After weeks upon weeks of high-flying offensive soccer, will the Champions League slow down a little bit now that we've reached the semifinals? These matches tend to end up being a bit gritty in nature, particularly in the first leg, and that might be what we end up seeing, particularly over in Spain where we have two teams that are awfully familiar with each other squaring off for 180 minutes.
Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid – Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET ( FOX Sports 1 )
Every step of the way in the Champions League knockout rounds, there's been that one matchup that you just can't help but salivate over. First it was Barcelona and PSG. Then it was Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Now, it's the Madrid Derby for sure. Granted, these two teams haven't exactly played works of art in their four meetings already this season, but this has all been leading up to this moment for both clubs.
For Atletico Madrid, this is a chance to stick it to Big Brother. The Atleti went out in the offseason last year and picked up a few more forward-thinkers to ultimately remove the stigma that they had this negative thinking team that just tried to slog out 1-0 victories time and time again. It didn't work in La Liga. Atletico Madrid remains a distant third to both Barca and Real. But here in the Champions League? Brilliant.
Real Madrid has suddenly ceded a little bit of ground in La Liga and suddenly looks a little vulnerable. One more slip, and this is going to be Barcelona's title. Losing El Clasico at home has to at least put a shadow of doubt in the minds of the supporters, though. The Bernabeu is no longer a fortress, and Atletico Madrid could reasonably be the next to crack through it.
AS Monaco vs. Juventus – Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET ( FOX Sports 1 )
Juventus has been brilliant in the Champions League this year, and no performance may have been greater than its 180 minutes against Barcelona. The Catalan side is one of the best in the world for sure, and after the ridiculous comeback against PSG, you just had to think that this was going to be the start of something really special.
Instead, Juve stomped on those dreams, rushing out to a 3-0 victory in Turin before turning around and just crushing Barcelona's dreams of a second huge comeback with a terrific display of defending at Camp Nou in a scoreless draw.
This though, could be much different. Monaco is playing like a team that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. France doesn't put teams in the Champions League final often; none have done so since this Monaco side did so in 2004. But this is an opportunity for something special.
Kylian Mbappe is the type of player who can win a fixture like this. He's young, dumb and full of life and effort on the offensive end of the pitch, and he's not going to know that he's not supposed to be ready for this moment. His youth paired with Radamel Falcao's experience and calming influence have proven to be crucial for the French side in this tournament, and for as long as there's that threat of a ridiculous run of goals, who says Monaco can't figure out how to win this one at the Stade Louis II?
One thing is for sure, and that's that it's going to take a lot more than the one goal that Juventus got to knock Monaco out of the Champions League two years ago.
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