⛅️ UCL Forecast: Pep to break City curse? Blues to beat Los Blancos?

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Phil Costa

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Hold onto your hats, people. Champions League semi-finals are back – but this time it’s the second leg edition.

It’s all to play for in both London and Manchester and good luck to anybody trying to predict these fixtures.

So obviously we’ve done just that …

It’s now or never 😳

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There are always second chances in football, but for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain this feels very much now or never territory.

Pep Guardiola hasn’t won the Champions League since 2011, lost three semi-finals with Bayern Munich and won’t have a better chance with City – having previously fallen short.

But PSG aren’t exactly looking to the future. Neymar and Kylian Mbappé are yet to sign new deals, their domestic immortality has temporarily eroded and after losing in the final last season – can they afford to miss out again?

City couldn’t get close to the Parisians for 45 minutes but there is an added steel to this side – to match the quality – that wasn’t there previously (thank you Ruben Dias).

And Mauricio Pochettino will be fuming with the sloppy goals his players conceded. But you can’t rule them out with that much individual quality. Against our better judgement, we’re backing them.

🔮 Our prediction: Man City 1-3 PSG (AET)

Manchester City 2
Paris Saint-Germain 0
Full time

Finely poised ⚖️

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Real Madrid are no strangers to Champions League semi finals, but they are certainly strangers to Chelsea.

The first leg was their first meeting in European since 1998 and Chelsea – poor finishing aside – should have won on Spanish soil after another impressive performance.

But Los Blancos have been here before and worn the t-shirt. Karim Benzema scored again and you can never rule them out on this stage, with experience and know-how aplenty.

We just said you can never rule Real Madrid out, which is why we’re contradicting ourselves one sentence later. Injuries and their over-reliance on Karim will bite them eventually.

Chelsea just look good. Under Thomas Tuchel, they have conceded just 10 goals (keeping 17 clean sheets) and that sturdiness will see them through to Istanbul.

🔮 Our prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Real Madrid

Chelsea 2
Real Madrid 0
Full time

Players to watch 👀

Ángel di María

Neymar speaks for himself, Marquinhos loves bullet headers and Mbappé – if fit – can make match defining impacts.

But Ángel di María has still got it. The 33-year-old was brilliant in the first leg despite PSG losing at home, with trickery, vision and end product all on display.

You need big moments in these games and who do you trust to deliver an inch-perfect free kick, or find the top corner? Ángel is your man.

N’Golo Kanté

Yes, Real Madrid have Benzema up front and (usually) Sergio Ramos in defence. But what makes them so brilliant is their midfield.

Casemiro, Kroos and Modrić are experienced and beautifully balanced, but N’Golo Kanté had their number last week and we’re expecting another big performance.

The Frenchman has his mojo back under Thomas Tuchel and could be crucial in breaking up play and launching transitions.