And then there were four.
This week saw four of the biggest clubs in Europe move on into the semifinal stage of the UEFA Champions League, while four others were sent home for the year.
Barcelona, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Lyon remain in the hunt for the trophy, while Arsenal, CSKA Moscow, Manchester United, and Bordeaux will have to wait for next year for a shot at glory.
The Champions League is arguably the world’s most prestigious club soccer tournament, with the best sides from Europe competing for the championship each year. Even just playing in the tournament is an honor for any player, and the excitement was certainly not lost on Chivas USA.
“In club soccer, the Champions League is the most important thing,” said Ante Jazic, who played in the qualifying stages of the Champions League with Austrian side Rapid Vienna. “It’s the Mecca of all club soccer competition in the world.”
The first semifinal features reigning world champion Barcelona against Italy’s top side Inter Milan. Barcelona will surely be the favorites after brutalizing Arsenal in the quarterfinal stage.
“I’ve said it from the beginning that I think Barcelona will take it again,” Jonathan Bornstein said. “They’re just so dynamic and Lionel Messi has been playing incredibly. I think he’s one of the best players in the world right now, if not the best. They dominate every game they play.”
Inter Milan are no slouches, however, having won Europe's top honor twice.
“Barcelona has been playing really well, but it won’t be easy to get past Inter,” Maykel Galindo said. “They’re a strong team.”
On the other side of the bracket are Bayern Munich and Lyon. Munich will be the heavy favorite after knocking off Manchester United in the quarterfinals.
“Bayern has been against the wall a few times, and they have won some big games,” said Chivas USA head coach Martín Vásquez, who served as assistant coach in Munich last year. “I think the way it’s going, maybe it will be Bayern against Barcelona in the final.”
Lyon will certainly be the underdog, but at this level, anybody could take home the trophy.
“At this point, any one of the teams could take it him,” Galindo said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Champions League semifinals will be contested in late April, with the final match coming on May 22 at the 80,000-seat Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid, Spain.