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Monday, October 3, 2022

The battle for Champions League last four begins

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The race to who becomes the winner of this season’s Champions League gets intense as Uefa on Friday conducted the draws for the quarter-finals stage.

Defending champions Chelsea have been drawn to face Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals. Their clash with Real Madrid is a repeat of last year’s semi-final, with Chelsea winning 3-1 on aggregate thanks to a 2-0 win at home in the second leg. Real Madrid are yet to beat Chelsea in any of their past meetings.

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side progressed through to the last eight by overcoming Lille, the Blues coming from behind to win by a 4-1 aggregate scoreline.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid only came through their last-16 tie with PSG after dramatically scoring three goals in the final 29 minutes of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Liverpool have the most favourable draw among the three English sides, with Jurgen Klopp’s side facing Benfica, who eliminated Ajax in the last-16. 2020 winners Bayern Munich are paired against Europa League champions Villarreal.

Read Also: Champions League Round 16: Liverpool tackles Inter, Bayern hosts Salzburg 

Champions League

Chelsea will be aiming to defend their title despite turmoil at the Stamford Bridge club, who were put up for sale after the British government placed Russian owner Roman Abramovich under sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tuchel’s team are due to play Real Madrid at home in the first leg on April 5 or 6, before the return at the Santiago Bernabeu a week later.

It was reported that Chelsea may have to play their next Champions League home ties behind closed doors due to EU sanctions on Abramovich that prevent them from selling tickets.

Chelsea are currently unable to sell tickets to their supporters after owner Roman Abramovich’s assets were frozen after he was sanctioned by the UK government.

Season-ticket holders can still attend Premier League games at Stamford Bridge having already paid for their tickets, but not in cup competitions and talks are expected given Chelsea currently look set to play their home quarter-final tie behind closed doors.

Whoever prevails from the showdown will face either Manchester City or Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.

Having eliminated Manchester United in the last 16, Atletico Madrid will return to England for the first leg of their tie against Manchester City, which sees Guardiola pit his wits against Diego Simeone.

Liverpool, the 2019 European champions who are still in contention to win a quadruple this season, will be hotly fancied to get the better of two-time European Cup winners Benfica, with the first leg of that tie to be played in Lisbon.

Benfica are currently just third in the Portuguese league this season but they qualified for the last 16 at the expense of Barcelona and then ousted a much-fancied Ajax side.

The winners of that tie will face either Bayern or Villarreal in the last four, with the German giants heading to Spain for the first leg against Unai Emery’s side.

Villarreal won last season’s Europa League and reached the Champions League quarter-finals by stunning Juventus, beating the Italians 3-0 in Turin on Wednesday to go through 4-1 on aggregate.

The semi-finals of the Champions League will be played in late April and early May, with the final taking place at the Stade de France in Paris on May 28.

The match was initially due to be played in Saint Petersburg before the Russian city was stripped of the match by UEFA due to Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

It is the third year running that UEFA has moved the Champions League final with the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the 2020 edition being switched from Istanbul to Lisbon, and then again from the Turkish city to Porto in 2021.

UEFA has chosen the 80,000-capacity Stade de France, in Saint-Denis just to the north of the French capital as the venue for the 2022 Champions League final.

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