The UEFA Champions League semifinal is set to begin and no one could have predicted the four teams still in the running for the trophy. The two FSG owned teams Liverpool and Roma square off in one semifinal while European giants Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are in the other semi.
Every year, the team who wins the Champions League each year vaults to the top to be remembered in history as one of the best teams ever. The beauty of the Champions League is that it’s so difficult that the winner, regardless of where they finish in their domestic league, will have earned their medal.
Each of the four teams would react to winning the Champions League in different ways. Whether you have never won it or have won it many times, winning the Champions League is a special thing. This is what a Champions League trophy means to each team.
Bayern Munich is far and away the best team in Germany, but there’s no doubt they are undergoing a transition. The legendary Jupp Heynckes is managing in an interim basis but he doesn’t want to coach beyond this season, leaving Bayern looking for a new manager.
In addition to dealing with an aging team, Bayern Munich might look different in the years to come. They may be able to survive in the Bundesliga and still win trophies but it may be tougher in the Champions League. Bayern Munich is going to appreciate this trip because you never know when it might happen again.
It would seem as though Liverpool is one of two surprise teams in the semifinal but they really aren’t. If it wasn’t for Manchester City dominating the Premier League, Liverpool would arguably be the top story out of England. Even after selling Philippe Coutinho, the team got better after adding Player of the Year Mohamed Salah. The highest scoring team of the Champions League only had an issue with allowing cheap goals but that has improved with the addition of Virgil van Dijk over the winter.
Not only will a win mark an incredible 13 year stretch of being on top at Istanbul to being close to administration and being midtable to the top once again, it will also be sweet redemption for Jurgen Klopp. Klopp has developed a reputation of getting a team to the big stage but falling short. No one can say that ever again if Liverpool wins the Champions League.
Real Madrid may have won the Champions League 12 times (way more than anyone else) but they are chasing even more history. After becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles in the Champions League era (AC Milan in 1989-90, they are trying to win three in a row for the first time since Bayern Munich in 1974-76.
Just like Bayern, this is a team that is getting older. Cristiano Ronaldo can still get it done but time is ticking on this team. The cracks seemed to show in La Liga since Real is third, 15 points behind rival Barcelona and four points behind cross-town rival Atletico Madrid. For Real legend Zinedine Zidane, a Champions League win is needed for him to stay on as manager and even that might not save him.
Roma is the underdog no matter how you slice it. Widely regarded as the weakest of the four, in addition to being the lone team who has never won Champions League, this will be the team neutrals will be rooting for.
A team who doesn’t have unlimited amounts of money, Roma had to survive by making moves out of necessity rather than doing them because they wanted to. One such move was selling Mohamed Salah to Liverpool for what seemed like a bargain for Financial Fair Play reasons. While there is a chance that could come back to bite them, Roma isn’t letting that sale affect them and they are on the heels of history.
The Champions League is typically dominated by the teams who are able to spend the most money and get the best players. A Roma win will give fans hope that sometimes, it’s not about spending money that gets you the trophy at the end of the day. It would be dangerous to sleep on Roma.