And then there were Four…The Return is on…

And then there were four.  And what a four it is.  I have to say that I personally cannot remember a semi-final round that was this loaded with talent and this difficult to call before the draw was even made.  I honestly believe any of these four teams could win Europe’s biggest prize. The draw was this morning and I might need to call in sick in the coming weeks.  While it is the semifinals and both look to be really tasty semifinals, the headline has to be Bayern Munich vs Barcelona. Pep Guardiola will make his return to the Camp Nou and try to deny the team that he won this competition with as a player, and manager, a chance to win it again.  I cannot wait to see this one play out in the coming weeks.  The other semifinal is Juventus and Real Madrid.  This should be an interesting matchup with Real’s speed against the defensive shape of Juventus.

The only place to start with a recap is Munich, where Bayern answered all of their critics and reminded the world why they were everyone’s favorite to win the trophy.  They absolutely battered Porto.  At halftime it was 5-0.   Each team traded goals in the second half.  Bayern advanced winning 7-4 on aggregate.  Barcelona also made it to the final four with an easy 2-0 win with a brace from Neymar.  Check out their first goal, as that was a world class run from San Andres!  Juventus and Monaco played to a 0-0 draw, so Juventus advanced to the semis.  In the last quarterfinal match, the two Madrid clubs battled for the last spot.  The hero of the match was an unlikely Javier Hernandez, who finished off a nice move to give Los Blancos the win.  Ronaldo made a fantastic run and really set up the finish for Hernandez.  What a final four teams we have left.  Two teams that have already won their league titles, and the big two in Spain that will battle to the end for their title.

Europa League Recap

The holders Sevilla needed another late goal to secure their place in the semifinals.  They scored early on a 6th minute penalty from Bacca.  This put them up 3-1 and level on road goals.  Zenit then scored two goals in the second half.  The tie was poised for extra time until Gameiro scored in the 85th minute to send the holders to the semifinals.  Their opponent in the semis will be Fiorentina after they defeated Dynamo Kyiv 2-0.  The other semifinal sees Napoli face Dnipro.  Napoli drew their second leg 2-2 but easily advanced 6-3 on aggregate.  Dnipro scored the only goal of the two legged tie as Shakhov scored in the 82nd minute.  With a spot in next year’s Champions League on the line, will it be a repeat for Sevilla?

Weekend Preview

This weekend in Spain is headlined by the Catalan Derby.  Espanyol will host Barcelona in what is sure to be a closer game than it should be on paper.  The local rivals will play on Saturday with a lot of points on the line.  Real Madrid will travel to Celta Vigo on Sunday.  They will be hoping that they can take top spot in the table if they can get the win.  After the midweek results, it will be interesting to see how Atleti push on in their bid to hold onto 3rd place.  Valencia and Sevilla are hot on their heels.  Atleti host Elche on Saturday.  Sevilla can jump into the top 4 momentarily when they host Rayo on Sunday.  Valencia are the last team to play when they host Granada on Monday.

At the top end of the German table, Monchengladbach will host Wolfsburg in the match of the round.  There is a battle going on in the table for the third spot in the table right now.  If you land the third spot, then you start in the group stage and do not have to play those early season qualifiers for the Champions League.  Right now Bayer and Monchengladbach are locked at 54 points.  Bayer has to travel to Koln.  Bayern Munich can win the league this weekend if they win and Wolfsburg drop points.  A win for Munich will all but guarantee them the title since they are just 4 points from a lock.  Wolfsburg is already guaranteed Champions league football and 4 points is all that is needed for Bayer and Monchengladbach to clinch their spots. This weekend in Italy, Juventus can clinch a Champions League spot with a win this weekend.  They travel to Torino.  They are currently in need of 7 points to win the league, so they could be clinching in the next couple weeks.  Lazio and Roma are sitting 5 points clear, but there is still a lot of football to play.  Roma travel to the San Siro to face Inter Milan.  Lazio host Chievo.  Napoli are right on their tails and they have a home game against Lazio on the last day of the season,  Sampdoria and Fiorentina are right behind them but have fallen off the pace a little bit.

In England, there are only 5 more matchday weekends left in the season.  A couple of the big teams have 6 games left, mainly Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool.  But for the rest of the teams only 15 points are available the rest of the way.  The good news for Chelsea is they will play in the Champions League next year.  However, they are just 8 points from the title and could be even closer this weekend as they face their closest rivals, Arsenal.  A win for Chelsea and they will be one week away from clinching the title.  Only one more week till Buzz and Sasha can bust out the champagne.  An Arsenal win means that the teams will just be separated by 7 points and that Buzz and Sasha will have to wait an extra week to celebrate.  PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT HOW THIS IS STILL A TITLE RACE!  Manchester City do find themselves with a little more breathing room, but they might play the most in-form team in the country when they face Aston Villa.  Liverpool will likely bounce back with a trip to West Brom.  The battle for 6th and 7th is on as Tottenham travels to Southampton.  United travels to Everton, as they look to secure their place in the Champions League for next year.

In France, the title race is still very much on as PSG and Lyon will most likely battle it out to the very end.  The Paris club has a game in hand, as they have 6 remaining games while Lyon only has 5.  PSG can take the top spot with their match on Saturday as they host Lille.  Lyon travel to Stade Reims on Sunday.  Next Tuesday, is PSG’s game in hand when they host Metz.  The race for the third and final Champions League spot is really heating up as St. Etienne has jumped back into the race.  They sit level on points with Marseille and are two points behind Monaco who is in third.  Marseille play first with their game tonight.  St. Etienne host Montpellier on Sunday as Monaco travels to Lens.

EPL Pick ‘Em

The score is now 221-212 as we both earned just 3 points last week.  With just 5 remaining weekends, the points are going to be hard to come by for me.

My Picks: Saints 1-0, Stoke 0-0, Burnley 2-1, Palace 3-1, Swans 2-1, Pool 2-1, West Ham 3-1, City 1-1, United 2-1, Chelsea 1-0

Buzz’s Picks: Saints 1-1, Newcastle 2-1, Palace 2-0, QPR 2-2, Pool 2-0, Burnley 2-2, Stoke 1-0, City 3-1, Chelsea 2-2, Man United 2-1

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