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

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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

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.