Begrudgingly, I was denied an El Clasico Champions League Final. Chelsea scores before halftime again and shuts the door with an injury time Torres hop-and-pop goal over Barcelona. Real Madrid surprisingly chokes in penalties and Bayern Munich gets to play the final at home. Who knew Munich and Chelsea would both make it to the final? I was expecting at least one Spanish club to make it through, but the drama filled week in the UCL ended as one of the greatest semi-final rounds of all time.
Before the Superbowl of Soccer is played, let’s analyze what just happened and what we can expect on May 19th.
Los Cinco Puntos – FC Barcelona Vs. Chelsea
1. The Injury to David Villa was more detrimental to Barca than we thought. Villa is a finisher. The depth Barcelona created coming into the season included him as a starter. Alexis Sanchez wasn’t bad, but remember Villa’s winning goal against Manchester United in last year’s UCL Final? That sort of pinpoint accuracy would’ve helped a lot against the Londoners.
2. Roberto Di Matteo deserves to become full time manager. Analogous to Mike Woodson turning around the New York Knicks after Mike D’Antoni, Chelsea’s interim manager set the ship in the right direction after the sacking of Andre Villas Boas. Drop the “caretaker” label and give this man a contract.
3. If Chelsea wins the Final and remains out of the top four in the English Premier League, fourth place doesn’t get to play in the UCL next season.Tottenham and Newcastle, be afraid. Very, very afraid.
4. Chelsea was the better team. They played with both starting center defenders out AND only ten men and Barcelona didn’t score after the 35th minute. But with John Terry, Ramires and Raul Miereles out of the Final, can they be the better squad?
5. Fernando Torres is Alex Rodriguez in 2009 right now. Just like A-Rod, this is the kid’s time to shine in the big game. Yes, he scored the winning goal in the semi-final, but if he doesn’t show up in Munich the title of “95 million pound bust” will remain.
Los Cinco Puntos – Real Madrid Vs. Bayern Munich
1. Manuel Neuer is a top goalkeeper. Going toe-to-toe with Madrid’s Iker Casillas puts him in good company. Neuer held goal with Shalke 04 to the semi-finals last year and now with Bayern Munich he’s worked wonders for the team and his career. Stopping Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in a shootout doesn’t hurt either.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo falls short again. Two goals by anyone is a tremendous contribution, but just like Lionel Messi clanking his penalty kick, every miss is judged by a higher standard. He’ll just have to settle for a La Liga title instead.
3. Bayern Munich has their own big three: Frank Ribery, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez. They are simply the best cohesive attacking trio in the game. Of course the rest of the team is top-class, but their front three can battle with the best.
4. Sergio Ramos will again be the goat. Fans of sports bloopers will know him for dropping the Copa Del Rey trophy, but for the next year his horrendously off-target penalty kick will be the calling card of the guy who looks like Legolas from Lord of the Rings.
5. Jose Mourinho’s legacy isn’t tarnished. “The Special One” fell one game shy of a Champions league final with Real Madrid, but whatever team he lands with next year will welcome him with open arms. The world-class manager of two UCL winning sides will see European silverware once again.