The geographical spread of the 2014 Europa League semifinals brings us two teams from the Spanish La Liga (Sevilla, Valencia), one team from Italy (Juventus) and another from Portugal (Benfica).
The group that remains consists of two former European champions: Juventus and Benfica, while both Sevilla and Valencia have previously won the Europa League under its former name, the UEFA Cup. Juventus is the only defending champion in the group, and along with Benfica they are also the two league leaders left in the competition.
Last year’s finalists have done extremely well so far, skipping past PAOK, Tottenham and now AZ (not conceding a goal in the two legs against the Dutch), making it to their third consecutive semifinal in the competition, also making it this far in the 2010-2011 season. This season is special for Benfica because of them leading the league by seven points with four matches to go. Unlike last year, it doesn’t seem like something is getting between them and winning the championship. Lima and Rodrigo have both scored three goals so far for Benfica in the competition after dropping out of the Champions League.
Another Champions League dropout, Juventus have beaten Trabzonspor, Fiorentina and Lyon to reach this stage, hoping to finish what they started and play in the final, hosted in Torino inside Juve’s own stadium. They’re leading the Italian Serie quite comfortably, en route to winning a third consecutive championship in Italy. Three players: Dani Osvaldo, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo each have two goals so far in the competition.
One of two Spanish sides left in the competition, Sevilla are still in the race to make the Champions League in Spain, currently at fifth place, chasing Athletic Bilbao. They beat Porto 4-2 in the quarterfinals, providing a very dominant performance in the second leg with a 4-1 win. They’ve also gotten by Real Betis, their bitter rivals, and Slovenian Maribor. Their top scorer in the competition is Kevin Gameiro with five goals.
One of the most amazing second leg comebacks in European football history was achieved by the club from the East coast of Spain, coming back from 0-3 down in the first leg to beat Basel 5-0 in extra time and earn a spot in the competition’s semifinal. They overcame Dynamo Kyiv and Ludogorets Razgrad in the previous stages. It isn’t a very good season for Valencia in the La Liga, ranked only 8th at the moment and unlikely to reach Europe through the league. Paco Alcácer with 7 goals is their top scorer in the competition this season.