Can the Four Premier League Teams Make It to A European Final?
This week there is the small matter of two Champions League semifinal first leg games, followed by two more Europa League semifinals first legs. In each of those four games, there is one English Premier League side involved, raising the prospect that we could have all four teams in the two major European finals, all hailing from the Premier League.
Manchester City and Manchester United may have bit the dust in the last round of Champions League action but this time around Tottenham and Liverpool are hoping to go one step further and reach the final, which will be held in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid in June. Similarly, Arsenal and Chelsea are set to try and earn a place in the Europa League final, which will take place at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan the week before.
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Of course, the four English teams do face some pretty stiff competition from the other four teams in the competitions, all of whom are hoping that it will be they that go forward to compete in the final. With that in mind, let’s take a look at each of the four semi-finals and gaze into our crystal ball to predict whether we will see zero, one, two, three or maybe even all four English teams into a major European final this season.
We’ll begin with the two Champions League clashes, both legs of which will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings of both this and next week.
Champions League Semi Finals
Tottenham Hotspur v Ajax Amsterdam
- 1st Leg – Tue 30th April – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, 8pm
- 2nd Leg – Wed 8th May – Johan Cruiyff Arena, Amsterdam, 8pm
Tottenham will be without Son Heung-Min, who was booked in the game with Manchester City last time out and will serve a one-game suspension in the first leg in London. Lucas Moura is set to come in with Harry Kane injured too. Harry Winks and Mohammed Sissoko are also doubts for Spurs, who could elect to change formation against the Dutch due to their lack of options in attack.
Ajax have a slightly injury worry over Mazraoui, but the young defender should be fit to start. If he does then it is likely the Dutch will name an unchanged team to that which beat Juventus in Turin in the last round and holders Real Madrid in the Bernebeu in the round before that.
Prediction and Tips
This is a tough one to predict. Ajax’s best performances in the knockout phase have come on the road and in the second leg of ties against big European names. This time, the Dutch play the away leg first and they also play a team like Spurs, who unlike Juventus or Real Madrid, are entirely adapatable and can play strongly in a number of different formations. If Spurs had Son and Kane fit, I’d back them to win the first leg, but I feel without them, they lack the firepower so I can see this opening match being a draw, most likely by a 1-1 scoreline.
The second leg in Amsterdam though will see Son return to the team and I think that will make a big difference to Spurs as his pace and directness will be a huge threat on the counter against this young Ajax side. So much so that I feel Spurs chances of winning are better in Amsterdam than they are in London. As such, I am going for Spurs to narrowly win this away leg to claim a spot in the final.
Tip – Tottenham to qualify – 19/20 at bet365.
Barcelona v Liverpool
- 1st Leg – Wed 1st May – Nou Camp, Barcelona, 8pm
- 2nd Leg – Tue 7th May – Anfield, Liverpool, 8pm
Barcelona’s only absentee for this leg is young midfielder Monchu who is suspended for this game but he would have been unlikely to start the game. The Catalan’s will feature two ex-Liverpool stars in this game in Suarez and Coutinho, who will be joined in attack by the genius that is Lionel Messi. Arthur and Busquets will anchor the midfield with Rakitic their main creative impetus there with Pique marshalling what is an improved, but still generally susceptible, defensive line.
Liverpool don’t have any suspensions, but there are some injury worries over Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana for this game. Firmino is likely to be fit, as is Fabinho but it is touch and go for Lallana. If he is fit, then expect Jurgen Klopp to restore Firmino into the attack and then to revert to his most trusted midfield trio of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner for the away leg at least meaning Keita and Fabinho may have to settle for places on the bench.
Prediction and Tips
It seems amazing to think that Barcelona have never beaten Liverpool in a competitive game at the Nou Camp and the Reds were the last team to defeat a Barcelona side with Lionel Messi in it at the Nou Camp in the Champions League (back in 2007). While Barcelona’s attack is superb and will test the Reds defence, I don’t think this will be Liverpool’s biggest test of the season and I fancy the Reds strikers to get at a suspect Barcelona defence to take a score draw back to Anfield for the second leg.
If Liverpool are still very much in this contest for the second leg, then Anfield will be set for one of its truly great nights. Contrastingly, Barcelona have a good record at Anfied (winning twice) and I can see them being really dangerous on the counter attack. I am expecting a dramatic night and it could even go to penalties, but I do think home advantage in this second leg will be key and I am backing Liverpool to make it through, just.
Tip – Liverpool to Qualify – 21/20
Europa League Semi Finals
Arsenal v Valencia
- 1st Leg – Thu 2nd May – Emirates Stadium, London, 8pm
- 2nd Leg – Thu 9th May – Mestalla, Valencia, 8pm
Arsenal will likely give Petr Cech a start in the tournament as he has played most of the games in this competition this season. Maitland-Niles will continue at right back despite a forthcoming domestic ban for his red-card against Leicester at the weekend. I am expecting the Gunners to go with a 5-3-2, 3-5-2 formation for this one, pairing Lacazette and Aubameyang in attack, with either Ozil or Mkhitaryan in a supporting role and the two wide players, Maitland Niles and Kolasinac providing the width.
Valencia will be without ex-Arsenal man Francois Coquelin for this game as the Frenchman is serving a one-game suspension, but the rest of the team should be very similar to that which earned the win over Villarreal to progress. Santi Mina in attack and Goncalo Guedes out wide are likely to be the main threat to Arsenal, with the Portuguese winger in particularly good goalscoring form at the present moment in time.
Prediction and Tips
I think both legs of this game will be similar in that I see them being tight affairs in which one goal here or there could well be decisive and in truth, it would not surprise me if penalties were needed after the two legs to decide the winner. I feel at home, Arsenal just shade it, especially with Coquelin missing from the Valencia midfield, but the Spaniards are strong defensively so I can only see Arsenal managing a narrow win on home soil.
In Spain, I expect a similar game but with the reverse result, so I am expecting Valencia to use their home advantage in the second leg to earn a one-goal victory over Arsenal. Of course, the margins are such that if Valencia get an away goal in the first leg, then a 1-0 home win would be enough to go through. This will be a very close game but my gut feeling is that Valencia may just prove to be the better of the two teams but it should be a very close contest.
Tip – Valencia to qualify – Evens
Eintracht Frankfurt v Chelsea
- 1st Leg – Thu 2nd May – Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt, 8pm
- 2nd Leg – Thu 9th May – Stamford Bridge, London, 8pm
Eintracht Frankfurt welcome back defender Ndicka from suspension in their second leg victory over Benfica, but they have been hit with a blow in that flying winger Ante Rebic, a star for Croatia in the World Cup last summer, will miss out due to suspension. That could mean either Paciencia or Haller (if fit) get the nod in attack alongside top scorer Luka Jovic.
Chelsea boss Mauricio Sarri may elect to swap a few players around for the semifinal once again. Olivier Giroud could well come in for Gonzalo Higuain. If Rudiger is not fit, then Christensen could deputise, but the German looks likely to start. Kovacic could hold on to his place in midfield for this away leg, with Barkley and Loftus-Cheek more likely to start on the bench as Chelsea go with a more defensive-minded midfield set up on the road.
Prediction and Tips
These two teams have scored 28 and 30 goals in this tournament so far this season to be the top scorers in the Europa League, but I feel this is a semifinal which will not see a huge amount of goals in either leg. Frankfurt have home advantage but I feel Chelsea have the experience required to nullify the German side threat and earn a draw to take back to London.
In that second leg, I’d expect home advantage to be crucial for Chelsea against a Frankfurt side who showed against Inter, Shakhtar and Benfica that they can score on the road even in defeat. I can see the German’s scoring but I feel Hazard and co will do enough to earn the win to put Chelsea into the final once again.
Tip – Chelsea to qualify – 4/9 at bet365