Champions League: Legends from each club detail matchups

By Alex Butler  |  April 17, 2018 at 2:56 PM
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April 17 (UPI) -- Soccer icons from Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and AS Roma recently gave their thoughts on the 2018 UEFA Champions League semifinals.

Liverpool icon Sami Hyypia, Madrid star Alvaro Arbeloa, Bayern's Lother Matthaus and Roma's Bruno Conti were a few of the legends in attendance Tuesday at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami, Fla., for the announcement of teams participating in the 2018 International Champions Cup.

The four squads are included in the 18 total teams competing in the tournament, which takes place at venues throughout the world. Bayern battles Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City in the tournament. Liverpool faces Borussia Dortmund, City and Manchester United. Madrid has tests against United, Juventus and Roma. Roma also plays Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona in the tournament.

But the more pressing slate of games begins on April 24, when the Reds battle Roma and Bayern takes on Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

Hyypia appeared in more than 300 games for Liverpool from 1999 to 2009. He won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup for the Reds.

"They [Liverpool] are playing a great attacking game and hopefully that brings us to success in the Champions League this year," Hyypia said.

"I knew already in my time in Germany that [Pep Guadiola] is a good manager. He is very strict that he keeps his ideas and puts his ideas in the heads of the players. It's up to the players then to put it on the field. At the moment they are doing really well."

"It's two tough games against Roma now and then the final."

"First of all, it has been 34 years since they reached the semifinals," Conti said of Roma. "The final at home against Liverpool in 1984. But the supporters are in love with this team."

Conti played 16 years for Roma, winning a Serie A title and five Italian Super Cups. He also was a member of Italy's 1982 World Cup winning squad.

Matthaus commended Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes and said he thinks the Bundesliga power has the ability to add a Champions League trophy to its pile of hardware. Heynckes, 72, returned to the club in October after Bayern fired Carlo Ancelotti in September. He came out of retirement to coach the club, which hired Niko Kovac to take control next season. Heynckes had three previous stints as the Bayern boss.

"We didn't expect it, but at this moment it is only the best idea from Bayern Munich to take Jupp Heynckes back like a coach," Matthaus said. "He knows the club. It is in the blood. He knows the management. He knows the players. He knows the mentality from Bayern Munich and I think he has done a very good job. Nobody was believing, Bayern Munich is after 28 game days the German champion again because after five or six games in the championship, Bayern Munich was five points behind Borussia Dortmund and then comes in the new coach. This new coach was changing very fast, everything. He was doing an amazing job, not just in the Bundesliga but in the Champions League They play now against Real Madrid."

"I think they have a great chance to win the triple: the cup, the German Cup ... the German Championship and maybe in three games more, the Champions League title."

Matthaus was the 1990 FIFA Player of the Year. He appeared in more than 300 matches for Bayern and five World Cups for Germany. He was also a member of the 1990 World Cup champion West Germany team.

Arbeloa commented on the late penalty kick that led Madrid to a quarterfinals win against Juventus. The controversial call -- in the third minute of stoppage time -- prompted feedback from both fanbases. Arebeloa was asked if the infraction should have been called for a penalty, which resulted in Cristiano Ronaldo netting a score and giving Madrid a 4-3 aggregate goal advantage over Juventus.

"Yes of course," he said.

"I think this squad is already one of the best squads in Real Madrid history," said Arbeloa, who played for Madrid from 2009 to 2016. "They won three Champions Leagues in the last four years, but Madrid won five Champions Leagues in a row. It's always difficult but we are Real Madrid. Nothing is impossible."

"I think for Real Madrid, Champions League is important. It's like our competition. We feel really comfortable in this competition. But we know it's really difficult to beat the big teams that we play against."

Arbeloa -- who was a key member of the Champions League winning squad in 2014 and 2016 -- said he thinks Ronaldo is the "best footballer in the world."

"What he is doing in Real Madrid is just amazing. You can't believe what he is doing. The goals that he is scoring, what he is doing in the Champions League. We are really proud of him."

Ronaldo leads the Champions League with 15 goals.

The first wave of games in the 2018 International Champions Cup start July 20. City faces Dortmund at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. and Sevilla FC battles Benfica at Letzigrund in Zurich, Switzerland.

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