The Italian half - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

The Italian half - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

The results of the draw for the final phase of the play-offs of the Champions League look very curious. One of the quarter-final pairs were clubs that are very similar to the main favorites of the draw - Manchester City and Bayern. And in the semi-finals, some of them may have to cross paths with last year's tournament winner Real Madrid. The other half is saturated to the limit with Italian teams: Milan will play with Napoli in the April quarter-finals, and Inter will play with the Portuguese Benfica.

For fans of all sorts of non-banal tournament layouts and stories, the results of the draw for the quarter-final and semi-final stages of the current Champions League draw turned out to be, presumably, a chic gift. It's better than nothing, no matter how hard you try.

First of all, after it it is already obvious that this Champions League will no longer have some kind of “standard”, routine, absolutely corresponding to the expectations of the vast majority of professional and amateur experts. The fact is that one of the two halves of the grid is a real meat grinder, into which all three clubs have landed, similar to the main favorites of the draw, based on typical, or something, ideas about what such a favorite should have: here, of course, quality applications, and title hunting experience. Manchester City, Bayern, Real Madrid - after all, this combination must have been constantly spinning in the minds of millions of fans who made their shortlists of contenders for the title of the strongest team on the continent.

But already in the quarterfinals, one of these giants will go down for sure, because the draw has pushed the Manchester and Munich clubs head-on.

And any predictions about this pair seem to be completely meaningless. And for those who still want to bet on Manchester City, remembering, for example, Erling Haaland's five goals in the opening round of the play-offs for Leipzig, which is not so far from Bayern in the German championship, you should definitely reconsider it fresh matches with PSG, who were also on the shortlist of candidates back in February, and see how the Munich defense devours Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe with giblets. It is unlikely that Holann's form and other Manchester chips can scare her.

"Real" in this sense was more fortunate. His quarter-final against Chelsea is an entry into a remake of last year's thriller. Then the Madrid and London clubs also crossed at this stage. Real Madrid seems to have secured a reinforced concrete backlog by winning the first match away with a score of 3:1, but managed to lose the entire reserve at home and lost 0:3 a quarter of an hour before the end of regular time. Madrid, whose trump card in the triumphal draw was primarily vitality, got out and won the confrontation thanks to a goal from Karim Benzema in overtime.

Now, however, the situation before the Madrid-London quarter-final is a bit different. Last year's was a junction of two approximately equal fighters, it was even tempting to give some superiority to the English fighter. In the spring of 2023, Chelsea, no matter how strong character it flashed, gnawing out a victory over Borussia Dortmund in the 1/8 finals, is a team that not only takes tenth place in its national championship, but is much more problematic than Real Madrid. » spring 2022.

The other half is the Italian football festival. The Champions League has long been a clear illustration of the decline in his level. The last time the Italian club reached its final was in 2017. Moreover, they were, strictly speaking, the only club in the country that could be imagined fighting for the trophy: the rest, against the background of Juventus, which then suffered a defeat from Real Madrid, looked too clumsy.

Today everything is different.

Juventus was blown away, but his opponents added. And Italian football, which lost its once strongest position at the end of the past decade, has already made something like a breakthrough, delegating as many as three representatives to the top eight.

But the draw gave a transparent hint that Italy would achieve something even more significant.

Participation in the semi-finals is already guaranteed for her thanks to a pair in which Napoli, unexpectedly luxurious this season, will be cut with not so spectacular, but still quite militant Milan. But there will be nothing strange if the semi-final comes out purely Italian. To prevent this from happening, Benfica needs to beat Inter. And he, in the 1/8 finals, albeit with difficulty, thanks to the only goal scored, has already unhooked the Portuguese club - Porto, which is hardly fundamentally weaker than the Lisbons. In any case, it will be insanely difficult to slip two Italian rivals Benfica, who are quoted higher in a row. So we need to prepare for the fact that after six years, Italy will finally return to the Champions League final.

Alexey Dospekhov

Draw for 1/4 and 1/2 finals of European competitions

Champions League. 1/4 finals

1. Real Madrid (Spain) - Chelsea (England)

2. Benfica (Portugal) - Inter (Italy)

3. Manchester City (England) - Bayern (Germany)

4. Milan (Italy) - Napoli (Italy)

The first legs will be held on April 11 and 12 on the fields of the teams listed first in the pairs, the return legs - on April 18 and 19.

1/2 finals

Pair 1 Winner - Pair 3 Winner

Pair 2 Winner - Pair 4 Winner

The first legs will be played on May 9 and 10 on the fields of the teams listed first in the pairs, the return legs on May 16 and 17.

Europa League. 1/4 finals

1. Manchester United (England) - Sevilla (Spain)

2. Juventus (Italy) - Sporting (Portugal)

3. Bayer (Germany) - Union (Belgium)

4. Feyenoord (Netherlands) - Roma (Italy)

The first legs will be held on April 13 on the fields of the teams listed first in the pairs, the return legs on April 20.

1/2 finals

Pair 1 Winner—Pair 2 Winner

Pair 3 Winner—Pair 4 Winner

The first legs will be held on May 11 on the fields of the teams listed first in the pairs, the return legs on May 18.

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