Mouthwatering semifinals coming next month in Champions League

By The Rex Factor

The semifinal stage is set for the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League, and one club, but only one, will be representing Madrid in the final on June 3 in Cardiff, Wales.

That's because Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid drew against each other in another derby that seems destined to be a classic.

In the other semifinal, upstart AS Monaco battles against Juventus in a tie pitting the current leaders of French Ligue 1 and Italian Serie A.

Atletico Madrid earned its spot by beating English champion Leicester City 2-1 in the quarterfinals; each of the other semifinalists won their ties by three goals. Real Madrid's 6-3 triumph over Bayern Munich was shrouded in controversy as Los Blancos were on the right end of many suspicious whistles from the referees over the two games. Still, 180 minutes did not decide things and only after Munchen were down to 10 men for the second time in the two games did Madrid wear them down to score three times after the 104th minute.

The last Champions League meeting between the two sides was 11 months ago, when Real Madrid ended up hoisting the cup at Atletico's expense following a 1-1 draw, a scoreless half hour of extra time and a tense penalty shootout at the San Siro in Milan. With Real Madrid trying to become a repeat champion for the first time in the history of this event, this only furthers the fuel on the fire for Diego Simeone's side to try and knock out their city rivals. 

Real Madrid also knocked Atletico out of the tournament two seasons ago; the two sides played to a scoreless draw at Atletico before Javier Hernandez netted in the 88th minute at the Bernabeu to advance Real to the semis, 1-0. But the heartache for Atletico doesn't stop there.

Three years back, Real also lifted the trophy at the expense of Atletico in Lisbon. Sergio Ramos scored three minutes into stoppage time to level the game at 1-1, and three goals in extra time gave Real the trophy, 4-1. 

In the two La Liga matches this season, Real Madrid scored a shocking 3-0 win at the Vicente Calderon before Los Rojiblancos played Real to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in the more recent meeting on April 8.

There is another semifinal, to be played on May 3 in the principality, with the return fixture coming on May 9 in Turin. Monaco will try to advance to its first final since 2004, while Juventus is trying to return there for the first time in three seasons.

Monaco progressed through a through 6-3 triumph over two legs against Borussia Dortmund, while Juventus made its 3-0 win at home against Barcelona stand up in the return leg, playing the Catalans to a 0-0 draw on the road to get a measure of revenge for the loss to Barca in the 2014 final.

These two sides met in the 1997-98 semifinals, with Juventus progressing 6-4 on aggregate. The Italian side also got the better of Monaco in the 2014-15 quarters, with Arturo Vidal (who was the man sent off for Bayern Munich in Madrid on April 18) scoring the only goal of the 180 minutes on a penalty kick.

In these two games, something will have to give. Monaco has netted 12 times in its four knockout stage games, scoring three times against Manchester City and Dortmund in each contest; Juve have only allowed two goals in the competition in the 10 Champions League games all season.

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