Champions and Europa League First Legs – Who Comes Out On Top?
It is one of the biggest weeks of the season for teams in European competition as the semi-final first legs in both the Champions League and the Europa League takes place this week, with the second legs of these games scheduled to be played a fortnight later.
Just two of the four teams competing in each tournament will make it through to the finals. The Champions League Final will be played in Kiev on Saturday 26th May, while Lyon’s new Stade de Lyon (also known as the Parc OL) will host the Europa League final ten days earlier on Wednesday 16th May.
Two from Liverpool or Roma and Bayern Munich or Real Madrid will contest the final in the Champions League, while it’s Arsenal or Atletico Madrid against Marseille or Red Bull Salzburg in the final of the Europa League.
Before those huge games though, there is just the small matter of the two-legged semi-finals in each competition. We will preview each of the four big semi-finals in the competitions below as well as bringing you our tips on which team will take an advantage (if any) into the second leg of the game.
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Let’s now bring you all the latest information and tips on the games taking place this week starting with the Champions League clash at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Champions League Semi Finals 1st Leg
Tuesday 24th April (7.45pm)
Liverpool v AS Roma
Liverpool Predicted XI – (4-3-3) – Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Van Dijk, Lovren, Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino, Salah
AS Roma Predicted XI – (4-5-1) – Alisson, Peres, Florenzi, Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas, Strootman, Nainggolan, De Rossi, Perotti, Dzeko
Anfield will be rocking for this semi-final, which is Liverpool’s first in ten years and Roma’s first since 1984, when both these teams contested the final. Liverpool won on penalties that day on Rome’s home pitch and it is fair to say that Roma fans still feel the hurt from that defeat.
Both teams made spectacular work of reaching the semi-finals with Liverpool thumping Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate while Roma went through on away goals for the second round in succession, coming from 4-1 down in the first leg to beat Barcelona 3-0 at home.
Roma’s first task will be try and nullify Liverpool’s free-scoring attack which has netted the highest number of goals in the Champions League this season of any team (33) and if they can do that, then Roma will take a big step towards Kiev.
For the Reds though, if their attacking trio are as hot as the atmosphere at Anfield is likely to be then they will be confident of taking a decent result into the second leg. I fancy Liverpool to win here and take a decent lead with them to Rome, though I do fancy the visitors to get an away goal which could make things very interesting.
Match Result Tip – Liverpool to win and both teams to score – 9/5 with Coral
Correct Score Tip – Liverpool to win 3-1 – 10/1 with Coral
Wednesday 25th April
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid
Bayern Munich Predicted XI – (4-3-3) – Ulreich, Rafinha, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba, Kimmich, Vidal, Tolisso, Muller, Ribery, Lewandowski
Real Madrid Predicted XI – (4-3-3) – Navas, Carvajal, Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Bale, Isco, Ronaldo.
These two teams have met more than any other teams in European competition over the years and it is a testament to their quality that many of these meetings have been at the latter stages of European football’s biggest cup competitions.
Up until a few years ago, Real had never beaten Bayern in Germany but in their past two games in Munich, the Spanish team have earned a superb away victory. They’ll need Cristiano Ronaldo and co to be at their best once again, as they were away to Juventus, to make it three wins in a row here.
That’s because Bayern boast an almost flawless home record in the Bundesliga and Champions League this season and they are a team that has made the semi-finals with little fuss and without being unduly tested. They’ll also want revenge after Real knocked them out of the last two Champions League tournaments.
I think this will be a very close one and while I do fancy Real Madrid to score a goal, I think Bayern will just sneak a lead to take with them into the second leg.
Match Result Tip – Bayern Munich to win and both teams to score – 12/5 with Coral
Correct Score – Bayern Munich to win 2-1 – 15/2 with Coral
Europa League Semi Finals 1st Leg
Thursday 26th April (8.05pm)
Arsenal v Atletico Madrid
Arsenal Predicted XI – (3-4-3) – Cech, Monreal, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Xhaka, Lacazette, Welbeck,
Atletico Madrid Predicted XI – (4-3-3) – Oblak, Vrsaljko, Giminez, Godin, Juanfran, Saul, Koke, Gabi, Griezmann, Correa, Carrasco
Neither of these sides would have wanted this draw and whoever manages to come through this two-legged semi will be the clear favourites to win the Europa League. Arsenal have hit a nice spell of form of late and the announcement of Arsene Wenger leaving at the end of the season could well act as a big incentive to finish the season with some silverware.
In contrast, Atletico’s form of late hasn’t been the best with a draw against Real Madrid and defeats to Real Sociedad and Sporting Lisbon in recent times. They haven’t looked as strong as they did when thrashing Lokomotive Moscow in the Round of 16 and maybe now Arsenal are playing them at the right time.
However, Atletico have a fine record of producing the goods when it is most required and they have arguably the best defence in European football. That and their counter attacking threat makes me worry that Arsenal may not keep a clean sheet and against Atletico’s defence, I can’t see the Gunners without Aubameyang or Mkhitaryan, creating too many clear cut chances.
Match Result Tip – Arsenal v Atletico Madrid – Draw – 21/10 with Coral
Correct Score Tip – Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid – 5/1 with Coral
Marseille v Red Bull Salzburg
Marseille Predicted XI – (4-2-3-1) – Pele, Sarr, Rami, Rolando, Sakai, Lopez, Luis Gustavo, Payet, Thauvin, Ocampos, Mitroglu
Salzburg Predicted XI – (3-4-3) – Walke, Caleta-Car, Ulmer, Lainer, Berisha, Samassekou, Haidara, Onguene, Dabour, Minamino, Hwang.
These two teams have already met in the Europa League this season, drawing 0-0 in Marseille and then Salzburg winning 1-0 in Austria as they were both in the same Europa League group. Those games tell you that these are two well-matched sides and both have been scoring plenty of goals on the run up to the semi-final.
Salzburg came from 4-2 down to oust Lazio 4-1 in the home leg, while Marseille came back from a 2-0 deficit on aggregate to thump Red Bull Leipzig 5-2 on aggregate to claim a spot in this round. Clearly both teams have found the net with a bit more regularity in recent times.
I think the fact that they have played each other previously will make this a cagier game than many are expecting and although I fancy Marseille to win, I think that Salzburg will have a great chance in the home leg to progress as I can’t see Marseille winning by too many goals here.
Match Result Tip – Marseille to win – 8/13 with Coral
Correct Score Tip – Marseille to win 2-1 – 7/1 with Coral