Champions League and Europa League: previews for the four semi-finals

All the facts and figures for the four big ties this week: Real Madrid v Atltico Madrid, Monaco v Juventus, Celta Vigo v Manchester United and Ajax v Lyon

Real Madrid v Atltico Madrid, Tuesday

There will be no repeat of the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, though at least one side from Madrid is sure of a place on the grand stage for the third time in four years. Real Madrid are aiming to make Champions League history and retain their crown, having broken the record for consecutive semi-final appearances (seven) by successfully navigating their way past Bayern Munich, albeit in controversial circumstances.

Zinedine Zidanes men have the welcome distraction of a title race but the Champions League is once again their top priority this season. Atltico also have a battle on their hands in the league, where they are trying to hold off Sevilla and secure a third-place finish and a spot in next seasons Champions League group stage, but winning this tie is also their main goal.

The two teams are in extremely similar shape in terms of results. They have both won eight of their last 10 games, lost one and drawn one (against each other last month at the Bernabu). Real Madrid have only beaten Atltico once in their last six meetings at the Bernabu, but that was in the Champions League. They will be glad to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to form. He scored five goals in the quarter-finals against Bayern and was on the scoresheet against Valencia at the weekend. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick when these sides met at the Vicente Caldern in November and will fancy competing against Atlticos young, makeshift right-back Lucas Hernndez.

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Monaco v Juventus, Wednesday

A game billed as the best attack in Europe against the best defence in Europe. The lower quality of Ligue 1 defences has helped Monaco score a remarkable 95 goals in 34 league games, but they put six past Manchester City in the last-16 stage and another six past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, so should should not be underestimated.

No one is questioning Juventus credentials after they beat Barcelona with room to spare in the quarter-finals. They kept two clean sheets against Barcelona and have only conceded two goals in the competition all season. But, if anyone can ruin that record, then surely its neutrals favourites Monaco.

This is a game of great intrigue, orchestrated by two of the continents most sought after managers, both of whom have silenced critics in recent years. When Massimiliano Allegri joined Juventus in 2014 his appointment was seen as uninspiring but the former Milan boss has elevated Juve to another level since replacing Antonio Conte. Leonardo Jardim, meanwhile, was thought of as a pragmatic, organised coach but has flipped that reputation on its head by building one of the most exciting young teams seen in many years. All eyes will be on Kylian Mbapp and Paulo Dybala after their performances in the quarter-finals, and the prospect of seeing the pair on the same field is enough to tune in on Wednesday.

Celta Vigo v Manchester United

Manchester United are the favourites to lift the trophy but they are in desperate shape at the back. Luke Shaw and, more pertinently, Eric Bailly were both forced off during a disappointing 1-1 draw with Swansea at the weekend, and while the latter is only a doubt, it could mean Matteo Darmian is forced to cover alongside Daley Blind at centre-back.

Celta Vigo have players who are more than capable of taking advantage of a makeshift defence. Pione Sisto showed he can score against United in the Europa League last season, when he popped up with goals for Midtjylland in both legs of the last-32 tie, and John Guidetti (formerly of Manchester City) and Iago Aspas (formerly of Liverpool) will be up for this one. Aspas in particular has been in superb form all season, scoring 24 goals in all competitions and earning a call-up to the Spain squad at the age of 29.

In the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic it will be up to Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford to carry the main goalscoring threat for the visitors, though they have each scored just once in the tournament to date and havent had many opportunities to forge a meaningful partnership. Home comforts have hardly helped United this season but Jos Mourinho may be happy to return to Old Trafford with a share of the spoils on Thursday night.

Ajax v Lyon

Both sides needed extra time and in Lyons case penalties to reach the semi-finals, but Ajaxs progression was the more remarkable. With only 10 minutes to go in extra time against Schalke, they were losing 3-2 on aggregate and down to 10 men. Somehow they fought back, scoring two very late goals in the the Veltins-Arena to book their spot in the semi-finals.

Nevertheless, Ajax will have to rebuild their morale after a defeat to PSV at the weekend that has likely ended their hopes of winning the Eredivisie. Peter Boszs men are the underdogs in this tie but they have won all six of their home games in the tournament to date, keeping five clean sheets, though the loss of vice-captain Jol Veltman through suspension is a blow.

Lyon are a side with enviable firepower. They have scored in all of their matches since dropping into the Europa League, with 19 goals in those six games. Alexandre Lacazette is the star man for the visitors but he is a real doubt after picking up a knee injury against Besiktas in the quarter-finals. If Lacazette is missing, Nabil Fekir could lead the line. With a direct hand in six goals in just 338 minutes of action in the tournament, hes a more than capable replacement.

Premier League team of the week

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La Liga team of the week

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Bundesliga team of the week

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Serie A team of the week

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Ligue 1 team of the week

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Primeira Liga team of the week

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/who-scored-blog/2017/may/02/champions-league-europa-league-previews-semi-finals