Champions League and Europa League: semi-final previews and predictions | Champions League

Manchester City v Real Madrid, Tuesday 8pm BST

Manchester City and Real Madrid lock horns again. The clubs met in the last 16 two years ago, when the Premier League side won both legs 2-1. After their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool this month, City have just the Champions League and Premier League to focus on. Real Madrid’s priorities are also narrowing. They have won their last four games in La Liga to all but clinch the title; they are 15 points clear of Barcelona and Sevilla with five games to play, and will be crowned champions if they avoid defeat to Espanyol on Saturday.

City go into this semi-final with some selection issues in defence. Kyle Walker has already missed three knockout games after picking up a red card against RB Leipzig and Pep Guardiola could be without the right-back – and John Stones – on Tuesday as they are both carrying knocks. To compound these defensive issues, João Cancelo is suspended. CJ Egan-Riley has experience in the Champions League, though the teenager’s sole appearance came against Sporting when the two-legged affair was over as a contest. Kevin De Bruyne was withdrawn on the hour mark against Watford, with Guardiola confirming the Belgian is playing with some “disturbing niggles in his ankle” though it would be a shock if he missed out.

Real Madrid are without a Belgian of their own as Eden Hazard is again ruled out. Éder Militão missed the second leg of their quarter-final against Chelsea due to a ban, but the Brazilian is set to partner David Alaba at the back – if Alaba is fit. Ancelotti says the defender is “a slight doubt” and that Casemiro is “a bigger doubt”.

If they make it, Ancelotti’s team largely picks itself. The only conundrum comes in attack. Federico Valverde played both legs against Chelsea on the right wing and should join Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior on the frontline, with Marco Asensio and Rodrygo available from the bench if required. Prediction: Manchester City to progress

Liverpool v Villarreal, Wednesday 8pm

The quadruple dream is very much alive for Liverpool. They are still one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race after their 2-0 win in the Merseyside derby on Sunday. Liverpool have a tough trip to a revitalized Newcastle this weekend, but first their attention turns to welcoming Villarreal to Anfield on Wednesday night. Liverpool did the double over Spanish opponents in the group stage, beating Atlético Madrid home and away, and they are strong favorites against Villarreal, who are seventh in La Liga.

Liverpool may be without Roberto Firmino but their squad now has the depth to cope without one of their regular front three. Jürgen Klopp is likely to make a few changes to the side that started against Everton, with Ibrahima Konaté, Jordan Henderson and Luis Díaz potentially replacing Joël Matip, Naby Keïta and Diogo Jota. For Villarreal, Alberto Moreno misses a reunion with his old club due to a long-term injury.

Unai Emery should not be underestimated. He won the Europa League with Villarreal last season and his team has already seen off Juventus and Bayern Munich in the Champions League this year. Emery is sweating on the fitness of Francis Coquelin and Gerard Moreno. Moreno picked up a hamstring injury in Villarreal’s win over Getafe 10 days ago and then missed their victory over Valencia last week. Emery has an able deputy for the striker in Arnaut Danjuma, who scored both goals in that 2-0 win over Valencia and has scored against Juventus and Bayern Munich in the Champions League this season.

Giovani Lo Celso has been a key player for Villarreal after joining the club on loan from Tottenham in January and he could start behind Danjuma at Anfield. Manu Trigueros may start on the left, though Alfonso Pedraza is another option for Emery should he wish to give Pervis Estupinan greater protection against Mohamed Salah. Prediction: Liverpool to progress

RB Leipzig v Rangers, Thursday 8pm

Had the Bundesliga season started when Domenico Tedesco took over as RB Leipzig manager in December, they would be sitting second in the table behind Bayern Munich, rather than mired in the battle to finish in the top four.

Tedesco has revitalized their season but Rangers can take heart from the fact that RB Leipzig have won only two of their last seven home games. In addition, Tedesco is unable to call upon the suspended trio of Willi Orbán, Mohamed Simakan and Kevin Kampl. The RB Leipzig boss will be hoping Lukas Klostermann is over his bout of Covid and is ready to join Josko Gvardiol and Nordi Mukiele in defence, with Marcel Halstenberg another option if required. Tyler Adams may deputise for Kampl alongside Konrad Laimer in the middle of the park, particularly with Amadou Haidara still a doubt.

RB Leipzig have issues in defence, but Rangers have them attack, with Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe sidelined. Fashion Sakala deputized against Motherwell over the weekend and could keep his spot in Germany. Giovanni van Bronckhorst may favor a 4-2-3-1 system, though he could switch to a 4-3-3 to frustrate RB Leipzig, with Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent flanking Sakala.

That depends on Aaron Ramsey’s fitness, however, after the Welshman missed the win over Motherwell. His presence would be a huge boost for Rangers. Filip Helander, Ianis Hagi and Nnamdi Ofoborh are all absent. Rangers have won four on the trot, so this will be no walk in the park for RB Leipzig. Prediction: RB Leipzig to progress

West Ham v Eintracht Frankfurt, Thursday 8pm

West Ham’s top four hopes are all but over after their 1-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday. Having rested key players for the London derby, it’s clear that David Moyes is now focusing on the Europa League. West Ham have won only two of their last seven games but, crucially, one of those was in Lyon this month, a statement victory that booked their place in the semi-finals.

Moyes has a selection headache in defence. Centre-backs Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop are all sidelined due to injury, though fortunately for Moyes, Aaron Cresswell has served his ban and is available for selection. Moyes could go for a three-man defense like he did at Chelsea, though that would mean two of Manuel Lanzini, Jarrod Bowen, Saïd Benrahma and Pablo Fornals missing out on a starting spot in support of Michail Antonio.

Eintracht Frankfurt are also missing key players. Centre-back Obite Evan Ndicka is suspended following his dismissal in the second leg win at Barcelona this month, while Kristijan Jakic is also banned for the trip to London. Tuta is available following a ban of his own and should deputise for Ndicka in Eintracht’s three-man backline. Makoto Hasebe and Almamy Touré are in competition to join Tuta and Martin Hinteregger in defence. Djibril Sow returned from injury off the bench against Hoffenheim on Saturday, so should cover for Jakic in the middle of the park.

Eintracht are not to be underestimated. They have lost just two of their last 10 away matches and are unbeaten in their five Europa League games on the road this season, winning four. Prediction: West Ham to progress

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