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UEFA Champions League Final Four Might Be the Most Enticing in Years

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The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, one of the most significant and widely followed annual sporting events, is winding down, and now there are only four teams left. The semifinals feature exciting matches between Real Madrid and Manchester City, and Inter Milan and A.C. Milan. These multidimensional semifinals consist of current might and famed history of this competition, meaning these four teams will be fighting for the most prestigious annual trophy in soccer.

These semifinals are among the highest pedigree we have seen in recent memory, with Real Madrid having won the competition 13 times, the most of any club. A.C. Milan has won the competition seven times, the second highest of any club. Inter Milan has lifted the Champions League trophy three times, while Manchester City looks to win the competition for the first time in club history.

Current holders of the cup, Real Madrid, breezed past Chelsea in the quarterfinals with an aggregate score of 4-0 between the two matches. There are star players in every facet of the game, including current winner of the Ballon d’Or, a prestigious award given to the year’s best player in the world, forward Karim Benzema. The ageless midfield sensation Luka Modrić and electrifying forward Vínicius Júnior back up Benzema with perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world, Thibaut Courtois, holding down the back line. They are led by the cool and collected manager Carlo Ancelotti, who has won the competition four times.

They face the current favorite to win the competition, per Vegas Insider Betting odds, Manchester City. It seems like the same story every year — Manchester City is booked as the favorite but ends up just short of the trophy. Led by legendary manager Pep Guardiola, Manchester City has the most expensive squad in all of world fútbol. The difference this year, however, is their star striker Erling Haaland, who has scored a remarkable 48 goals in 42 matches, with 12 of those goals coming in just eight Champions League matches. With such lethal finishing all while being supplied by one of the best playmakers in the world, midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, the goals will come. City flew by Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals with an aggregate score of 4-1 and will face the team that knocked them out of last year’s Champions League during the semifinals, Real Madrid.

In one of the most sensational stories in world soccer, the other semifinal match will be between A.C. Milan vs Inter Milan, the Derby della Madonnina. The two clubs from Milan have a rich history, with Inter having a slight edge head-to-head with a total record of 87-79-69. Italian soccer hasn’t dominated the world since the 1990s, due to the likes of the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga taking dominance. The last Serie A team to make a semifinals was AS Roma in 2017, and the last Italian team to win the competition was Inter Milan back in 2010. But the Italian renaissance might be back and on the horizon.

A.C. Milan upset high-flying S.S.C. Napoli in the quarterfinals on an aggregate score of 2-1. Forward  Rafael Leão is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the world — with blazing speed and dazzling dribbling ability, he could go on a cross-field run through the whole of the defense at any second, as he did against Napoli, assisting striker Olivier Giroud for a tap-in goal. Milan also boasts wonderful youngsters like midfielders Sandro Tonali and Brahim Díaz; along with the talented defender Pierre Kalulu, they have a great mix of younger and older players. Topping it off with one of the most in-form goalies in the world, Mike Maignan, Milan has a stout defense.

Inter Milan has brilliant players all across the pitch as well. They dispatched S.L. Benfica with an aggregate score of 5-3 and. headlined with two goals by superstar midfielder Nicolò Barella, who is a real spark plug do-it midfielder. Up top are streaky but talented forwards Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku. When in form and clicking, these two can be lethal in attack. Defender Alessandro Bastoni is a talented player with fantastic playmaking ability, who can whip in brilliant crosses as he did against Benfica to assist Barella’s header for a spectacular goal. Goalkeeper André Onana has recorded the most clean sheets and saves in the competition. Along with great shot-stopping abilities, he might be the best goalie in the world when it comes to playing the ball with his feet, a trait that is becoming more and more desirable in the world of football.

Two current European juggernauts will face off while sleeping giants try to awaken to the glory of their past selves. These Champions League semifinals are going to be tantalizing to watch. I have Manchester City shaking off their old demons and progressing with an aggregate score of 5-4. Then, I have Inter Milan coming out on top against their city rival A.C. Milan with a score of 3-2.

Miguel Rodriguez is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at miguer9@uci.edu.