This week sees the culmination of almost nine months of action as the second leg of the semi finals in the Champions League and the Europa League are played out.
There is a certain similarity between both competitions, with one team holding a convincing 3-0 win from the first leg on home soil, and the other leg being a much closer and more difficult to call affair.
We previewed the first leg of the Champions League semi finals last week, but this week we are looking at the Europa League second legs too, given that it seems likely that two of the four finalist across both competitions have likely been decided.
So without any further ado, let’s preview all four games, giving you what we believe to be some of our best tips for each of the clashes, with the odds provided, as always, courtesy of Bet365 Sport. Have you not yet tried Bet365? Sign up to claim to claim your free Bet365 Sports welcome bets.
Champions League Semi Finals 2nd Legs
Bayern Munich v Barcelona (0-3)
The first leg of this game seemed to be heading towards a somewhat fortuitous 0-0 draw in Bayern Munich’s case, until Lionel Messi intervened and in the space of 15 astounding minutes, turned the tie on its head, scoring two sublime goals and creating a third for Neymar to put the home side 3-0 up in the first leg.
It was a hammer blow to Bayern who recovered well after a rocky start to seemingly nullify Barcelona’s fearsome attacking trio of Suarez, Messi and Neymar, so to lose three goals in a game of such importance, in such a short space of time, was a big disappointment to Pep Guardiola’s team.
However, at the Allianz Arena, Bayern have been dominant in Europe and can point to a recent 4-0 win over Barcelona there back in 2013. Thomas Muller insists that the team have not given up hope of a miracle win and it must be remembered in the last round, they clawed back a 3-1 deficit to FC Porto, to emerge with a stunning 6-1 victory in the home leg.
As good a team as FC Porto are however, they are no Barcelona and if Bayern were to go to all out attack in the hope of getting back into the tie, Barcelona have the creative genius of Messi, Neymar, Iniesta and Suarez, in order to pick the German side off on the counter attack.
So while it looks likely Barcelona will progress, the first goal on the night will be crucial. A Bayern strike could give the German side hope, especially if they can keep Barcelona’s attack quiet.
As for my top tip this week, given that this game could really be any score, for any team, I think the only safe thing to say is that there will likely be plenty of goals. Having been denied in the first leg, I think the best bet is to back Luis Suarez to grab a goal at any time on the night at 15/8.
Real Madrid v Juventus (1-2)
Of the two Champions League ties, this is certainly the one poised most on a knife-edge. Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the first leg means that a 1-0 win for Real against Juventus will put them through. Juve, on the other hand know that any result better than a draw, or even a loss of 2-3, would be enough to put them through.
However, Juventus are not a team that tend to score bags of goals especially against top ranked opposition. They, like Real Madrid, came through the quarter final with a 1-0 aggregate win and their progress in the competition this year has been based on defensive stability and experience.
Real, on the other hand, are a difficult attacking threat to keep quiet, especially at home. But if any team is equipped to do this in Europe, perhaps Juventus are the team that could pull off this feat.
That’s not saying it will be easy for Maximiliano Allegri’s men. With Real expecting to welcome back Toni Kroos from injury and Karim Benzema, who they sorely missed in the first leg, the home side should be back to full strength in attack.
Juventus though will feel the benefit of a fit again Paul Pogba, who could add some energy to their midfield. The question is how fit is he for such a crucial game. There are fewer question marks surrounding Real’s key players.
As such, it is hard to rule them out here and my gut feeling is that Real will take the win either 1-0 or 2-0 on the night, though I would not be too surprised if it finishes 2-1 and the game is forced into extra time.
That said, regardless of which of the outcomes above plays out, I’d still fancy Real to progress to the final.
As for a bet, I’d be looking at backing the out of sorts Gareth Bale to score at any time in the game at 6/4. The Welshman needs a boost to his confidence and a goal in this crucial game would certainly do him the power of good. He is also due a goal and at 6/4 against a paceless Juventus defence and with Benzema back as the focal point in attack, I think Bale looks a great pick here.
Europa League Semi Finals 2nd Legs
Dnipro v Napoli (1-1)
Not many people outside Russia gave Dnipro a chance in the first leg of this game, but despite going a goal down to Napoli, the Russian side dug in and scored an equaliser through Seleznyov in the 80th minute.
That result was simply the latest in a long line of surprise results which has seen Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk progress into the semi finals of the Europa League. The Russian side isn’t packed with star names, but one man UK fans may recognise is Yevgen Konoplyanka, the talented winger who has been linked with both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in past recent transfer windows.
The draw for Napoli was not the ideal result for Rafa Benitez men and they now face a trip to Russia knowing that they must at least score in 90 minutes in order to push the tie into extra time at the very least.
The good news for Napoli is that in players like Callejon, Insigne, Hamsik and Higuain, they have the players who are perfectly capable of doing so.
Napoli ate 10/11 to win the game on Wednesday, but I think that is a very short price for a team that isn’t in the best of form. I can see this one going all the way to extra time and penalties, hence I am taking the 5/2 available with Bet365 on the draw inside 90 minutes.
Fiorentina v Sevilla (0-3)
Sevilla look set to make their second consecutive Europa League final after a first leg demolition of Fiorentina put them almost out of sight before a ball has been kicked in the second leg.
The Spanish side were ruthless in putting their Italian opponents to the sword and manager Vincenzo Montella will not be underestimating the size of the task that awaits his team on Thursday night.
The Florence-based team are certainly better than their 3-0 defeat showed, and they enjoyed considerably more of the ball in the first leg, it was just that their Spanish counterparts were much more deadly when they had the ball.
Can the likes of Nuno Gomez, Joaquin and Mohammed Salah (on loan from Chelsea) do enough to claw back the deficit in the second leg? I certainly think they will find the net, but my worry is that in doing so, they will leave themselves open to Sevilla on the counter attack.
The Spanish side certainly seem to have the answers in the Europa League and as defending winners, I expect them to go through here relatively smoothly. I’m backing the 12/5 on a draw in this game too, with Sevilla progressing to the final as a result.