England v Spain: Champions League reaches semi-finals

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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

PA

It’s England versus Spain in the Champions League semi-final.

English teams Manchester City and Liverpool face Spanish sides Real Madrid and Villarreal respectively in Europe’s top competition.

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

TUESDAY:

MANCHESTER CITY v REAL MADRID

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

WEDNESDAY:

LIVERPOOL v VILLARREAL

Juventus. Bayern Munich. Could Liverpool be next on the list of big casualties knocked out of the competition by lowly Spanish side Villarreal in their thrilling run in the Champions League knockout stage? Liverpool will likely be the biggest test yet, with the English club having lost just one game in all competitions since December 28 – that is the second leg of the last 16 against Inter Milan in Anfield. However, Villarreal coach Unai Emery is proving to be a brilliant strategist in European competitions. He led Sevilla to three Europa League titles, then Villarreal to the same title last year. Now Emery has Villarreal, languishing in seventh place in the Spanish league, in the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since the 2005-06 season, where he lost to English opposition at Arsenal. Liverpool have far more pedigree in the competition and are looking to win it for the seventh time, which would match AC Milan’s tally. Only Real Madrid have won more European Cups, with 13. Liverpool will come up against a number of players who failed to break through to the Premier League but are an integral part of the Villarreal squad, such as Juan Foyth, Etienne Capoue, Giovani. Lo Celso and Arnaut Danjuma. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp doesn’t have a major injury problem, while Emery is also expected to have his full squad.

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