Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich last year in the Champions League semifinals. (Getty)
The 2018 Champions League semifinal draw is complete, and at long last, after dozens of qualifiers and 120 matches in the competition proper, the final stage of the road to Kiev has crystalized.
The draw took place Friday afternoon at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, and offered up two intriguing matchups: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid, and Liverpool vs. Roma.
The headliner, of course, is Munich vs. Madrid, a rematch of a wild quarterfinal tie from a year ago which the Spanish giants won amid second-leg controversy. But beyond last year’s showdown, Bayern-Real is the most-played fixture in Champions League history. And it rarely disappoints. Their two semifinal matches will be their 25th and 26th in the competition.
Liverpool, meanwhile, is the big winner of the draw. The Reds would have been underdogs again against either Madrid or Munich. Instead, they’ll be favored over star winger Mohamed Salah’s former club.
Liverpool will host the semifinal curtain-raiser on Tuesday, April 24 at Anfield, with the return leg Wednesday, May 2 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Bayern Munich will get its first leg at home at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, April 25, with Real Madrid hosting the decider at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, May 1.
All four semifinal matches will kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET.
Real Madrid is here, in the Champions League semifinals, for the eighth consecutive year, and is the favorite even after a shocking quarterfinal scare. The winningest club in the history of the competition led Juventus 3-0 heading back home, but coughed up the lead. It needed a controversial late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to sneak through in dramatic fashion.
Bayern Munich has cruised to the semifinals, and crept up as second-favorite after holding off Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate. The Bavarians, in a weird way, still don’t know themselves just how good they are. They’ve waltzed through a Bundesliga filled with mediocrity. They’ve already locked up the domestic title. But they haven’t been challenged by teams anywhere near the level of Real Madrid. When they were, they split two group stage meetings with PSG.
Liverpool is the ascendant challenger of the four. It rattled Man City in leg one, then dispatched the soon-to-be Premier League champions in leg two. It is equipped to compete with the best of the best, and has every chance to claim the European crown – especially after the draw, and especially with the first leg at Anfield.
The clear underdog among the four is Roma. But the Italian side has been underestimated throughout the competition. It was pegged third in its group, behind Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but instead won it. It was doubted against pesky Shakhtar Donetsk, but pulled through on away goals. And of course, it was forgotten after a 4-1 first-leg defeat at Barcelona in the quarterfinals. But it stunned all of Europe with a three-goal comeback to advance on away goals.
All four will be in with a shout. Any semifinalist would be. But Liverpool, based on the draw, is probably the most likely of the four to advance to the final.
That final, contested by the semifinal winners, will be held in Kiev on Saturday, May 26.
In the Europa League semifinals, decided earlier Friday, Arsenal will play Atletico Madrid; Marseille will play Red Bull Salzburg.
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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.
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