2017-18 Champions League Semifinal: Picks and Predictions

  • Four teams remain in the 2017-18 Champions League — Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Roma
  • The semifinal draw pits Real Madrid against Bayern, and Liverpool against Roma
  • The chaotic quarter-final matches through the odds into a tailspin; it’s time for an update!

Wow. That was unexpected!

The Champions League quarter-finals turned out to be one of the most thrilling rounds of European football ever. Liverpool defeated the Premier League leaders — twice; Roma lost 4-1 to Barca in the first leg and rallied to win 3-0 in the second, pulling off an unbelievable upset; and Juventus almost followed in the footsteps of their Italian counterparts, losing 3-0 in the first leg and almost closing the deficit in the second, only to have their hopes dashed by a last-minute penalty.

After all the thrills and spills, we’re left with our final four. Here’s the draw:

  • Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich
  • Liverpool vs Roma

Last time I was pressed to make a pick, I gave Real Madrid and Liverpool the nod. Both clubs remain in contention for the Champions League trophy, but the odds have shifted considerably. It’s time for an update!

Real Madrid: +185

The most successful club in history enters the semi-final as the favorite. No surprises there.

Real Madrid have won three of the last four editions of the Champions League under Zinedine Zidane, and they’re on track to lift the trophy for a dizzying 13th time.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Los Blancos, though. If their quarter-final games had gone just a little differently, they would have been eliminated in spectacular fashion.

They dismantled Juventus 3-0 in the first leg, and only the most zealous Juve fans believed a comeback was on the cards. But the Old Lady very nearly pulled it off. They closed the deficit over the course of 90-minutes, only to concede a controversial (but justified) penalty in the dying moments of added time. True to his reputation, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to the mark and drilled one into the back of the net.

The 3-1 loss was enough to send Real Madrid to the semifinals, but their performance didn’t exactly inspire confidence. In fact, their entire season so far has been sub-par. They’re currently fourth in La Liga, they qualified second in their Champions League group, and they’ve struggled in the knockout stages.

Winning the Champions League is the only way for Zidane to save an otherwise disastrous season. Quite a few favorites have already been eliminated, which works in Real Madrid’s favor, but their squad is also lacking in ways we’ve rarely seen before.

Bayern Munich: +225

Bayern Munich have largely slipped under the radar this Champions League. Maybe it’s because we’ve come to expect the eternal German champions to reach the later stages of every tournament, and so everything is just running according to plan.

They’ve already clinched another Bundesliga title and their Champions League path hasn’t provided any significant challenges — until now.

Real Madrid are certainly not at their best at the moment, but they’re still favored over Bayern in the upcoming semi-final.

Unlike other top teams, their lineup doesn’t change much from year-to-year. That could be a problem when their stars begin to retire, but for now they have a reliable squad with many years of experience playing together.

We haven’t seen Bayern truly tested this season. They hold a 23-point lead over a weak German league and their Champions League opponents so far — Besiktas and Sevilla — didn’t pose much of a threat.

It’s always a worry when a team goes too long without being challenged. Real Madrid is a club accustomed to the heat, and they’re known for rising to the occasion. Can the same be said for Bayern Munich? I’m not so sure.

Will Mo Salah lead Liverpool to Champions League glory?
Will Mo Salah lead Liverpool to Champions League glory? (Photo: Дмитрий Садовников (Wikimedia) [CC License].)

Liverpool: +225

Ah, the mighty Reds!

It’s been a while since Liverpool have tasted Champions League glory, and they’re now finally within reach of the trophy. Drawing Roma for the semi-final was the best possible scenario for them, granting them a pretty easy path to the final.

With a front three consisting of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, they boast one of the quickest, most dangerous attacks in Europe. And now with Virgil van Dijk holding the back line steady, their defensive woes are largely a thing of the past.

Consistency hasn’t been their strong suit this season, but to hell with that! They don’t need to be consistent to win this thing. Just get past Roma over two legs, then take on either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in Kiev.

Liverpool are definitely capable of that. At their best, they can handle just about anything. Jurgen Klopp’s brand of “Heavy Metal Football” is not just one of the most entertaining styles of football, it’s also one of the most effective.

If they reach the finals, they’ll open as the underdog. But as they’ve reminded us time and time again, never underestimate them!

Roma: +800

And now for the long-odds contender!

Roma did the impossible against Barcelona, beating them 3-0 in the second leg of the quarterfinals to reach to semifinals for the first time in the club’s history. But apart from that spectacular win, their season has been pretty unremarkable. They’re fourth in Serie A, and only just scraped past Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League Round of 16.

They lost two crucial players last season. Roma legend Francesco Totti gracefully entered retirement and Mo Salah left for Liverpool.

This is hardly the best Roma side we’ve ever seen, and they’ve already exceeded expectations by reaching the semifinals.

Pick: Liverpool (+225)

I’m sticking with Liverpool. They have a pretty easy road to the final, and once (or if) they get there, it’s more-or-less a toss up. There’s nothing particularly special about Bayern or Real Madrid this season, and there is something special about this current Liverpool side.

At +225, the bookmakers are only giving Liverpool a 30% chance of winning the Champions League. That seems like pretty good value!