The quarterfinal ties for the both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions were played the first week of April, and have made for some intriguing matches coming up in the semifinals. Can FC Barcelona successfully defend their Champions League title? If they do, what Iberian side will join them as title winners, and take the Europa League?
While the most press, and most money, goes to the Champions League, the Europa offers great competition as well, and fans who neglect it because of perception that it's somehow less miss the chance to enjoy great action. Here's a look at both, with emphasis on upcoming semifinals.
FC Barcelona is the heavy favorite to repeat, and for good reason. Their next challenge will be a date with English Premier League side Chelsea April 18. Chelsea are in a battle to be included in next season's Champions League run, and lost ground in that effort when Clint Dempsey hit a late equalizer to earn Fulham a draw April 9. If Chelsea play the same against Barcelona, the defending champions will advance easily.
The day before Chelsea plays FC Barcelona, Bayern takes on Real Madrid in Munich for the first leg of their meetings. The second legs will be played April 24 and 25. Can Bayern conquer Real Madrid, and play for the silverware on home soil? The final will be played May 19 in Munich.
This one will come down to four teams from the same region, with three of them being from Spain. The lone exception is Sporting CP, from neighboring Portugal. The Spanish dominance means that at least one finalist is guaranteed to be from Spain, and there's a good likelihood both the Champions and Europa League wins will go to a Spanish side.
For the semis, Atletico will play Valencia and Sporting will play Athletic on April 19. The second leg will take place April 26, with the final being played May 9 in Bucharest, Romania.
MLS fans in the United States will get the chance to see Valencia play this summer. They will be playing the Portland Timbers May 23, then take on the Houston Dynamo May 31. I live in the Portland area, and will be excited to see the Rose City side get to play a storied club like Valencia.
Jeff Musall is a lifelong fan of international soccer and his hometown Portland Timbers. He is looking forward to great play in the Champions and Europa League play, and great soccer everywhere.
- UEFA Champions League
- FC Barcelona
- Europa League