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The Celtics are real and have nothing to fear in the Nets

Didn't you pay attention to what became of the Celtics? They don't shy away from any challenge. You are the challenge. (Author: Gardener)

Celtics vs. Nets: 8 things to watch in the first round matchup Dodge the Nets? Trouble about the networks? Afraid of the nets? Attach the nets. Come on. Didn't you pay attention to what became of the Celtics? They don't shy away from any challenge. I know, I understand it's still hard to get over how well things have been going for the last three months when every break in recent seasons has felt like a repeated kick in the shin. That success — 28 wins in their last 35 games, one blowout after another, a final tally of 51 wins and second place in the Eastern Conference — still feels sudden, a bit like a daydream. But it's real. It's okay to believe in them. They went out and deserved it. Oh no, the change didn't come easy. A lethargic 2020-21 season resulted in a seismic shock to the organization — Danny Ainge to “retire” and then to Utah, Brad Stevens off the bench to the front office, and Ime Udoka from the outside as the outspoken new coach, conscience, and voice. The Celtics were annoying in the first half. Ball movement was sporadic. Even with a new coach, it felt all the wrong way familiar. But Udoka, a picture of stoicism to us but clearly someone who needs to reveal more behind the scenes considering players respect him but also feel comfortable teasing him, never wavered in his message. Split the ball. Play defense with such ferocity that it breaks the opponent's mind. Just when we were wondering if he was getting through to them, the truth emerged: the players weren't just listening, they were executing. Jayson Tatum unleashed something inside himself and found a way to improve his teammates while elevating his offensive play to All-NBA levels. Marcus Smart has proven that he is indeed a point guard. Stevens, who handled a few Auerbachian deals in his first year in the front office (we don't talk enough about the absolute heist of getting Al Horford back for Kemba Walker's brutal contract), streamlined the roster and found a perfect intangible fit for guard Derrick White. The Celtics eventually became the fun, relentless, passing team that we hoped for but never quite knew we would. It's incredibly satisfying, and the resilience and determination of the players to get this situation right now warrants trust. Sure, Udoka could have rested his starters in the regular-season Finals against the Grizzlies, which might have allowed his team to finish with a lower seed and return to what was presumably an easier first-round matchup than Brooklyn. The Celtics don't back down on the pitch. Also, playing the nets allows for the symmetry of a potential revenge spree; The Celtics could face the teams that finished their 2019 (Bucks), 2020 (Heat) and 2021 (Nets) seasons. Don't get me wrong: the nets deserve respect. (The Celtics need their own smoker to counter Irving when he lights his little lavender delights in the Garden. But respect and fear are not synonymous. The Nets have some helpful role players (Bruce Brown would be a beloved Celtic), but they're cruel in the Defensive (20th in the league) and if the Celtics play with aplomb they will have no trouble scoring. It should also be noted that we identify Udoka so much with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs that he is at Steve Nash's side was on the Nets bench last year, he has a deep institutional knowledge of what they want to do and what makes them tick.Oh, and the idea of ​​Ben Simmons - who is said to have a bad back and since his "Here, you take it, Thybulle" collapse in last season's playoffs - coming back and being a Tatum stopper is absurd. Simmons is the last player in the league to break into such U should be advised. The Celtics have been the best team in basketball since I got it right in February j. Brown was right Tuesday night when he noted the Celtics defense isn't the same without Williams, but it's still very good and there are endless rumors that Williams will be back sooner rather than later. The nets have an excellent tandem. The Celtics have an excellent team. That's what they deserve. And they will earn so much more. Get breaking news and analysis delivered to your inbox throughout the basketball season.

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AEW Dynamite records its lowest viewership and rating since early March

Wednesday's live edition of AEW Dynamite drew 977,000 viewers on TBS, according to Nielsen via Showbuzz Daily. (Author: Gardener)

AEW DynamiteWednesday's live edition of AEW Dynamite drew 977,000 viewers on TBS, according to Nielsen via Showbuzz Daily. This is a 1.21% drop from last week's episode, which drew 989,000 viewers. This week's Dynamite earned a rating of 0.37 in its key demographic of 18-49 year olds. This is down 2.63% from last week's 0.38 rating. This week's key demographic rating of 0.37 represents 486,000 viewers who watched the show from that 18-49 demo. This is a 2.01% decrease from last week's 496,000 18-49 viewers, which represented the .38 key demo rating according to Wrestlenomics. Dynamite ranked #3 on the Cable Top 150 this week with a .37 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. Dynamite ranked #33 in viewership for the night on cable this week. Wednesday's Dynamite posted its lowest total viewership since the March 9 post-Revolution episode and its lowest major demo rating since March 2, Revolution's go-home show. Wednesday's Dynamite viewership was down 1.21% compared to last week, while the 18-49 key demo rating was down 2.63% compared to last week. This week's Dynamite viewership decreased by 19.85% from the same week in 2021. The rating of the main demos was down 15.90% year-on-year. The NBA game between the Spurs and the Pelicans on ESPN topped the night in the 18-49 demographic on the Cable Top 150 with a .95 rating and also drew 2.442 million viewers. The Five on FOX News topped the night's cable television viewership with 3.596 million viewers and also ranked #7 on the Cable Top 150 with a key demo rating of .26. Chicago Fire on NBC was averaging 7.200 million viewers the pinnacle of the night on network television. Chicago Fire also led the night in the key 18-49 year olds group with a .82 rating. AEW Dynamite aired live from the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans on Wednesday and featured several events advertised in advance - CM Punk vs. Below is our AEW Dynamite Viewer Tracker 2022: Episode from January 5: 1.010 million viewers with a .43 rating in the 18-49 demographic (TBS premiere episode) January 12 episode: 969,000 viewers with a .39 rating in the 18-49 demographic January 19 episode: 1.032 million viewers with a 0.44 rating in the 18–49 demographic January 26 episode: 1.100 million viewers with a 0.41 rating in the 18–49 demographic (Beach Break episode) February 16 episode: 869,000 viewers with a rating of 0.31 in the 18-49 demographic February 16 episode: 869,000 viewers with a 0.31 rating in the 18-49 demographic February 23 episode: 1,010 million viewers with a 0 rating ,4 0 in the 18-49 age group Episode of February 23: 1.010 million viewers with a rating of 0.40 in the age group of 18-49 year old Episode of March 9: 945,000 viewers with a rating of 0 .40 in the 18-49 age group (Southeast Revolution episode) March 16 episode: 993,000 viewers with a 0.38 rating in the 18-49 demographic (St. Patrick's Day Slam episode) March 23 episode: 1.046 million viewers with a 0.41 rating in the 18-49 demographic March 30 episode: 979,000 viewers with a 0.38 rating in the 18-49 year old demographic March 30 episode: 979,000 viewers with a 0.38 rating in the 18-49 year old demographic April 13: 977,000 viewers with a 0.37 rating in the 18-49 year old demographic 13 April episode: 977,000 viewers with a 0.37 rating in the 18-49 age group

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Former Reds on possible Liverpool pursuit of Darwin Nunez transfer

Former Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is hoping Liverpool will make a move for Benfica sensation Darwin Nunez. (Author: Gardener)

Darwin NunezFormer Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is hoping Liverpool will make a move for Benfica sensation Darwin Nunez. Former Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique is hoping Liverpool will make a move for Benfica sensation Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan featured for the Portuguese side in both games of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final match between the two clubs. Enrique said in the Instagram story that he hopes his former club decides in favor of the prolific striker. I really hope Liverpool (will) do something about him because he's going to end up in a top team. Nunez has already been linked with a number of top European clubs and many big Premier League sides are said to be interested in signing him. It could be one of the summer's transfer stories as Nunez offer a viable alternative to Erling Haaland, but for Liverpool to make a move, a well-known striker may have to depart.

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Liverpool target exciting RB Salzburg midfielder Luka Sucic to rejuvenate Jurgen Klopp's midfield

Liverpool are planning a double transfer for RB Salzburg players with Luka Sucic the latest name to be linked with a move to the Premier League. (Author: Gardener)

Luka SucicIt was revealed today that Liverpool are in talks with Karim Adeyemi over a possible summer transfer. Liverpool are reportedly still in the picture of signing the Germany international despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Red Bull Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund. Now new reports link Liverpool with a second Red Bull Salzburg player. German outlet Sport Bild has reported that Liverpool are considering a summer move for the attacking midfielder from Red Bull Salzburg. According to the report, prospective sporting director Julian Ward is working on rejuvenating the squad and wants to start in midfield. Sport Bild has described the 19-year-old as Julian Ward's "first big challenge". With the summer transfer window fast approaching, look to Julian Ward to boost his interest in Luka Sucic and Karim Adeyemi.

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Manchester City are yet to see Liverpool at their best, claims Jurgen Klopp

Klopp and Pep Guardiola meet again at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, with the Liverpool manager determined to chase the quadruple despite a "tough" schedule (Author: Gardener)

Manchester CityJurgen Klopp believes Manchester City didn't see the best of Liverpool on Sunday and could face a tougher challenge when the rivals clash again in Saturday's FA Cup semi-finals. The Liverpool manager made seven changes from a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium for Wednesday's Champions League quarter-finals second leg against Benfica, while City survived a tough encounter at Atlético Madrid, including 12 minutes of stoppage time before also reached the semi-finals. Klopp denies the contrast in preparation will improve Liverpool's prospects at Wembley but still expects an improvement from his side as he says they fell short in several departments in the Premier League encounter. Klopp said: “We had it last week before we played City. We had an away game [in Lisbon] and came home in the middle of the next day. Traveling is intense, definitely. It was intense for both teams [on Wednesday]. City were really strong last week and we weren't at our best so I'd like to see a game where we're at our best too. "The lads did a lot of good things in the game but I really think we're able to play at a whole different level in a couple of positions and I think we should try that. And it's a cup game, a one-off. If it's 2-2 again it's 120 minutes and if it stays that way there's penalties and that would be really crazy if it goes to the end. “I want to have 12 games from now until the end of the season and be in the final. I'm really looking forward to the game. Diogo Jota is Liverpool's only fitness concern, although Klopp expects the Portugal international to recover from the Benfica hit. Klopp admits he and Pep Guardiola have made tactical changes in recent years to choke each other but not at the expense of entertainment quality. "You see changes over the years," he said. “We've had some decent counterattacks in the past and then Pep decided the full-backs couldn't get past the center line. We have done similar things, we also try to deny them. “There are crucial duels in a game and you better win them, otherwise they are in a really good position. We lost some easy balls in the City game a few days ago and what they made of it was spectacular, like the counterattack in the first minute when Ali [Alisson] made a great save against [Raheem] Sterling. “It's a really intense fight at a really high level. The concentration that all the boys have to bring to the pitch is amazing. When tactical things add up, it can be very interesting tactically, but terribly boring for the neutral. That rarely happens in games between City and Liverpool and it's good for all the fans watching."

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The missing link in midfield, the future with Ibrahima Konaté...

Liverpool secured their place in the Champions League semi-finals after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Benfica at Anfield last night. Here's what we learned... (Author: Gardener)

Ibrahima KonatéLiverpool secured their place in the Champions League semi-finals after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Benfica at Anfield last night. Liverpool secured their place in the Champions League semi-finals after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Benfica at Anfield last night. Here's what we learned from the Liverpool performance. His cross power was a constant threat against Benfica all night and his runs from deep gave the likes of Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino plenty of space to exploit. Liverpool arguably played all of their experienced midfielders yesterday including Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keïta, Thiago Alcântara and Fabinho. It's still unclear what the best midfield combination is for the Reds going forward. Henderson is starting to show his age, while veteran Milner looks set to move on this summer. Thiago and Keïta have good moments but question marks remain over their fitness over a full season. Fabinho is the only ubiquitous midfielder but he needs two reliable options at his side in the years to come. Liverpool have the cover for now, with youngsters Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones potentially stepping up in future seasons. While it may be obvious that Liverpool have five attacking options, each player's effectiveness has been questioned over the past season. Sadio Mané has been criticized for his performances earlier in the season and questions have also been raised about Roberto Firmino's longevity. Recent performances have shown Mané still has miles in the tank and the Benfica game was Bobby's reminder that he can still put in a shift. With Diogo Jota and the recent acquisition of the brilliant Colombian Luís Diaz, Liverpool have five different ways of damaging the opposition. Ibrahima Konaté arguably had his best half of football for the Reds in the first half of the first leg against Benfica, scoring his first goal in the process. However, the French defender came under fire for a lack of concentration in the second half, allowing the Portuguese side to score their only goal of the game. While the second leg ended 3-3 at Anfield, Konaté put in a solid performance and scored his second goal for the club. Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson, Thiago Alcântara, Fabinho, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah all watched from the bench in the first half against Benfica. While Liverpool made seven changes for the second leg, the Reds were 2-1 up when the substitutes came on. This season, Liverpool have had the depth to challenge in all four competitions, with the starting XI being able to rest from time to time. There might not be many games where starters sit out from here until the rest of the season, but Liverpool finally have enough quality on the bench to step up if needed.

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Roberto Firmino's status change only underscores Liverpool's newfound strength at depth

The Brazilian, who was previously one of the first names on the squad list, has only made three starts in the last two months as he is reinstated at Anfield due to injuries and signings (Author: Gardener)

Roberto Firmino'sIt was stoppage time when Divock Origi made it onto the field. He's as indelibly linked to the knockout stages of the European Cup as David Fairclough, and by any measure they've both been spectators at Anfield now - but last was when Liverpool played a Champions League quarter-final or semi-final on winning home turf, it was when Origi was Barcelona's unlikely assassin. Now the permanent understudy is the sixth-choice forward, slipping down the pecking order after the arrival of first Diogo Jota and then Luis Diaz. Perhaps the more intriguing element is the status of the man who has been Jurgen Klopp's great constant. The clue Roberto Firmino won't start in the FA Cup semi-finals was when Origi came on: specifically how late it was. The Brazilian's policy of running into the ground meant he was often substituted even in his prime. This time Klopp started with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane on the bench and sent off Jota and Diaz with half an hour to go. Firmino lasted 90 minutes and scored twice in the 3-3 draw. Few can afford the luxury of naming a weakened team in a Champions League quarter-final, but this was one of those days when time off the pitch was a mark of status. Just maybe Firmino, the great Klopp player who dated before Klopp, the chief counter-presser, is now the fifth-choice forward. There were too few marquee games when all five are fully fit. Because if this is an 11-day period with four crucial games, Liverpool's first-leg win in Lisbon is effectively reduced to three: Benfica away and the double-header against Manchester City. Firmino, who had the heaviest workload on Wednesday, is not allowed to start. His Liverpool career was launched against City, a revealing display as a false nine in 2015 that produced a late first goal. He bothered them and drove them to despair when Liverpool threw three wins over City in three months in 2018. Firmino's contribution included two goals and two assists but went well beyond that. He did it in games and in a regime. Nobody has played more games for Klopp at Liverpool. Firmino's selflessness has long made him an integral part. Against Benfica, sent on goal by James Milner, he looked for Diaz instead of shooting. So far, so Bobby Firmino. Perhaps it was his best Jota impression, an attempt to emulate the elusive finisher that usurped him. A quick brace gave him 10 goals this season, more than in the entire last game. Firmino turned 20 in the Champions League for Liverpool and joined a select band featuring Salah, Mane and Steven Gerrard. It took him to 98 for Liverpool; he was to become the third centurion of the Klopp era, along with his longtime pals who joined him and accelerated past him. Perhaps Firmino's future is that of the new Origi, the Impact replacement. His previous two goals came in marquee games, away at Internazionale and Arsenal, both off the bench. He could be the first of the forwards to be phased out in the transition to the future. But it could make the icon the personification of a new strength at depth from Klopp's side.

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Klopp wants 'another level' in FA Cup semifinals

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he wanted his team to find a different gear in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. (Author: Gardener)

FA CupLiverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he wanted his team to shift gears in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final (LIVE on ESPN+ in the US, 10:30am ET) against Manchester City and his performance compared to their clash in the Premier League improved last weekend. Klopp's side drew 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday after falling twice behind league champions City, when a win would have sent them back to the top of the standings for the first time since October. - You don't have ESPN? - Connelly: It's Klopp vs. "City were really strong last week and we weren't at our best," Klopp told reporters on Thursday. "I'd like to see a game where we're at our best. The lads did a lot of good things in the game but there were a few things and I know we can play at a different level." Liverpool, under Klopp, who took charge at Anfield in October 2015, progressed to the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time thanks to a late win by Diogo Jota against Nottingham Forest last month. The mayors of Liverpool and Greater Manchester had the game called out on Saturday moved from Wembley to London due to lack of Easter weekend train services. “The FA Cup is a massive competition. So far we haven't even been able to reach the semi-finals, so it's our first experience of a semi-final at Wembley," said Klopp. I hope the fans can come to London, I think the trains have stopped and we have the atmosphere of a semi-final earned between Manchester City and Liverpool." Klopp added he would provide a late assessment of Jota's fitness for the FA Cup clash after the striker suffered a blow in Wednesday's 3-3 draw with Benfica in the Champions League quarter-final second leg.

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Klopp wants 'another level' in FA Cup semifinals

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he wanted his team to find a different gear in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. (Author: Gardener)

FA CupLiverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said he wanted his team to shift gears in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final (LIVE on ESPN+ in the US, 10:30am ET) against Manchester City and his performance compared to their clash in the Premier League improved last weekend. Klopp's side drew 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday after falling twice behind league champions City, when a win would have sent them back to the top of the standings for the first time since October. - You don't have ESPN? - Connelly: It's Klopp vs. "City were really strong last week and we weren't at our best," Klopp told reporters on Thursday. "I'd like to see a game where we're at our best. The lads did a lot of good things in the game but there were a few things and I know we can play at a different level." Liverpool, under Klopp, who took charge at Anfield in October 2015, progressed to the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time thanks to a late win by Diogo Jota against Nottingham Forest last month. The mayors of Liverpool and Greater Manchester had the game called out on Saturday moved from Wembley to London due to lack of Easter weekend train services. “The FA Cup is a massive competition. So far we haven't even been able to reach the semi-finals, so it's our first experience of a semi-final at Wembley," said Klopp. I hope the fans can come to London, I think the trains have stopped and we have the atmosphere of a semi-final earned between Manchester City and Liverpool." Klopp added he would provide a late assessment of Jota's fitness for the FA Cup clash after the striker suffered a blow in Wednesday's 3-3 draw with Benfica in the Champions League quarter-final second leg.

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Is the Liverpool-Man City final inevitable?

The Champions League semifinals are set after Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Villarreal made it. Our authors have their say. (Author: Gardener)

the Liverpool-Man CityThe Champions League semi-finals are set after Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Villarreal came through after a string of quarter-final second legs full of thrills, upsets, brawls and plenty of goals. Julien Laurens, Alex Kirkland and Tom Hamilton address the big questions as only four clubs remain on the road to Paris. - Champions League: results and schedule | The stat Laurens: I love how Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann was taught a lesson by Unai Emery and Villarreal, who beat them 2-1 on aggregate in one of the biggest upsets of recent years. Tactically, he was outwitted by the Spanish manager. Just because you field five forwards doesn't mean you will necessarily create a lot of chances and score a lot of goals. Speaking of punishment, Nagelsmann was also completely wrong with his statements after the quarter-final draw and again before the game: he didn't respect Villarreal and didn't take him seriously. He's still a young manager so let's hope he learns from the mistakes he made this time. Of course, the other big one for me is another special moment from Karim Benzema, who scored the decisive goal that sent Real Madrid to the semi-finals. It is his 12th goal in nine Champions League games this season. Kirkland: Two LaLiga teams in the semifinals: not bad for a supposedly declining league. It could have been three if Atletico Madrid had been a bit more sober in the final 15 minutes against Manchester City at the Wanda Metropolitano before the game descended into chaos with Felipe's red card. Atletico were at the top at that point and if they had managed to score and equalize the tie they would have fancied their chances in extra time. But the brawl that followed the sending off (and reignited after the final whistle) sapped the game of momentum and allowed City to progress 1-0 on aggregate. Meanwhile, Real Madrid's inexplicable run in this competition continues. They were comprehensively outplayed by Chelsea for 75 minutes at the Bernabeu - just like Paris Saint-Germain for an hour in the round of 16 - before digging deep again to go 5-4 on aggregate after extra time. Hamilton: No doubt the moment of the round was Modric's assist for Rodrygo's goal. Jurgen Klopp has built an impressive squad and was able to rotate for the second leg against Benfica with an eye on the weekend's FA Cup semi-final against City. After winning the first leg 3-1 in Lisbon, he was able to shuffle his pack for the second leg as they progressed to a 3-3 draw at Anfield. The ability to rotate will prove absolutely essential as they're still chasing three trophies, but it's also confirmed (again) what a brilliant job they've done in the recruitment department. Klopp's judgment of the rotation will be crucial in the run-in. At the other end of the scale, Bayern Munich's waste against Villarreal was alarming. Nagelsmann is a wonderful manager but you have a feeling there will be some changes at the Bundesliga champions one way or another this summer as Barcelona are reportedly interested in their star Robert Lewandowski. I agree with Juls: they don't look as stable as under Hansi Flick, their midfield was dismembered on Tuesday and the aggressively high line was a recipe for disaster against Villarreal - the masters of football frugality. Villarreal managed one and scored from it. Kirkland: We've asked that question many times during Simeone's ten-year tenure - in 2016 after a second Champions League final defeat in three seasons, in 2020 when it looked like they might drop out of LaLiga's top four - and the answer is always, " No." This is a manager who won the league ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona last year, inspired famous away wins against Liverpool and Manchester United in recent seasons and had them in this clash with Manchester City – arguably the best team in the world .- to the very end. Simeone has identified so much with Atletico by now that it's impossible to imagine what one would be like without the other. For example, can you imagine how it would have gone for Simeone if he was in 2016 would have taken the job at Manchester United?He should stay as long as he wants and leave on his own terms if he sees fit.Hamilton: Well, they surely still love him at the Wanda Metropolitano. The final moments of that second leg were a confirmation of how much they still adore Simeone as he stood on the sidelines and clapped with the fans (or so it appeared, much to the confusion/frustration of the much-maligned officials). . While he managed to secure LaLiga last season, it was frustrating to watch Joao Felix chasing dead ends against Man City all evening. But it's certainly a team built in its own image and whoever takes over would take several seasons to change the philosophy of how the team should play. It's time to say goodbye to the street fighting mentality - their loss of discipline in the closing stages was shocking and a bad look for the club. Laurens: His time was up a while ago. The two games against Manchester City were embarrassing. Koke & Co showed they could play when they wanted and they put City under pressure in the final 30 minutes of the game but the rest of the time they were so defensive, so anti-football, it hurt to watch. With the squad he has, his team could and should play more attacking, with pride and class. Instead, it's street fighting, ultra-defensive tactics and the negation of football. Hamilton: It will be an all-English final, with Pep Guardiola v Klopp, Salah v Kevin De Bruyne and a repeat of the brilliant 2-2 draw we saw at the weekend. Klopp won't underestimate Villarreal like Bayern Munich did, while Guardiola has the nous to contain Benzema and beat Real Madrid. Guardiola has been a long time coming - this will be his second semi-final as City manager and if he survives it will be his second chance to lift the trophy at this club. Klopp won the cup with Liverpool in 2019. And I have the feeling that whoever wins the league will not win the Champions League. Because of this: It's Liverpool's Champions League this year. Laurens: I know mainland Europe won't like it, but again I'm betting on full English. For the third time in four seasons we are playing a final between two English clubs. After Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 and Chelsea beat Manchester City last season, it's Man City vs. It's the dream final: the best two teams in the world right now, the best two managers, the best two attacks, the best two defences , Salah v Kevin De Bruyne, eight goals in two fantastic Premier League games this season and certainly more when they meet in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday (Stream LIVE at 10:30pm ET on ESPN+ in the U. The final between these two may not be that open but I believe this time it will be City's triumph.They have learned a lot from the disappointment of losing to Chelsea last season and will get their first, long-awaited Champions League League trophy Kirkland: I'd like to argue for an all-Spanish final between Real Madrid and Villarreal... Madrid's luck will surely run out at some point, and Ma Manchester City are a better and more reliable team than PSG or Chelsea, anything is possible -- who would have backed them to eliminate Juventus or Bayern Munich, and Unai Emery's European record is extraordinary - but I'd worry about their defense against Liverpool's stacked forwards . I think we have another all-English final ahead of us and City will win it. Laurens: Monaco reached the semi-finals in 2016-17. What a team and what a journey! They also won Ligue 1 that season but, perhaps more impressively, they defied all odds in the Champions League. We've seen the emergence of a new star in Kylian Mbappe, who blew everyone away at just 17. He scored in the first leg of the round of 16 against Manchester City at the Etihad, his first-ever start in the competition. He did it again in the second leg, in the two quarter-finals against Borussia Dortmund and in the semi-final second leg in Turin against Juventus. It was a golden generation and manager Leonardo Jardim made the most of the incredible talent at his disposal. They were a bit naïve in the semi-final against Juventus and were unlucky and came up short, but nonetheless it was a nice Cinderella story. Kirkland: What was it like last time Villarreal reached the semi-finals of the Champions League? Packed with talented players to watch - Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan, Marcos Senna - their 2005/06 team made it to the final with Riquelme's missed penalty. Staying on LaLiga theme, the Isco-inspired Malaga 2012-13 is another personal favourite. They reached the quarter-finals on their debut in the competition, only to be eliminated thanks to a stunning injury-time double offside against Klopp's Dortmund. Depor eliminated both of last year's finalists - Juventus and AC Milan - before being savagely beaten by Jose Mourinho's Porto (the ugly sister of Depor's Cinderella, if you will). The win against Milan was one to last after a 4-1 defeat at San Siro and a legendary 4-0 second leg comeback at Riazor. Hamilton: If I can throw them in as a Cinderella story (maybe they're more like Jack and the Beanstalk), then it has to be Ajax's run to the 2019 semifinals. They were just a matter of seconds from a place in the final until Lucas Moura broke Amsterdam's heart with that perfectly placed shot from the edge of the box to seal his hat-trick and put Tottenham through at the expense of Erik ten Hag's side. It was wonderful to watch this team play ambitious football with the young Dutch core of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek. They were brought together on a comparatively small budget compared to their European rivals, but a squad full of local talent managed to knock out Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semi-finals. That run then (inevitably) sparked a mass dismantling of that generation, but it was a joy to watch.

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