The UEFA Europa League, one of the most prolific soccer tournaments in the world, is heading into the thrilling semi final round next week with four top quality European clubs battling it out for a spot in the final.
For a round up of the tournament quarter finals, click here.
On Thursday the 22nd of April, after the furore of the UEFA Champions League semi finals is over, both first leg games will be played – the first of which will see Atlético Madrid at home to Liverpool FC.
The Vicente Calderón Stadium will see its stands full as the English Premier League giants head to the Spanish capital for their first-leg clash due to kick off at 9.05pm (CET), which will be 5.50am (AEST) on Thursday morning.
The UEFA Europa League is heading into the thrilling semi final round next week with four top quality European clubs battling it out for a spot in the final.
It will be the third time the two clubs have met at this stage of this competition – with a highlight being the homecoming of the hot-striker Fernando Torres, now playing for the Kop returning for the first time to face his former side.
However the Spanish international is fighting a knee injury which sidelined him for Liverpool’s domestic clash against fellow semi-finalists Fulham FC on Sunday.
Atlético emerged triumphant in their tough quarter final fixture against fellow La Liga powerhouse Valencia, progressing to next week’s match on an away goal advantage.
The Spanish side have only won one of their matches since the group stages, against the Turkish force of Galatasaray – and need to win at home next week to capitalise on their advantage.
Liverpool, three-time winners of the tournament, were far more impressive in their quarter final clash, beating Benfica 5-3 on aggregate with Torres hitting the net four times in the home leg.
The Reds will be going to the Vicente Calderón confident as they have won their last two clashes away from home in Europe; however have struggled to accumulate points recently in their domestic Premier League.
Going into the match, Atlético have the home advantage which puts them slightly ahead in the odds at $2.38, whereas Liverpool are at $2.80.
The second of the semi final first legs will see tournament underdogs Fulham FC head to Germany to face Hamburg SV for their clash.
Also kicking off at 9.05pm (CET), 5.05am (AEST) Thursday morning, the Hamburg Arena will draw fans from around Europe to see the two battle it out.
The German side will be coming into their home ground first leg with all guns blazing, determined to reach the final which will be held at their own Arena, not having lost a home match in the European tournament for their last seven fixtures.
They impressed against Belgians Standard Liège in their quarter final clash, coming away 5-2 on aggregate, and head into their ninth appearance in a semi final of a European tournament.
However the favourites will be deflated with the news Mladen Petri? will be out injured after suffering a torn hamstring – a big blow for Hamburg after his five goal tournament tally.
The Cottagers are the men standing in the way of Hamburg reaching their dream, hoping they can continue their fairytale story and most successful season in Europe to date.
Next week will be Fulham’s first appearance in a UEFA Europa League semi final, and their consecutive European fixture against a German team, after beating VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 on aggregate in the quarters.
The London side have won three of their away games in the tournament this year, drawing two and losing three – however have managed to score in each of their European travels, and will be pleased if they manage to attain that crucial away goal in Hamburg.
While revelling under the title of underdogs, Fulham have the highest scoring player still active in the tournament in Bobby Zamora – and have kicked out defending Champions Shakhtar Donetsk, along with European giants Juventus in their fairytale campaign to date.
The home side are going into the match as favourites to win at $1.62, while Fulham are at $5.50 – relatively long odds considering their strong performances throughout the campaign.
So to place a bet on the first leg of the semi finals for this year’s UEFA Europa Cup, or to check out the range of markets on offer, head to Ladbrokes.com.au now!