Europa League semifinals: Four experienced clubs eye trip to Budapest

A general view inside the stadium during the Rangers FC Training session at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 17, 2022 in Seville, Spain. Rangers FC will face Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League final on May 18, 2022. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
A general view inside the stadium during the Rangers FC Training session at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 17, 2022 in Seville, Spain. Rangers FC will face Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League final on May 18, 2022. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images) /
Bayer Leverkusen is looking for their second European trophy and first in the UEFA Europa League era. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /

The UEFA Europa League semifinals are upon us, with four established European sides pushing for the only trophy any of them can win this season. Three of these clubs have won this tournament before, but only Sevilla has done so under its current guise.

Let’s have a look at the two semifinals: each team’s road to this point, their domestic situation, their history in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, and predictions as to which two will be in the showpiece.

Juventus vs Sevilla

Two of the competition’s most successful teams square off in what will be a fascinating two legs. With nine UEFA Cup/Europa League triumphs between them, both clubs are more than capable of lifting the trophy on 31 May.

Juventus (5-2-5 in Europe this season)

While Juventus is no stranger to playing in the UC/UEL, this season is their first appearance at the competition in a decade. As they did in their previous showing, they have reached the semifinal. This time, The Old Lady has a trip to the Hungarian capital in their sights.

It was a disastrous Champions League campaign for Juve, who won just once across their six games, losing the other five. Pipping Maccabi Haifa to third spot on goal difference, the Bianconeri sprang to life in the Europa League. Four wins out of six against Nantes, Freiburg and Sporting CP has gotten them to this stage.

Things have also gone on well back in Serie A. After having their 15-point penalty overturned, Max Allegri’s team is second with four games to play. They will likely finish in the top four, a bare minimum for a club of Juventus’ standard.

This is Juve’s fourth appearance in the Europa League under the competition’s current name. As they did nine years ago, they have reached the semifinals. There, they lost to Benfica, who fittingly fell to Sevilla in the final. The last of their three UEFA Cup triumphs came in 1992/93, when they defeated Borussia Dortmund.

Sevilla (4-3-5)

Record champions Sevilla has a love affair with the Europa League. This is their ninth participation in the UEFA Europa League, and they won the competition four times in their previous eight showings.

Like their opponents, it was a torrid campaign in the Champions League. Their only victory came on Matchday 5 against FC København, sealing their “demotion” to this competition. Since then, they squeezed past PSV Eindhoven and Fenerbahçe, before putting in a spirited performance to defeat Manchester United in the quarterfinals.

The Andalusians have disappointed in LaLiga this season. They sit 11th after 33 games, even flirting with relegation for much of the term. Yet, they sit just 3 points out of the Europa Conference League spot, and could still somehow sneak into Europe via domestic play.

This is Sevilla’s seventh European semifinal, all of which have come in the UEFA Cup/Europa League. Remarkably, on each of the six occasions where they reached this stage, they gave gone on to win the tournament. Whether they can make it seven for seven will be another matter.

Who’ll advance to Europa League final

This is the third time the clubs have been paired on the European stage. Both prior occasions came in the Champions League group stage, back in 2015/16 and again the following season. Overall, Juve has the head-to-head advantage, with two wins, one loss and one draw.

With that said, this is a very different situation. Sevilla likely needs to win the Europa League to qualify for Europe. Plus, they love this competition. Therefore, I back the record-holders to move on to the final.

AS Roma vs Bayer Leverkusen

The other semifinal pits two teams who have established themselves on the continental scene, although both have but one European trophy each. The chance at a second European final this century is on the line for Roma and Bayer Leverkusen.

AS Roma (6-2-4)

Roma is the oddball of the Europa League semifinalists. They are the only side to have been in the competition from the group stage. The Giallorossi are also the only club left to have never won the UEFA Cup/Europa League. That aside, Roma has no reason to be short on confidence in the Europa League.

Roma’s Europa League campaign had not started off well, as they dropped two of their first three games. Yet, they won their last two group matches to pip Ludogorets for second place. From there, they continued to show their mettle throughout the knockout rounds.

Completing a comeback against RB Salzburg, they then got past Real Sociedad before again turning things around in the quarterfinal against Feyenoord, who they defeated to win the Europa Conference League last May.

Seventh in Serie A, Roma is involved in an intense battle with several teams to try and lock up a Champions League spot. The Giallorossi sit 5 points back of Inter – the team that beat them last weekend – for fourth place. So, clinching the Europa League might be Roma’s best bet at playing Champions League football in the fall.

Jose Mourinho’s side is looking to complete a unique feat. Roma is trying to become the third club this century to win two different UEFA club competitions in consecutive seasons. Mourinho already did this with Porto (2002/03 UEFA Cup, 2003/04 Champions League), while the Portuguese’s former side Chelsea did the same nearly a decade later (2011/12 Champions League, 2012/13 Europa League). This is Roma’s fourth European final in six years.

Bayer Leverkusen (5-3-4)

Like Sevilla, Leverkusen has grown into the season. The 1987/88 UEFA Cup winners are in their third UC/UEL semifinal, but first since 1994/95. In what has been an up-and-down campaign for Die Werkself, a European trophy would be a fantastic end to the season for them.

Initially playing in the UCL last fall, Leverkusen disappointed in Group B. They barely managed to stay in Europe thanks to head-to-head advantage over Atlético Madrid. After requiring penalties to get past AS Monaco in the knockout playoffs, they were more convincing over Ferencvaros and Union St. Gilloise in the subsequent rounds.

A surprise weekend defeat to FC Köln halted a 13-game unbeaten run across all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen, who has improved considerably since Xabi Alonso took over in October. Sitting sixth in the Bundesliga with three games to play, Leverkusen is still pushing to lock up a European spot. They will almost surely finish sixth spot at best, meaning that like Roma and Sevilla, a triumph in the UEL is the only way to propel them to UCL football next season.

Leverkusen’s last European semifinal came in the Champions League 21 years ago. There, they defeated Manchester United on away goals, though they ultimately lost in the final to Real Madrid. Since then, the farthest they went in Europe was the quarterfinal three times, all in the UEFA Cup or Europa League. The most recent of the lot came in 2019/20, when they lost to Inter Milan.

Who’ll advance to Europa League final

Like the other semifinal, this is the third time Roma and Bayer Leverkusen will meet in Europe. Both previous ties were played in the Champions League group stage, with both teams winning a game each (two draws).

UEFA Champions League semis: Familiar foes face off again. dark. Next

Experience will count the most here. Despite their drop in from, Roma has impressed more in Europe in recent years, evidenced by their Conference League success a year ago. I like their chances in this tie in part due to that. While Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen has impressed of late, I find it difficult to see them getting past a Jose Mourinho-led Roma. So, I predict the Giallorossi will make the final.