can outshine any team in the world, including Juventus. If things go according to plan, football fans might get to see Real and Juventus in the final, which could be a cracking final at the grand stage of the European club football competition.
Atletico, who were brilliant last season, have not been able to perform consistently, and it would come as no surprise if their ride comes to an end in the last four of Champions League. Atletico would love to face Monaco, considered the weakest team among the four, but one never knows what the French team have up their sleeve, especially after their brilliant run this competition.
Monaco are the dark horses. Since they have nothing to lose now, they might just express themselves on the pitch more with the hope of defying all the odds, reach the final, and maybe lift the title.
Football is a beautiful game, which can sometimes be unpredictable, but my money is on Juventus.