The quarterfinals of both European competitions provided thrilling entertainment as Atletico Madrid toppled the seemingly impregnable Barcelona with a superb second leg performance, while Liverpool produced one of the most stunning comebacks in recent times to defeat a much-fancied Dortmund at Anfield. The stage is now set for an exciting finale as the biggest teams from Spain, England and Germany battle it out for Champions League and Europa League honours.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City advanced to the semi-finals of Europe’s top competition for the first time in their history, with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain, but they now face a tougher test against Real Madrid.
A superb hat trick from Ronaldo was enough for Madrid to overturn a two-goal deficit against Wolfsburg in the last eight, and the second favourites will be confident of eliminating a City side that has struggled domestically for the majority of the season. However, manager Zinedine Zidane has said that there are no “easy draws” in Europe, though he will be glad he won’t have to face either local rivals Atletico or Bayern Munich in the last four.
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern are currently the football bets favourites, though his side made hard work of advancing to the semi-finals following a tense 2-2 draw with Benfica, which ensured a 3-2 aggregate victory. Guardiola is leaving for pastures new in the summer as he prepares to take the reins at Man City, but will be eager to deliver a Champions League title to his current club.
The prolific duo of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller will be key if they are to defeat a stubborn Atletico side, which has again punched above its weight at Europe’s top table, due to Diego Simeone’s astute management with relatively meagre resources.
There is a feeling that Liverpool are destined to triumph in the Europa League following Jurgen Klopp’s fairy-tale win over his former club in the quarterfinals. They have now been rewarded with a semi-final date with Villarreal, who have traditionally struggled against English opposition. The Spanish side will be a stern test though, as they have beaten the likes of Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen en route to the final four and have toppled both Real Madrid and Atletico domestically.
Liverpool FC currently languish in seventh place in the Premier League but a recent upturn in form, which included a 4-0 derby win against Everton, and their European pedigree makes them the current favourites to win the Europa League.
Sevilla FC, one of four Spanish teams in the Champions League and Europa League semi-finals, are chasing a third successive UEFA Europa League title after edging past Athletic Bilbao in the last eight. Sevilla have also struggled for form domestically but continue to be a force to be reckoned with in cup competitions.
They have been rewarded with a trip to Ukraine’s FC Shakhtar Donetsk for the first leg of the semi-final and are second favourites behind Liverpool to win. There is added incentive for the teams in Europe’s second-tier competition to succeed this year, as the winner will get a spot in next season’s Champions League.
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