The Road to Berlin

Today the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League were drawn. The resultant matches promise high-class football and tension to the final whistle, with FC Barcelona vs. FC Bayern Munich and Juventus FC vs. Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona vs. FC Bayern Munich

So far, Barcelona haven’t really been tested, it seems. They comfortably won their group against Paris St.Germain, Ajax Amsterdam and APOEL Nikosia. In the round of 16 they defeated Manchester City twice (2-1 and 1-0) and then went on to eliminate PSG in the Quaterfinals with 3-1 and 2-0 victories.

Bayern on the other hand have been struggling. After a straight-forward Group Stage win, problems started in the Round of 16, when they drew 0-0 in the first leg against Shakhtar Donezk. At this point, slight doubts started to surface, as to whether Bayern was really capable of reaching the Final on German soil, as has been the clear goal from the start of the season. These doubts were shattered however, when they trashed Donezk 7-0 in the second leg at home to secure their place in the Quaterfinals. Facing so far undefeated FC Porto, Bayern’s injury problems became a serious issue, as the likes of Alaba, Robben, Ribéry, Schweinsteiger and Javi Martínez were unable to play. This and catastrophic individual errors of Dante, Boateng and Xabi Alonso lead to a 1-3 defeat at Porto’s Estadio do Dragao in the first leg and chaotic days followed. Team Doctor Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt quit after supposedly being blamed for the long-term injuries of the players and in consequence also for the defeat to Porto. The doubts resurfaced and speculation began, whether Pep Guardiola would be sacked in case Bayern were eliminated in the Quaterfinals. Bayern, however, went into the second leg determined to turn the tie around and eliminate Porto with the support of the fans and the confidence represented by their famous club motto “Mia san mia”. As a result, they ended up leading 5-0 at halftime, the final score was 6-1 and they advanced to the Semi-Finals.

Fans have been looking forward to this match for a long time. The latest meetings between the two were memorable: in 2009, Barcelona eliminated Bayern with 4-0 and 1-1, while Bayern avenged itself in 2013 with 4-0 and 3-0 wins. Both teams have been regarded as the best football teams in the world in recent years, Barcelona won the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011 and coined the famous Tiki-Taka playstyle with Pep Guardiola as their Coach. Bayern has reached the Champions League Final in 2010, 2012 (the “Finale Dahoam” in Munich) and won the competition in 2013. So the last meetings also saw the winner of this tie move on to win the entire competition and it seems likely that history is to repeat itself in that regard. The question is, who will qualify for the Berlin Final?

FC Barcelona have failed to reach the semi-finals last season but with their new signings Neymar and Luís Suarez as well as Lionel Messi playing at his best at the moment, they’ve returned to their former glory that has won them the UCL 3 times. They’ve won the latest Clásico and lead the Primera División by a two point margin over Real Madrid.

FC Bayern are still haunted by their 2013 Treble, the teams performances have since been compared to the standard of that season and mostly failed to live up to that expectation. So far, 2015 has been no exception, the team is one win away from defending its Bundesliga title, but they lost to Wolfsburg (1-4) and Gladbach (0-2) in the Bundesliga and to Porto in the Champions League. However, most of these problems originate in their bad luck with injuries, for most of the year, Guardiola had to make do without 7 or 8 injured players, at one point he couldn’t even provide 7 substitutes. As a result, there was little to no opportunity to give key players a break, even the recently recovered Thiago had to make 3 starting appearances in a row after just coming back from a year-long injury. In light of this, Bayern’s performances were admirable and the home wins against Donezk and Porto show that the team are able to play top-quality football in spite of all this, the psychological effects of the 6-1 comeback against Porto and Pep Guardiolas knowledge of Barcelona’s team could give them the edge over Barcelona. The key to this tie will most likely be the Defense, as both teams have world class offensive personell – Messi, Neymar, Suarez on the one side, Lewandowski, Robbery, Müller on the other – but sometimes lack defensive stability, as evidenced by Bayern’s errors in Porto and Barcelona giving away a 2-0 lead over Sevilla. This tie is to close to call right now. In theory, FC Barcelona are slight favorites in this duell, being the slightly more stable team in defense and not so plagued by injury, but if Bayern can achieve a draw at Camp Nou they are likely to use that advantage on home ground and advance to the Final.

Juventus FC vs. Real Madrid CF

Juventus was the team everybody wanted to be drawn against in this Semi-Final because they were seen as the weakest of the Final Four. In the Group Stage, they came in second behind Atlético Madrid, and left Olympiakos and Malmö FF behind to advance to the knockout stages. The Round of 16 saw them matched up with 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund whom they beat twice, 2-1 in Torino and 3-0 in Dortmund. In the Quaterfinals they faced AS Monaco and in good Italian tradition, Juventus managed to pull through with a single goal scored in the entire duell (1-0 in Torino, 0-0 in Monaco).

The latter also applies to their next opponent Real Madrid. On their way to the Semi-Final, the defending champions won their group against FC Basel, Liverpool and Ludogorez Razgrad and eliminated Schalke 04 in the Round of 16, but it was a closer tie than they would have liked. Real won 2-0 at Schalke but lost 3-4 at home and just barely avoided elimination against the German underdogs. The Quaterfinals saw the ‘derbi madrileño’, Real Madrid vs. Atlético Madrid. At Atlético’s Vicente Calderon Stadium, both drew 0-0 but in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, a late (88th minute) winner by “Chicharito” Hernández saw them through to the semi-finals with a 1-0 on aggregate.

Earlier, I wrote that the winner of Barcelona vs. Bayern is most likely also the designated Champions League winner. That is because neither Juventus nor Real Madrid have so far managed to play at the same level as Barcelona and Bayern. While Bayern had its difficulties, they were able to turn these into comfortable victories in the end by stunning home match performances, which Juventus and Real could not do. Juventus is a very strong side in the defense, having conceded only 5 goals in this Champions League season, but this comes at a price: with only 13 goals scored in the entire season to date, they are still below what the other Semi-Finalists scored in the Group Stage alone. Their strong defense however, might be enough of a problem for Real Madrid. The spanish side struggled to score against Atlético and created only one goal from countless chances throughout the 180 minutes in the Quaterfinals, despite the players they can line up in the attack, among those Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. On top of that, their defense turned out to be remarkably shaky this season, especially in their Primera División encounters with Atlético (0-4) and Barcelona (1-3) and the home match against Schalke (3-4), when they where just one goal away from a knockout. Keeping all this in mind, plus the fact that so far no Champions League Winner was able to defend the title, I’d say that after two close matches, Juventus will eventually qualify.

FINAL PREDICTION:

This would see Juventus and FC Bayern through to the Berlin Final. Given that I believe the Winner of the Barca vs. Bayern Semi-Final to be the Winner of the competition, I would bet on Bayern Munich to lift the trophy on June 6th.

Do you agree with my prediction? If not, then let me know in the comments who you think will win and why. I’m looking forward to your opinions!

so long,

SigmaTheta

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“Chewie, we’re home”

Well… I’m hyped.

Unless you’ve been living on the other side of Endor you’ll know what I’m talking about. There is a new Teaser Trailer for Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens. And within seconds it got me excited like a little kid waiting for Christmas presents, everything about that trailer was just spot on, perfect:

a bit of nostalgia with Mark Hamills voice-over, Darth Vader’s helmet, the crashed Star Destroyer, etc. Not to forget that final shot of Han Solo and Chewie aboard the Millenium Falcon that just wants to let you know that it actually is still Star Wars even though it comes from the king of lens flares.

But there’s also a taste of the new things to come, a new story, with Luke saying: “You have that Power [aka. the force] too”. In the context of his speech (“The Force is strong in my family…”) that would imply that he is talking to his (or Leia’s) son or daughter and that (s)he is to become a Jedi.

Long story short: I can’t wait for December to watch this.

Put it into perspective

I guess you’ve heard what happened, primarily because you can’t avoid it at the moment.

Black Ribbons hoisted in commemoration of Plane Crash victims
img source: Paderborn University’s Facebook Page

There was a plane crash in the French Alpes yesterday, killing all of its 150 passengers (and crew). Among those 150 were 72 Germans, which caused a massive wave of condolences over here, the school which some of the victims used to go to held no classes today, my university hoisted a black ribbon together with the German flag and that of the federal state of NRW (see picture) and TV stations are broadcasting news specials 24/7 and have cancelled many – if not all – regular entertainment shows.

It is all perfectly understandable, and I too am sorry about what happened. But there’s one point I would like to make:

Like I said, this accident is on the news 24/7, people are spamming RIPs all over social media. But why are they not doing this for the uncountable number of people who die everyday from hunger or violence. According to some figures, as many as 3.1 Million children die each year from starvation, that’s almost 8500 children dying every single day and no one is spamming social media to even remotely the same extent as in this case.

And worse still: Why are they doing it, when a single person dies in an accident? Do you guys remember what was going on when Paul Walker died? Or most recently with Junior Malanda?

I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who is seeing a dramatic mismatch in those cases between the gravity of what’s happened and people’s reactions.

What I’m trying to say is: Yes, it is a tragic accident and you have every right to grieve. But be mindful of what it actually means. Sometimes, we tend to overreact to some things and neglect others.

The Creative Spark

If you’ve been following my blog, then you probably know I read… a lot. But it is only recently, that I’ve started writing more or less regularly, both on this blog and elsewhere.

Given the feedback I’ve received so far, I dare say I am fairly good at writing academic and journalistic texts, but there’s one area I’ve never really explored myself and that is creative writing. I’d like to try this, at least. Getting started on creative writing, however, comes with a problem. What do I write about? Literature is an amazing source of inspiration, but it can also be overpowering. If you were to write about all those amazing ideas, you’d probably never finish a story.

So I would like to ask you, my readers, a small favor:

Comment on this post with a creative writing prompt. This prompt can take any format, either suggest a topic, or a setting, briefly describe a certain character in the story or just write an Opening Line. I will than pick one of those and do my best to write a decent story, posting the result on this blog.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

so long,

SigmaTheta

I’m so glad I did…

In the last two weeks, I saw two amazing movies. And I wouldn’t have been able to see them, if I hadn’t agreed to an invitation to visit a so called “Sneak Preview” at a local cinema. Every Monday, they’re showing a movie prior to its official release, but here’s the deal: While the tickets are quite cheap (4€ for a movie) you never know, what film you’ll actually watch. Continue reading

SigmaTheta is now on Youtube

I have started a YouTube channel in addition to this blog.

On Youtube, I will be concerned with the same variety of topics as on this blog. The main difference being, that I will also be uploading Let’s Plays, so as to express my love for video games more adequately.

Feel free to check out my channel, and if you like what you see than don’t hesitate to like and share the video(s) and subscribe to the channel.

So long,

SigmaTheta