For Sevilla, a Europa League semi-final is becoming familiar ground, for a club who have thrived in the competition in recent years. The Europa league holders overcame a stern test in Russia as they triumphed over Zenit St Petersburg, despite a shaky display from goalkeeper Beto. Kevin Gameiro hammered in the winner to make the score 2-2 and put the Spanish outfit through on aggregate. The Andalusians will face Fiorentina in their semi-final showdown.
In the Champions League, Barcelona looked comfortable against Paris St Germain. The Parisians, who despite conquering Chelsea in the previous round, have struggled to reach the business end of Europe’s premier competition in recent years. Despite the industry of Blaise Matuidi and the firepower of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they were outclassed by a thriving Barcelona team who seem outstanding in every department.
The Catalans have talent in abundance in attack, yet should they win the competition this year, they may well thank defensive enforcer Javier Macherano. Many considered the Argentine the best player from the World Cup earlier this year and his form has continued. He is versatile, disciplined and has kept Sergio Busquets, who has been Barcelona’s first choice in recent years, out of the first team.
The reward for Barcelona is a mouthwatering clash against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, who are of course managed by former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
Whilst the Spanish title race is still in the balance, Pep’s Bayern Munich have swept all before them in the Bundesliga, with only Wolfsburg presenting the faintest challenge to the Bavarians. It will be fascinating from a tactical point of view to examine how Guardiola sets up his side against the club he was so successful at before arriving to the German Champions.
Both teams have a possession-based style, yet have ruthless attacking options meaning a goal fest, or a stalemate of a tie could be on the cards. It may well be a case of who blinks first.
As for Real Madrid, it only took one goal to send them through. Mexican international Javier Hernandez, who has had limited opportunities since he arrived from Manchester United, scored the decisive goal late on in the second leg.
The victory sets up a fascinating tie with Italian giants Juventus, who themselves only needed a goal to overcome Monaco in their quarter final clash. Although Serie A May have taken a European backseat in recent years, Italian clubs have been a much bigger threat this year. While Napoli and Fiorentina have reached the Europa League semi finals, Juventus, who have run riot in this season’s race to the title have reached their first semi final in thirteen years. Although Real Madrid are more accustomed to Champions League semi finals, Italian teams are traditionally organised and could be difficult to break down for Real Madrid.
Ageing defender Giorgio Chiellini is having a superb season at the back whilst Carlos Tevez has added more punch to the Juve frontline. However Juve will not be used to facing teams of Real Madrid’s quality in Serie A and defenders such as Andrea Barzagli could struggle with the pace of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
It is sure to be a clash of continents. Will it be successive Europa League victories for Sevilla? And will we see El Clasico final in the Champions League Final? Big games await and it will be fascinating to see what unfolds.