MATCHDAY: Liverpool, Chelsea in FA Cup; Juventus in action
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Wednesday:
After winning the League Cup on Sunday, Liverpool resumes its bid to capture the FA Cup for an eighth time and stay on course for an unlikely quadruple of trophies. Jurgen Klopp’s team hosts Norwich in the fifth round, 11 days after beating the same team in the Premier League. Klopp has pledged to rotate his lineup amid a busy run of games. Liverpool is second in the league, six points behind Manchester City with a game in hand, and on course to reach the Champions League quarterfinals. Liverpool won the League Cup after a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea, which plays second-tier Luton away in the FA Cup. Another last-16 match sees Southampton and West Ham meet in an all-Premier League matchup.
Athletic Bilbao visits Valencia looking to reach its third straight Copa del Rey final. The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Bilbao. Valencia is trying to make it to the final for the first time since winning its eighth Copa title in 2019, when it was coached by now Athletic manager Marcelino García Toral. Valencia coach José Bordalás hopes defender José Luis Gayà will recover in time from a muscle injury. Valencia has struggled defensively this season and has the third-worst defense in the Spanish league with 42 goals conceded from 26 matches. The other Copa semifinal will be played on Thursday between Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano in Sevilla. Betis won the first leg 2-1.
Leipzig visits second-division Hannover for a place in the semifinals of the German Cup, in a competition blown wide open by the early exits of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Freiburg is in the quarterfinals for the eighth time but has only got past that stage once before. Its opponent is Bochum, which is having a surprisingly strong first season in the top division and will play for its first cup semifinal since 1988. At least one second-division team is guaranteed to make the semifinals as Hamburg plays Karlsruhe.
Dušan Vlahović returns to Fiorentina for the first time since his acrimonious departure to Juventus last month as the two teams meet in the first leg of their Italian Cup semifinal. That adds more fuel to an already heated rivalry between the clubs. The 22-year-old Vlahović will be full of confidence after scoring two goals on Saturday to help injury-depleted Juventus beat Empoli 3-2. Defending champion Juventus has won the Italian Cup a record 14 times. Fiorentina won the last of its six titles in 2001. AC Milan and Inter Milan drew the first leg of their semifinal 0-0 on Tuesday. The second-leg matches are scheduled April 20, and the final is May 11.
Monaco coach Philippe Clement made a bright start after taking over from the fired Niko Kovac in January, but form has dipped and he needs a big performance from his players in the French Cup semifinal at Nantes. As one of only two sides to beat runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain this season, Nantes has every reason to feel confident under coach Antoine Kombouare — a stalwart defender during his playing days at the club. Monaco has won the competition five times and lost last year’s final to PSG. Nantes has won it three times with the club’s last success in 2000.
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