Madrid-Bayern, Liverpool-Roma in Champions League semifinals
NYON, Switzerland (AP) — A Champions League semifinal draw steeped in the competition’s rich history paired Real Madrid and Bayern Munich on Friday, and then matched Liverpool with Roma.
Two-time defending champion Madrid will first play Bayern in Munich on April 25 in a clash of powerhouse clubs with a combined 17 European titles.
“It’s clear who are favorites. We’re up against the Champions League winners,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Madrid and Bayern have never met in the final — despite a combined 25 appearances in the 63-year-old competition’s title game — but this will be their seventh semifinal meeting.
In contrast, Liverpool and Roma played in the 1984 final, the only other season in which the Italian club advanced as far as the semifinals. Liverpool won that match in the Italian club’s Olympic Stadium home.
Anfield will stage the first leg on April 24, when Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will reunite with the Roma teammates he left last June in a 42 million euro ($50 million) transfer.
“Everybody knows how big Mo’s impact on our season has been,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said in comments published on the club’s website. “Where would they (Roma) be if Mo was still there?”
The pairing of American-owned clubs pits a Liverpool team tied to the Boston Red Sox against Roma president James Pallotta, who has a stake in the Boston Celtics.
Both return games will be played the following week. The final is scheduled for May 26 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. The Ukrainian city’s mayor, former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, was at UEFA headquarters Friday for the draw.
Madrid, seeking a record-extending 13th European title, is in the semifinals for the eighth straight year. That run has included three titles and four losses at the semifinal stage, including to Bayern in 2012 on penalties in Madrid.
Bayern, a five-time champion, also eliminated Madrid in the semifinals of 1976, 1987 and 2001.
Madrid beat a Bayern team coached by Pep Guardiola home and away in the 2014 semifinals, and also won their 2000 semifinal matchup.
A Champions League final for Bayern would be a fitting end to coach Jupp Heynckes’ career with the German champions, who announced Friday it had hired Niko Kovac to take over next season.
Heynckes came out of retirement in October after Bayern’s faltering start to the season led to Carlo Ancelotti leaving as coach.
Bayern have not been to a Champions League final since 2013, beating a Klopp-coached Borussia Dortmund in what was also a last game for Heynckes before his first retirement. Heynckes also coached Madrid to the title in 1998 — another trophy-winning farewell before he was fired.
Liverpool won the first of its five European titles in Rome in 1977, and got its fourth seven years later by beating Roma in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. This will be its first Champions League semifinal match since 2008, when it lost to Chelsea.
This season, Liverpool is the only unbeaten team despite playing the most games, 12, after coming through the playoff round in August. The competition’s top-scoring team added five goals to its tally by beating favored Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
“Liverpool have made a statement like we did,” said Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, who scored in the surprising 3-0 win over Barcelona on Tuesday to overturn a 4-1 first-leg loss.
Roma also advanced on the away-goals rule in the last 16 against Shakhtar Donetsk, first losing the away leg then shutting out their opponent in a home win. For the third straight round, Roma starts on the road.
Also Friday, Arsenal was drawn to face Atletico Madrid and Marseille was chosen to play Salzburg in the Europa League semifinals.
The first legs will be played on April 26, with the return games on May 3. The final will be played on May 16 in Lyon, France, and the champion will get direct entry into next season’s Champions League.