Champions League

Holders Real confident ahead of UCL semi-final draw

2018-04-13 09:56
Cristiano Ronaldo (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid will find out their semi-final opponents on Friday as they continue their bid for a third straight Champions League title, with Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Roma the only remaining challengers to their crown.

Zinedine Zidane's men came through one of the most dramatic European ties in recent memory to reach the last four as a last-gasp Ronaldo spot-kick finally saw off a valiant Juventus on Wednesday.

Friday's draw will take place in Nyon at 13:00 SA time.

Record 12-time European champions Real threw away a 3-0 first-leg lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, only for Ronaldo's penalty in the eighth minute of injury-time to send them through in dramatic fashion as Juve great Gianluigi Buffon was sent off.

"It was a very long game and it serves as a lesson that in football nothing is guaranteed and that we have to fight until the end," Ronaldo said.

"Step by step, now we're into the semi-finals."

It has been far from a comfortable road to the semis for Real after finishing second to Tottenham in their group before the Juventus scare, but that won't bother the Spanish giants, who have never won the European Cup without losing a match.

Only three sides in history have won the competition three years or more in a row - Real from 1956-1960, Ajax from 1971-73 and Bayern Munich from 1974-76.

But Real are now three games away from becoming the first team to achieve the feat twice, having also lifted the trophy as recently as 2014.

Zidane will have some key decisions to make before the semi-final first leg in less than two weeks' time, after hauling off Gareth Bale and Casemiro at half-time against Juve.

Bayern are in the pot for the sixth time in seven seasons after falling to Real in the quarter-finals last year, with fellow five-time champions Liverpool back in the semis for the first time since 2008.

Roma dreaming of final

"We must aim for Kiev," Di Francesco said. "Why not believe in something even greater after such a match?

"If you come all this way and get to the semi-finals, why shouldn't you believe in getting to the final in Kiev."

Liverpool have plenty of history to fall back on, ahead of a possible repeat of the 1984 final win over Roma or a rematch of the 1981 final against Real Madrid.

But although it is new ground for the current side, manager Jurgen Klopp thinks his young outfit are getting better and better in the biggest matches.

"We mature constantly. The boys get more and more used to situations like that," said Klopp after beating Premier League champions-elect Manchester City for the third time in a row.

"If you could say something bad about us in the past few months, it is on a good day we can beat everybody and on a bad day we lose, (we) concede cheap goals. We work on that. We are still in a development phase, that's how it is but already we are a good team."

Bayern Munich are the only team still in contention to complete a domestic league and Champions League double, having wrapped up the Bundesliga title last weekend.

A repeat of last year's epic quarter-final with Real could be on the cards, when Arturo Vidal was controversially sent off as a Ronaldo hat-trick saw the Spaniards win in extra time.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
AEK Athens v Ajax, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Viktoria Plzen, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Valencia, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v Benfica, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Manchester United v Young Boys, Old Trafford 22:00
Roma v Real Madrid, Stadio Olimpico 22:00
Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 22:00
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Atletico Madrid v Monaco, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 19:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Galatasaray, RZD Arena 19:55
Porto v Schalke 04, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
PSG v Liverpool, Parc des Princes 22:00
PSV v Barcelona, Philips Stadion 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Club Brugge, Signal-Iduna-Park 22:00
Napoli v Crvena Zvezda, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale, Wembley Stadium 22:00
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