The Champions League’s final four includes three traditional heavyweights and a team that has never lifted the fable trophy before in AS Roma.
Familiar foes Bayern Munich head to Real Madrid in the first leg looking to avenge last year’s extra-time quarter-finals defeat and send manager Jupp Heynckes off into the sunset – once again – with European’s ultimate prize in tow.
Real, of course, are aiming for an unprecedented hat-trick but showed enough weakness in their last-gasp victory over Juventus to give every other team hope.
Below, our writers pick through the storylines – and attempt to come up with a winner.
Chris Bailey, head of content
It’s difficult to remember a year in which three of the semi-finalists are so closely matched, both in strength and fallibility. Real Madrid are a disaster at the back if they can’t control the game and may be without Sergio Ramos for their first leg against Bayern, who must fancy their chances of an away goal. The Germans could approach the game undercooked after sleepwalking to their sixth Bundesliga success in a row and these semis. Liverpool are a Virgil van Dijk injury away from defensive chaos, no matter how potent their attack. And Roma are the clear outsiders – though that Barcelona win was no fluke.
I’ll take the team that has conceded just eight goals in eight UCL games this season. Bayern, quietly step up to the podium.
Brendon Netto, reporter
Liverpool fans would’ve rejoiced when they drew Roma and I do think that if they get past the Italians, they have the tools to hurt Madrid or Bayern in a one-off game.
But the Romans have more about them than they’re given credit for despite proving their mettle in that remarkable comeback against Barcelona and I fancy them to go through over two legs.
Madrid were hardly convincing in the second leg against Juventus but Cristiano Ronaldo is unstoppable in this competition and I expect him to make the difference.
That may set up a cagey final with Roma who won’t be run over but Madrid’s experience and sheer confidence should see them secure their third Champions League trophy on the bounce (what?!).
Matt Jones, reporter
Liverpool supporters might get mercilessly mocked because they believe next year is always ‘our year’ in terms of grasping an elusive top-flight English league title – but when it comes to continental success, it might just be their time.
The Champions League gods have smiled on the Scousers. Although Roma are not to be taken lightly in the semi-finals, the Reds will rightly fancy their chances. And in a one-off game against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, Liverpool are a match for either.
Whoever emerges from the clash of the Spanish and German giants will still be favourites, but that won’t rattle the Reds who won’t be such massive underdogs as they were in Istanbul 13 years ago.
Alex Broun, reporter
Many would say this is a dream draw for Liverpool – and for that matter Roma – but for Reds fans to be truly confident they would have preferred the second leg at fortress Anfield.
However, Roma have climbed their mountain now and won’t have much left when Mohamed Salah returns to the Italian capital (and it will be interesting to see how the I Giallorossi welcome back the Egyptian King).
You have to feel sorry for Real Madrid who have had a horror draw – PSG, Juve and now Bayern – but I fully expect them to sneak through against the German giants.
Then in the final over 90-minutes, it’s anyone’s game, but Liverpool should just have enough pace, skill (and/or luck) to win their sixth Champions League crown.
Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich will face holders Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.
Real needed a dramatic stoppage-time penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo to see off Juventus after the Italian outfit had come back from 3-0 down in the first leg to level the tie.
In the other semi-final, Liverpool have been drawn against Roma.
The Reds came through an all-Premier League quarter-final against Manchester City, winning the first leg 3-0 at Anfield and the second 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Serie A side Roma produced a remarkable comeback to knock out Barcelona. The Italian team lost the first leg 4-1 in Spain, but progressed on away goals following a 3-0 home victory.
The first legs will be played on April 24/25, with the second legs on May 1/2.
The Champions League quarter-final second legs provided plenty of drama, as Roma produced an astonishing comeback against Barcelona and fellow Serie A side Juventus almost did the same against Real Madrid.
Bayern Munich did enough to see off Sevilla, while Liverpool beat Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium to seal a 5-1 aggregate victory and progress to the final four of the competition.
Here we pick out our Champions League Team of the Week…
GK: David Soria – Sevilla
Had it not been for Soria, Bayern Munich would have won this tie a lot more comfortably. The Sevilla stopper made a total of six saves during the game to keep the score goalless and give the Spaniards hope of launching their own memorable comeback. They were unable to do so, but Soria will have been pleased with his personal contribution in Germany.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
The 19-year-old backed up his coming-of-age display in the 3-0 first-leg victory at Anfield with another assured performance for Jurgen Klopp’s side. With Manchester City trying to overload the left, Alexander-Arnold did superbly well to nullify the threat of Leroy Sane for long periods. The youngster made six interceptions and three tackles in total.
CB: Kostas Manolas – Roma
The hero. Manolas’ performance was assured throughout, as Roma’s defensive unit did superbly well to keep Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi quiet. The defender’s passing was also excellent, finishing the game with a 92-per-cent pass accuracy as he helped Roma build from the back. He left his biggest contribution for eight minutes from time however, popping up with a clever header at the near post to send Roma through on away goals.
CB: Giorgio Chiellini – Juventus
For much of the night it looked as though Chiellini had finally got the better of Cristiano Ronaldo – until the Real Madrid man netted the decisive penalty. The Italian was excellent in keeping the Portugal international at bay, making an impressive eight clearances and three interceptions – both more than more than any other Juventus player – as the Italian side almost pulled off one of the greatest-ever Champions League shocks.
LB: Aleksandar Kolarov – Roma
At 32, Kolarov still has plenty in the tank. Playing as a wing-back, the Serbia international got forward superbly well as Roma chased the three goals, while he also helped out defensively when required. Neither Nelson Semedo nor Sergi Roberto got any joy up against Kolarov, who made three interceptions and six clearances to help Roma record a remarkable victory and progress to the final four.
RM: Sadio Mane – Liverpool
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah may have got the goals, but Mane’s tireless running and commitment to the cause cannot be overlooked. The Senegal international was a menace going forward, completing seven dribbles, while he also made three interceptions as he helped out defensively when called upon. His clever first touch was key to Salah’s crucial away goal.
CM: Daniele De Rossi – Roma
A real captain’s performance from the 34-year-old to inspire Roma to victory. From his fantastic ball over the top of the defence, Dzeko opened the scoring, before De Rossi showed excellent composure from the penalty spot to fire home Roma’s second goal of the night and lift hopes of completing the comeback. The midfielder worked tirelessly to prevent Barcelona’s central midfielders from having time on the ball to pick a forward pass.
CM: Blaise Matuidi – Juventus
A surprise absence in the first leg, you do wonder what might have been for Juventus had Matuidi played in both games. The midfielder was excellent in the Bernabeu, doing a great job defensively and providing a real attacking threat with deep runs from midfield. He was in the right place at the right time to net the goal that drew Juve level on aggregate, and had a pass success rate of 87 per cent.
LM: Mario Mandzukic – Juventus
Another to come into the Juventus side after not starting the first leg, Mandzukic more than justified his inclusion. The Croatia forward took his two goals really well, rising above right-back Dani Carvajal on both occasions to bring the aggregate score back to 3-2. Not only did he contribute going forward, Mandzukic tracked back well to deny Carvajal any joy when Real Madrid looked to get forward.
ST: Roberto Firmino – Liverpool
Such is the Brazilian’s willingness to work hard, Jurgen Klopp switched Firmino with Salah midway through the first half. His high intensity pressing from wide positions prevented Manchester City from finding freedom on the wings, as Liverpool came from behind to win. His effort was rewarded when he capitalised on Nicolas Otamendi’s mistake and finished superbly to put the tie beyond doubt.
ST: Edin Dzeko – Roma
A real centre forward’s performance from the Bosnian. Dzeko won five aerial duels and kept Barcelona’s defenders under pressure at all times. The former Manchester City man started the incredible comeback with a well-taken goal, before winning the penalty that was converted by De Rossi. Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti failed to deal with Dzeko’s presence all evening.