Who’s up for a double? – The state of play in Europe’s knockout game
Posted on March 9, 2015
With the English FA Cup limping to the semi-final stage, the competition’s counterparts across the channel are also heading for conclusion. Achieving the double is notable in whatever country you happen to play your football and some of Europe’s big names can still end up with two prizes on their mantelpiece.
In Austria, the top four in the Bundesliga have reached the semi-finals of the OFB Cup. The semis will see league leaders Red Bull Salzburg, the holders, travel to third place Altach, while second-place Rapid Vienna will go to the team in fourth, Wolfsberger. These games will take place on April 15.
In Belgium, the situationin the Coupe de Belgique is similar. Leaders Club Brugge will meet second-placed Anderlecht in the final on March 22. Brugge beat their city rivals Cercle in the semi-finals, while Anderlecht disposed of Gent. Holders Lokeren fell at the quarter-final stage.
The Coupe de France has also reached the last four, which will be played April 7-8. Holders Guincamp will play Ligue 2 side Auxerre and the mighty Paris St. Germain, who are in second place in Ligue 1, will play St. Etienne, in what should be an interesting tie.
Bayern Munich have a great chance of a third successive double this season. They are odds-on to win the Bundesliga, but they are also in the last eight of the DFB-Pokal. They will travel to Bayer Leverkusen, while Dortmund will host Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg are at home to Frieburg and Bielefeld host Borussia Moenchengladbach. These games are also to be played April 7-8.
Italy could well see a repeat of the 2013-14 Coppa Italia. The competition has reached the penultimate stage and after the first legs, Napoli and Fiorentina are favourites to go through to the final. Juventus, Serie A champions-elect, slipped up in the first meeting with Fiorentina, losing 1-2 in Turin. Napoli, meanwhile, drew 1-1 with Lazio in Roma. Last season, Napoli won the Coppa Italia, beating Fiorentina 3-1.
There have been a few surprises in the Dutch KNVB Cup this season. For only the fourth time in 50 years, the big three of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord failed to reach the last eight.The semi-finals will see Twente play Zwolle, the holders, and Groningen will meet Excelsior. Zwolle, the highest-placed of the four, must fancy their chance of repeating their surprise success of 2013-14.
Spain’s Copa del Rey final will be between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona, to be played on May 30, probably in Real Madrid’s Bernebeu. Now that Barca have overcome their problems from earlier this season, they have a good chance of winning the Spanish double. Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde is playing down the importance of the final, but given the Basque side last won silverware of note in 1984, when they beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, who is he kidding?
Back in England, meanwhile, the quarter-finals have been uninspiring so far. Manchester United v Arsenal has a lot riding on it…