When the Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals were drawn, most assumed pairing Bayern Munich with Villarreal and Liverpool with Benfica was certain to set up a headlining Bayern versus Liverpool semi-final.
At least one half of that pairing of two of Europe’s most storied sides won’t come to pass after Villarreal upset the Bavarian giants, following up a 1-0 first leg home victory with a 1-1 draw in Munich that sees the La Liga side through.
The result is especially shocking given the Valencian club currently sit seventh in Spain, a full 11 points behind Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League qualification position. Bayern, meanwhile, are nine points clear in Germany.
The result means that should Liverpool, set to play at Anfield on Wednesday evening against Benfica, manage to not throw away their two-goal advantage after a 3-1 first leg victory, they will go into the semis as heavy favourites.
Bayern, though, were equally heavy favourites to what Liverpool will be if they get past Benfica. And Liverpool’s history against Villarreal and Spanish competition generally under Jürgen Klopp has perhaps been a weak point.
There’s also the small matter of Benfica, underdogs with nothing to lose and everything to gain, who could write their names into the history books of the Champions League with a comeback against Liverpool under the Anfield lights.
Meanwhile on the other side of the bracket, Real Madrid advanced past Chelsea 5-4 on aggregate while City are preparing for their second leg against Atletico Madrid away to the Spanish club with a slender 1-0 advantage.
Whatever the final pairings, the semis of the 2022 Champions League will have their first legs on April 26th and 27th before the second legs are played May 3rd and 4th. The final at the Stade de France in Paris is set for May 28th.