UCL semis; European top flight

With 12 goals now, Benzema could become the UCL top scorer this week. (credit: Courtesy of Anton Zaytsev via Wikimedia Commons) With 12 goals now, Benzema could become the UCL top scorer this week. (credit: Courtesy of Anton Zaytsev via Wikimedia Commons) Liverpool and Mo Salah will be looking to win both the UCL and EPL titles. (credit: Courtesy of Mehdi Bolourian via Wikimedia Commons) Liverpool and Mo Salah will be looking to win both the UCL and EPL titles. (credit: Courtesy of Mehdi Bolourian via Wikimedia Commons) Teams are looking to finish high enough domestically to qualify for the UCL. (credit: Courtesy of MacMoreno via Wikimedia Commons) Teams are looking to finish high enough domestically to qualify for the UCL. (credit: Courtesy of MacMoreno via Wikimedia Commons)

Champions League
On Tuesday, Real Madrid will travel to the Etihad to face Manchester City in the first match of the Champions League semifinals. Manchester City will be coming off of a 5-1 victory over Watford and looking to extend their winning streak to three matches. Real Madrid has momentum coming into the match, having beaten Osasuna 3-1 last weekend and looking to extend their winning streak to three matches. This match will mark the first time these sides have met since August 2020, when the postponed second leg of their round of 16 fixture was played (City won 2-1). While the current odds favor City, it would be a mistake to write out Real, especially with Benzema’s performance in the quarterfinals. In all likelihood, this will be the semifinal match to watch.

On Wednesday, Villareal will travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the second match of the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. Liverpool is coming off of a 2-0 win against Everton and has a three-match winning streak. Villareal had a solid 2-0 victory over Valencia last weekend, beginning a two-game winning streak. This will be Villareal’s second-ever Champions League semifinals, following their first in 2006. Should Villareal advance, they will play in their first Champions League finals. The two clubs haven’t met in competition since their May 2016 game in the Europa League semifinal (Liverpool won 3-0). The odds are in Liverpool’s favor and, regardless of the final scoreline, it will be tough for Villareal. Having successfully pulled off the upset against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, however, Villareal have a chance, albeit a small one, if they play pristinely and capitalize on Liverpool’s mistakes.

Premier League
With 34 out of 38 matchdays gone, the Premier League season is reaching its climax. Manchester City sits at the top of the table with 80 points to their name. City reached and maintained the position on Matchday 15 after beating Watford 3-1. With their last four fixtures at Leeds, versus Newcastle, at West Ham, and versus Aston Villa (plus a postponed fixture against the Wolves), it seems unlikely that City will be dethroned.

Liverpool, sitting second in the Premier League table with 79 points, should not be discounted. Having briefly topped the table after Matchday 6 before being knocked off the top due to a draw to Manchester City on Matchday 7, Liverpool have been consistently on City’s heels since Matchday 15. However, with their last five fixtures being at Newcastle, versus Tottenham, a postponed Matchday 33 fixture against Aston Villa, versus Wolves, and a postponed match against Southhampton, Liverpool will have a tougher last couple weeks in comparison to City. Still, with just one point separating the two and five matches to be played, Liverpool could overtake the defending champions.

Chelsea sits in third with 65 points and will likely end the season there. Arsenal, currently in fourth with 60 points, will probably not move higher up the table. Fifth-placed Tottenham (58 points) may break into the top four; the result of their fixture against Liverpool will determine the final placings for both teams. Sixth-placed Manchester United (54 points) will look to maintain their place for Europa League qualification as seventh-placed West Ham (52 points) tries to overcome United.

La Liga
With 33 matchdays down and five to go (plus postponed fixtures), the race for the La Liga title is coming to a close. Despite Real Madrid sitting at the top of the table with 78 points, having opened up a 15-point margin over second-placed Barcelona, they have not yet secured the title. Still, considering their current position and remaining fixtures (over half of which are against teams sitting in the bottom half of the table), Real Madrid seems certain to maintain a good enough form to reclaim the La Liga title. Second through fourth place seem relatively set as well. Although not many points separate the teams, it seems likely that Barcelona, Sevilla, and Atlético Madrid will return to the Champions League next season.

Between fifth-placed Real Betis (57 points), sixth-placed Real Sociedad (55 points), and seventh-placed Villareal (52 points), final finishes are still undetermined. On Matchday 35, Real Sociedad will face 19th-placed Levante as Real Betis faces Barça and Villareal faces Sevilla. Real Sociedad will likely advance as both Real Betis and Villareal drop points. On Matchday 37, Villareal and Real Sociedad will face each other. The outcome will likely determine the final standings for these three clubs. If Villareal wins, they will likely qualify for the Europa League. Otherwise, Real Sociedad will return to Europe.

Although there are still three matchdays out of 34 left to play, Bayern Munich opened up enough of a margin after their 3-1 win in Der Klassiker over Borussia Dortmund that they were declared the 2021/22 Bundesliga Champions and awarded the Meisterschale for the 10th consecutive season, topping the table with 75 points. Though league champions were already decided, there is still a tight competition for Champions League and Europa League qualification — the top four Bundesliga teams qualify for the former while fifth and sixth qualify for the latter. With 63 points, Borussia Dortmund guaranteed their return to the Champions League next season. However, just six points separate third and seventh place.

Bayer Leverkusen currently sit in third with 55 points — enough to guarantee a place in Europe, but not enough to secure Champions League status. With their final three fixtures against ninth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, eighth-placed Hoffenheim, and fifth-placed Freiburg, Leverkusen need to be on their A-game to qualify for a Champions League spot. Leipzig, sitting in fourth with 54 points, face a much easier rest of the season, scheduled to face 11th-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach, 14th-placed Augsburg, and 17th-placed Arminia. Fifth-placed Freiburg (52 points) and sixth-placed Union Berlin (50 points) will compete on Matchday 33, likely determining their placings relative to each other. Köln is not to be counted out, either. Despite sitting in seventh with 49 points, Köln will face Augsburg, 12th-placed Wolfsburg, and 16th-placed Stuttgart — all winnable matches.

Ligue 1
Like the situation in the Bundesliga, Paris Saint-Germain was crowned the 2021/22 Ligue 1 Champions after their draw against Lens on Matchday 34 of 38. They received the title for the 10th consecutive season, with 78 points. With the top three teams having a shot at the European top flight, fourth and fifth looking at the Europa League, and three points separating third and sixth, there’s plenty on the line in the last four matchdays of the season. With second-placed Marseille (65 points) and third-placed Rennes (59 points) playing each other on Matchday 37, fourth-placed Monaco (59 points) may knock Rennes for a shot at the Champions League. Fifth-placed Nice (57 points) will also have a good chance of bettering their position, facing 19th-placed Bordeaux and 18th-placed Saint-Étienne on Matchdays 35 and 36, respectively.

Serie A
In Italy, the title race has come down to a battle of the Milans. With 34 of 38 matchdays gone, AC Milan tops the table with 74 points, followed closely by Inter Milan with 72. Inter Milan will likely have the advantage; their remaining fixtures include 12th-placed Udinese, 14th-placed Empoli, 17th-placed Cagliari, and 16th-placed Sampdoria. AC Milan, however, will have to face seventh-placed Fiorentina, ninth-placed Verona, eighth-placed Atalanta, and 10th-placed Sassuolo. While it is certainly possible for AC Milan to best Inter Milan and claim their first Serie A title since 2011, it’s looking much more likely that Inter Milan will defend their champion status.

Napoli, in third with 67 points, will not be in contention for the title lest both Milans blunder, but will almost certainly qualify for next season’s Champions League. Juventus, in fourth with 63 points, is in the same boat. For fifth-placed Roma (58 points), sixth-placed Lazio (56 points), and seventh-placed Fiorentina (56 points), top four seems just out of reach, but all three will fight for Europa League qualification. The outcome of the match between Fiorentina and Roma on Matchday 36 will determine the ranking of those two teams relative to each other, and with Lazio likely to drop points against Juventus on Matchday 37, it’s difficult to predict which sides have a shot at a European campaign.