Champions League Semi Final- Quatar v UAE !

Champions League Semi Final

The two richest clubs in football play tomorrow in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.  Neither club has won the Champions League, but Manchester City are favourites to win both the semi-final and the final, to be played against either Chelsea or Real Madrid.  

Club ownership has been a hot topic in the last week, following the spectacular collapse of the European Super League proposal.  Manchester City, the dominant force in English football at the moment, had secretly signed up for the Super League but was forced to withdraw following the barrage of opposition to the League from fans, the FA, Uefa and the UK government once the plans became public.

City has been owned by Sheik Mansour, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and influential member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, since 2008 and the enormous investment subsequently made in the then-underperforming club has led to its current renaissance.  Sheik Mansour also owns the City Football Group which includes Manchester City, Melbourne City FC and New York City FC.  Critics of UAE’s troubling human rights record such as Amnesty International believe that ownership of football clubs enables UAE to “sportswash” its image and provides leverage to influence the West.  

Despite these reservations it is hard to see how any alternative ownership model would be able to match the deep pockets of Sheik Mansour for whom Manchester City represents both a business opportunity and a status symbol, but the club must now await the outcome of the government review announced by Boris Johnson last week in response to the Super League proposal.  

With the Premier League title practically in the bag, and the EFL Cup now securely locked away in the trophy cabinet, Manchester City’s only notable disappointment on the pitch this year has been their defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup a couple of weeks ago.  

Pep Guardiola’s team are desperate to win the Champions League for the first time and City will start the match tomorrow as favourites with most UK Bookmakers with best odds of 23/20 from Unibet (with odds of 13/9 from bookie SBK that they will win the title, making City the favourites).  But the two matches against Paris Saint-Germain will undoubtedly be City’s biggest challenges of the season so far, as PSG’s team includes some of the best players in the world.  Will the ManCity defence be able to cope with the explosive speed and brilliance of strikers Neymar and Mbappe?  

Like City, PSG has not yet won the Champions League although they came close just last season when they were beaten by Bayern Munich 1-0 in the Lisbon final.  With a tougher draw than City, PSG has battled through to the semi-final after defeating Barcelona in the round-of-16 and Bayern Munich in the quarter-final stage (despite losing the second leg, PSG won 3-3 on aggregate with away goals).  Manager Mauricio Pochettino is confident that PSG can win through to the final and win the title, saying to BT Sport  “The quality is there, and they work so hard.  Our job is to try to put these type of talents, they are geniuses, to work like a team. With the ball they are of course fantastic. To feel that we are a team, that is the challenge for us, and at the moment we are so happy about that.”  Fans of the French side may feel that the team is somewhat undervalued in the betting with best odds of that PSG will win the semi, and odds of 17/5 that Les Parisiens will land the title.  

Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, owns PSG and under the direction of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the club has benefitted from massive investment since 2011.  The Emir, Sheikh Tamim, is ultimately the club owner and the semi-final will represent a battle between the two neighbouring states of Qatar and the UAE, once again highlighting the disconnect between clubs and owners that has somersaulted into the public domain as a result of the recent European Super League debacle.

By robertc

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