Path to Champions League final: How Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid got there

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As we gear up for the UEFA Champions League final this Saturday in Lisbon, let’s take a look back at how both Real and Atletico Madrid reached the final of Europe’s elite club competition.

Two teams from the same city have never squared off in the final before, as both Real and Atletico are the last two teams standing. Real Madrid are aiming to win a record tenth title, Atletico are searching for their first. The latter will be buoyed by their first La Liga title since ’96 arriving this season and head into the final full of confidence after an incredible run.

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Both have impressed throughout their UCL journey and have faced tricky tasks along the way, especially in the knockout stages. Between them, Atleti and Real have knocked off Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea among others and the teams from the Spanish capital truly deserve to battle it out for the famous trophy.

Here is a look back at how both teams fared en-route to the final, as we trace their path.

Real Madrid

Group Stages: Winners of Group B

Real won five of their six group games and drew the other as they hammered in 20 goals. The highest scorers in the tournament went wild.

Last 16: Beat Schalke 9-2 on aggregate

Real embarrassed Schalke with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale putting on a clinic. Total domination.

Quarterfinal: Beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate

After a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg, you thought the tie was dead and buried. Think again. Dortmund found some holes in Real’s defense and quickly went 2-0 up, however Madrid held on to book a fourth-straight semifinal berth.

Semifinal: Beat Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate

Another German team, another win for Real. This time the blitzed reigning champs Bayern and made Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka style look silly. Pure pace on the counter tore the Bavarian’s apart as the Spaniards set up a chance to win their tenth UCL title.

Atletico Madrid

Group Stages: Winner of Group G

Atleti also won five and drew one of their group games as they eased into the knockout stages after conceding the fewest goals of any team.

Last 16: Beat AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate

Atletico went to the San Siro and scored late on through Diego Costa to take a 1-0 lead with them back to the Vicente Calderon. There they hammered AC and breezed through to the last eight.

Quarterfinal: Beat Barcelona 2-1 on aggregate

A nervous two games against Barca saw Atletico cause a huge shock with a tense 1-0 win at home in the second leg sealing their semifinal spot.

Semifinal: Beat Chelsea 3-1 on aggregate

A 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea, then falling 1-0 behind at Stamford Bridge in the first half of the second leg meant Atletico were up against it in London. Then they sparked into life and scored three unanswered goals to reach their final UCL final in over 40 years.

UEFA Champions League semifinal predictions

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With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.

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Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?

Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.


Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico

This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu

A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. 

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.