32 managers were involved in the group stages of the 2020/21 Champions League, a tally that has now been shredded down to a high-profile quartet following the conclusion of the quarter-finals.
Left in contention for Europe’s most treasured trophy we have Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, and Thomas Tuchel who between them have five Champions League crowns and have featured in seven of the previous 12 finals, including the last five in a row.
Two mouthwatering semi-finals await us, but who will be the last boss standing?
Champions League Semi-Finals
- Mauricio Pochettino (PSG) vs Pep Guardiola (Man City)
- Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) vs Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)
Mauricio Pochettino (PSG)
Mauricio Pochettino is bidding to reach his second Champions League final in three years, having led PSG past European giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich into the semi-finals, where he’ll now do battle with a familiar foe: Pep Guardiola.
Pochettino, appointed at the start of the year, has two stand-out results in that short-space of time: he orchestrated a stunning 4-1 win in Barcelona in the last-16 which was followed by a 3-2 victory over Hansi Flick’s side in Munich.
The Argentine is now unbeaten in five knockout-stage ties while he may hold the edge mentality as his old Spurs side famously overcame Guardiola’s Man City on goal difference in a thrilling 4-4 aggregate duel back in 2019.
Pochettino has a star-studded and hungry squad at his disposal. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have dazzled and delighted with their panache and movement, given the club’s recent exploits it’s perhaps a surprise that they are not the favourites to go all the way; they can currently be backed at 10/3, behind frontrunners City.
However, it’s worth noting that while PSG have impressed on the whole in the knockout stages, they certainly aren’t unbeatable. They lost to Bayern in their last match, suffered defeats to both Man Utd and RB Leipzig in the group stages - both under Tuchel - and have lost a whopping eight games in the league to date.
There are areas for Guardiola’s men to exploit, but you get the feeling this could finally be PSG’s time to shine on the European podium.
Stat: Pochettino is unbeaten in his last five knockout-stage ties
Pochettino’s Champions League Win Rate: 48.57%
Odds: 10/3 with Paddy Power
The old foes clash in a mouthwatering semi-final tie
Pep Guardiola (Man City)
Pep Guardiola boasts more Champions League wins (84) than the other three managers combined (76). Man City, the 11/8 favourites to win the competition for the first time, are still on the hunt for a quadruple, for which they are priced at just 9/2 with William Hill.
Guardiola’s squad management has been supreme this season. He may often infuriate Fantasy Football managers, but his juggling act has bewildered opposition managers too. It’s impossible to predict who will take to the field, and while his tinkering has also been criticised, it’s worked wonders so far this term.
This week the two-time winner finally overcame the head-scratching quarter-final barrier, where Man City had come unstuck in each of the last three seasons. The Premier League leaders may have been expected to edge out Borussia Dortmund, but then again in the last two campaigns they were also favourites against Tottenham and Lyon. The Citizens dug deep and eventually beat Erling Haaland and co 4-2 on aggregate, which will be huge from a psychological perspective.
Guardiola’s two Champions League triumphs at Barcelona were spectacular but he has so far failed to reach the final since his last victory in 2011. While the quarter-finals were previously a thorn in City’s side, Bayern Munich couldn’t get over the semi-final hurdle during his three-year tenure.
Stat: No manager has reached more Champions League semi-finals than Guardiola (8 - joint with Jose Mourinho).
Guardiola’s Champions League Win Rate: 63.16%
Odds: 11/8 with Bet Victor
Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)
Looking to make history by becoming the first manager to win the Champions League four times. Zinedine Zidane scooped the trophy in three successive seasons between 2016 and 2018, before taking a break from management, only to return to his beloved Bernabeu two years ago.
Like many clubs, Real didn’t enjoy the best of starts to the season - they even lost twice to Shakhtar in the group stages - yet the Spanish giants do what they do best when it matters and have hit peak form in the business end of the season.
Zidane’s men beat Atalanta in the last-16, which was followed by a superb showing against 2019 victors Liverpool last time out. They’ll now fancy their chances against another Premier League outfit in Chelsea as they attempt to reach a fifth final in just eight seasons.
Real have the experience, history and the momentum. Vinicius Junior is in sparkling form, Barcelona were beaten last weekend, while the squad features numerous former Champions League winners including Sergio Ramos, Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, and Karim Benzema.
Underestimate Zidane and Real at your peril.
Stat: Real have progressed from 11 of their 12 two-legged Champions League knockout ties under Zidane.
Zidane’s Champions League Win Rate: 62.25%
Odds: 4/1 with Bet365
Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea)
Thomas Tuchel began the season at PSG, with whom he led to a domestic quadruple and a Champions League final last term. Sacked on Christmas Eve, he’s now at the helm of Chelsea, where he’s thrived since replacing Frank Lampard.
He’s catapulted the Blues back in contention for a top-four Premier League finish, they also have silverware in their sights in both the FA Cup and Championships League, as the club looks to repeat their feat of 2012 when they memorably won both competitions under Roberto Di Matteo.
In the last-16, Tuchel’s troops swatted away the challenge of Atletico Madrid with surprising ease, then dispatched Juventus' conquerors Porto in the quarter-finals. The German has yet to lose an away game at Chelsea, while he’s only suffered the two defeats in 18 matches in all competitions, although they’ve both come in April.
Next up is Real Madrid who may not be the supreme force they once were, but the Spanish side - who knocked out Liverpool - have experience and nous on their side. It will be a tough task but one that Tuchel will relish.
Stat: Tuchel has yet to lose an away game at Chelsea
Tuchel’s Champions League Win Rate: 61.54%
Odds: 9/2 with Bet365