The draw for the UEFA Champions League semifinal was made in Switzerland on Friday, as Premier League side Chelsea managed to dodge two of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Jose Mourinho’s men will face current La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid, as the Blues will fancy their chances of making the final in Lisbon on May 24.
In the other semifinal tie, a mouth-watering clash awaits between two of European soccer’s heavyweights as Real Madrid square off against reigning champions Bayern Munich.
(MORE: UCL – Your semifinals are set; here are the four survivors)
Chelsea will travel to the Vicente Calderon stadium in the first leg on April 22, to face Diego Simeone’s side who knocked out FC Barcelona at the quarterfinal stage. Diega Costa should be fit after being hit by injury, as the West London club know that as long as they defend well in the first leg, that can bring Atleti back to Stamford Bridge on April 30 with everything to play for. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 15 clashes with Spanish sides in the Champions League, winning six and drawing nine, and have never lost to Atletico in the UCL.
Real Madrid host Bayern at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the other semifinal on April 22, as Carlo Ancelotti’s superstar side will come up against the favorites Bayern.What a tie that will be, as Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Gareth Bale and Arjen Robben collide again in the second leg at the Allianz Arena on April 29.
Both semifinal matches will be played later this month, as the first legs will be on April 22/23, with the second legs to be played on April 29/30.
Champions League semifinal draw in full
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.