Will it be all-English or all-Spanish Champions League final?

Will it be all-English or all-Spanish Champions League final?

On Tuesday, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) semi-finals will kick off. Defending Premier League champions and onetime UEFA Champions League finalist Manchester City host 13-time champions Real Madrid.

On Wednesday five-time UCL champions Liverpool welcome giant-killers, Villarreal, to Anfield.

The underlying narrative is whether the UCL final will be an all-English or an all-Spanish final.

Many pundits (biased toward the English game) are looking forward to another clash between Pep Guardiola’s City team against Klopp’s unrelenting Liverpool team.

Arsenal’s new Head Coach, Unai Emery. [Photo credit: Arsenal FC official webpage]

But both Carlo Ancelotti and Unai Emery have some English connections. Ancelotti managed Chelsea to the 2009/10 Premier League title while Emery took Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019.

In the last six seasons, one country has produced the two finalists thrice-in 2016 between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

In 2019, it was Liverpool against Tottenham, and in 2021, when Chelsea edged Manchester City.

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The odds favour the English sides to get over these Spanish opponents, but Ancelotti’s Real Madrid has ridden roughshod over these odds this season.

Madrid beat PSG after being down for 135 of the 180 minutes of the contest. Against Chelsea, they saved their campaign with 10 minutes left on the clock.

In Karim Benzema, they boast a primed striker, whose efficiency has produced 39 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions and seven goals in his last three UCL appearances.

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Ancelotti also bids to become the first manager to win the Champions League four times, and he explained that there is pressure on the game against City, but it was on both teams.

“The pressure is similar for both teams. For us it’s not a success to reach the semi-finals, it’s to reach the final, but for that, we have to beat Manchester City.”

For Guardiola, City have to “do two exceptional games to reach the final. We can do it.”

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Villarreal are making a second UCL semi-final appearance in their history. This is 16 years after the first, where incidentally, Arsenal, Emery’s former side got the better of the Yellow Submarine.

This season Emery’s side has submerged Juventus and Bayern Munich in successive rounds to grab their chance for a first-ever final appearance. In 10 UCL matches, they have won five, drawn three, and lost two. The two losses were to Manchester United in the group stage.

Combative Villarreal midfielder Etienne Capoue acknowledged the strength of the Premier League but added, “the Champions League is something else. It’s on another level. The Champions League has an emotional component that sets it apart.”

His manager, Emery, believes beating Liverpool will be “to achieve something important”.

While the UCL title is the only trophy in view for Villarreal, Liverpool can sweep the board with a quadruple. Having already won the League Cup, Klopp knows the season can end that way as he preached caution in the last decisive weeks of the 2021/22 season.

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“It’s funny. Most of the time, we talk about winning everything. And now we talk about winning nothing. So let’s just try to get something out of the season and then we will see.”

Will it be Manchester City versus Liverpool or will it be Real Madrid against Villarreal at the Parc des Princes on May 28?

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