Liverpool are back in the Champions League semifinals for the first time since their 2008 exit at the hands of Chelsea. It was Liverpool’s 3rd semifinal in 4 years, and impossible to predict the precipitous fall from grace for the Reds. Ten barren years later, there’s little chance that supporters will take this trip to the semifinals for granted.
Barcelona’s exit (unlucky) deprived us of a semifinal composed of 4 of the top 5 winningest teams in Europe’s top competition, but 3 out of 5 ain’t bad. Still, 22 European Cups between the 4 sides is nothing to sniff at! It’s the first time since 1981 that a team from each of the four big leagues—England, Germany, Italy, and Spain—have made the semifinals; a year in which Liverpool beat Bayern Munich in the semis, and Real Madrid in the final to lift the European Cup. That sounds nice, let’s do that again.
Now, let’s take a brief look at the clubs, and how they got here.
| 12-Time Winners|
La Liga | 4th Place
UEFA Coefficient | 1st Place (156 points)
SPI Rating | 2nd Place (92.5)
It has been a strange season for Los Blancos, at least by their lofty standards. They are 15 points back from run-away league leaders Barcelona, and also trailing Atletico Madrid and Valencia. However, their second-best goal differential (+43) is a clear indication of their quality. And of course, any club with Cristiano Ronaldo—especially considering his great second half of the season form—is going to be a threat.
Their Champions League efforts also started off sub-par, finishing second in their group to Tottenham Hotspur (albeit, with more points than Liverpool finished with in our group). However, they started the knock-out rounds with two stunning home and away victories over tournament favorites Paris Saint-Germain, and followed that up with a 3-0 win away to Juventus. Real survived a scare on the return leg, allowing Juve to claw their way back to level terms before winning the match with a late penalty (tinfoil hat enthusiasts, rejoice).
| 5-Time Winners|
Bundesliga | 1st Place
UEFA Coefficient | 2nd Place (134 points)
SPI Rating | 1st Place (93.1)
It has not been a strange season for Die Roten. The Bavarian Reds are leading second-place Schalke by 20 points. Ho-hum, another Bundesliga title for Bayern. Admit it, you really miss being pushed by Klopp’s Dortmund, don’t you?
Anyway, after missing out on the Champions League semis last year for the first time since 2010-11, Bayern are back. Like Real Madrid, Bayern also finished second in their group, and also with more points than Liverpool, losing just once, 3-0 to PSG, but beating them 3-1 on the return leg. In the knock-outs, Bayern made easy work of Turkish side Beşiktaş, winning 8-1 on aggregate, and less easy work of Sevilla (hey, we’ve all been there), winning 2-1 on the road in the first leg, and seeing out a tight 0-0 draw at home.
| 1-Time Runner-Up|
Serie A | 4th Place
UEFA Coefficient | 21st Place (62 points)
SPI Rating | 12th Place (80.2)
Roma are in a tight battle for 4th, with Lazio above them on goal differential, and Inter Milan trailing by just one point. Of the four teams in the semifinals, their Champions League qualification hopes are the most precarious. Though, winning the whole fucking thing would be a good way to guarantee qualification for next year’s tournament.
This is Roma’s best Champions League run since losing the 1984 final on home soil to a certain Red-clad team from Merseyside. They might not have a European Cup to their name, but their run thus far has been impressive. They finished first in their group, above Chelsea, and then overturned a 2-1 deficit against Shakhtar Donetsk, winning 1-0 at home to go through on away goals in the Round of 16. Not content to go through on away goals once, they managed to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in the quarterfinals, winning 3-0 at home and sending shockwaves throughout Europe.