Real Madrid CF v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

Did Chelsea get it easy vs. Atletico? Bayern Munich or Real Madrid to win?


Following the UEFA Champions League semifinal draw on Friday, many of Chelsea’s fans are rejoicing after they were handed Atletico Madrid.

Hold your horses their guys, will facing Atletico by an easy proposition?

Many would suggest otherwise, as the dark horse for the UCL crown knocked off Barcelona in the last round. However with European giants Real Madrid and Bayern Munich squaring up in the other semi, you can forgive Chelsea’s fan for thinking a match against Atleti is the easier of three very difficult opponents.

(MORE: UEFA Champions League semifinal draw – European giants clash in final four)

Superstars will collide to reach the UCL final in Lisbon, as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben, Gareth Bale and Fracnk Ribery will do battle when Bayern face Real. Stop drooling.

Without further adieu, let’s have a quick gander at both semifinals matchups and see how things could shake up.

source:  source:  Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea

Many are suggesting Jose Mourinho is licking his lips in anticipation of Chelsea facing Atletico Madrid… I’m not so sure. Yes, Atleti last reached the final four of the European cup 40 years ago but Diego Simeone’s side are well-drilled, lethal on the counter and are improving all the time. Like Chelsea, they prefer to defend and then hit times with lethal counter-attacks and press high up the pitch. These games will not be one for the purists but the pace will be relentless, and just one small mistake of a moment of sheer brilliance will decide who’ll reach the final in Lisbon on May 24.

If Diego Costa returns to fitness in time, John Terry and Gary Cahill will have their hands full marking him, then there’s the whole Thibaut Courtois conundrum as Chelsea’s ‘keeper is on-loan at Atletico and could play against them. Subplots will rumble along, as Mourinho returns to the Spanish capital to face the fierce rivals of his old team Real Madrid. As for the Blues, the determination and togetherness they showed to fight back and overturn a two-goal deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinal was impressive. I was at Stamford Bridge in the second leg and the noise levels and support from the home fans really spurred the Blues on. Chelsea are favorites but the La Liga leaders mustn’t be underestimate.

First leg: April 22, 2:45 p.m. ET, Vicente Calderon stadium, Madrid
Second leg: April 30, 2:45 p.m. ET, Stamford Bridge stadium, London

source:  source:  Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

They meet again. In the second leg of the 2012 semifinal, Real lost to Bayern on penalty kicks as the German side made up for their heartbreak at the Santiago Bernabeu 12 months earlier, when they lost the UCL final to Inter Milan in the same stadium. After beating Real in their last semi final match up, the Bundelisga champions went on to lose the final to Chelsea on PKs in their own stadium.

Now they are the reigning European champs, Real are the team with the most European cups in history and a glitzy showpiece semifinal will take place in both Madrid and Munich on April 23 and 29. Cristiano Ronaldo is rushing to be fit for the first leg but should be okay, as the Galacticos almost came unstuck against Bourssia Dortmund on Tuesday. Leading 3-0 from the first leg, Carlo Ancelotti’s side capitulated under pressure in Dortmund and trailed 2-0 early on. Somehow that is how the game finished, as Real backed into the semis tentatively. Now they are there, the quality of their squad means they must be one of the favorites to win the crown.

Bayern’s style and panache has blossomed under Pep Guardiola this season, and many soccer purists would’ve love to have seen this game be the final. Real and Bayern both possess the best attackers in the game, as Ronaldo, Ribery, Bale and Robben will do battle to seal a place in Lisbon. Expect this to be a shootout and whichever team defends best will likely go through. Bayern have an advantage with the second leg being away from home but as we saw against Manchester United they are hugely susceptible to pace and directness in the final third. That will be music to Real’s ears.

First leg: April 23, 2:45 p.m. ET, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Second leg: April 29, 2:45 p.m. ET, Allianz Arena, Munich

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.