England vs. Spain: Champions League reaches semifinals

It’s England vs. Spain in the Champions League semifinals.

English teams Manchester City and Liverpool are up against Spanish teams Real Madrid and Villarreal, respectively, in Europe’s top competition.

Here’s a look at first legs taking place this week:



Madrid is trying to return to the final for the first time in four seasons and City is looking to reach its second consecutive final and continue its quest for a first Champions League trophy. A record 13-time champion, Madrid is coming off thrilling series against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 and defending champion Chelsea in the quarterfinals. Man City is going from one Madrid team to another after knocking out Atlético Madrid in two hard-fought matches in the quarterfinals. The second leg took its toll, especially on the defense, as Kyle Walker injured his ankle and still hasn’t returned, while João Cancelo picked up another yellow card and is suspended. With John Stones nursing a hamstring problem, City manager Pep Guardiola will be without a specialist right back for Tuesday’s home game. It’s a big concern given that Madrid’s dangerman Vinícius Júnior plays on the left and will likely be up against an out-of-position defender. It’s still unknown if Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will be able to count on midfielder Casemiro and defender David Alaba because of muscle injuries. Both players will travel to England.



Juventus. Bayern Munich. Could Liverpool be next on the list of big-name casualties dumped out of the competition by modest Spanish team Villarreal on its thrilling run in the Champions League knockout stage? Liverpool will likely be the biggest test so far, with the English club having only lost one game in all competitions since Dec. 28 — that being the second leg of the last 16 against Inter Milan at Anfield. However, Villarreal coach Unai Emery is proving to be a brilliant strategist in European competitions. He led Sevilla to three Europa League titles and then Villarreal to the same title last year. Now Emery has got Villarreal, which is languishing in seventh place in the Spanish league, to the Champions League semifinals for the first time since the 2005-06 season, where it lost to English opposition in Arsenal. Liverpool has much more pedigree in the competition and is looking to win it for a seventh time, which would match the total of AC Milan. Only Real Madrid has won more European Cups, with 13. Liverpool will come up against a number of players who failed to make it big in the Premier League but are integral to the Villarreal team, in the likes of Juan Foyth, Etienne Capoue, Giovani Lo Celso and Arnaut Danjuma. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no major injury concerns, while Emery should also have his team at full strength.


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