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UEFA Champions League: Madrid Derby, Monaco-Juventus Face Off In Semis
(Image Courtesy: Champions League/Twitter)
Nyon: Football's biggest and most glamorous club tournament has reached its business end and the semi-final line-up for this year's UEFA Champions League is a mouth-watering one.
In a re-match of last year's final, defending champions Real Madrid will take on city-rivals Atletico Madrid in the first semi-final with Real playing the first-leg at home. The second semi-final will see French side Monaco take on Italian champions Juventus with the French side playing at home in the first leg.
Real Madrid beat Bayern Munich, in a controversial second-leg result at home, to reach the last four, while Atletico Madrid got the better of reigning English champions Leicester City in the quarter-finals.
Real Madrid beat Atletico in the final in 2014 and again in 2016 but playing the second leg away could favour their bitter rivals.
Emilio Butragueño, former Real Madrid forward and the club's current Director of Institutional Relations said: "We know each other well. It's the fourth season in a row we're facing them in Europe and they're a tough opponent.
"In theory it's better to play the return leg at home but that all depends on the result of the first leg.
"When we played against Bayern it seemed that having the second leg at home was an inconvenience but we got through," he added.
Monaco thumped Borussia Dortmund both away and at home although there was a lot of criticism of UEFA for conducting the first leg of the match just a day after Dortmund's team bus was attacked with bomb explosions, which led to defender Marc Bartra getting injured.
Although, nothing can be taken away from the Monaco team as their performance throughout the competition as well as in the French League has been exceptional.
"Monaco ! Strong team with many talented players and an impressive run this season. We have to be careful, but the goal is clear," Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira said on Twitter.
Monaco, who were knocked out by two-time champions Juve in the 1997-98 Champions League semi-finals and in the quarter-finals two years ago, have never won the competition but reached the final in 2004.
"This Monaco team have no limits. They are young and fearless," said Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasiliyev.
"They (Juventus) have re-inforced their squad in the last two years, but so have we," added Vasiliyev.
Real and Juventus are still undefeated in the competition.
The UEFA Europa League semi-final draw also resulted in a couple of high octane clashes. The first semi-final will see Dutch giants take on French side Lyon, who are aiming to become the first French club to win Europe's second tier tournament. Ajax will play the first leg at home in the Amsterdam Arena.
Favourites Manchester United, who scraped past Belgium's Anderlecht in the quarters has perhaps got the best deal, they will take on Spanish surprise package Celta Vigo in the second semi-final. Celta Vigo will play the first leg at home.
(With agency inputs)
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