Madrid's penalty against Juventus and VAR
Atlético got through their test in Lisbon and secured their place in the Europa League semi-finals. It will be the fifth time in seven years that El Cholo Simeone’s side have qualified for a European semi-final – no small feat it has to be said. While I wouldn’t say they are irresistable to watch, they certainly get the job done. Last night, we saw a game which was only heading in one direction – Sporting gave it everything they had and played well while Atleti, for me at least, looked a little too disorientated. They also had their fair share of bad fortune – Diego Costa picked up a muscular injury and Lucas ended up in the local hospital after taking an unfortunate blow to the cheek; we’ll have to wait and see how long both of them face on the sidelines. Vitolo meanwhile, still hasn’t got into gear. All of that contributed to paint a picture of an Atleti bogged down by problems - despite all that they’re still alive and kicking, high on hope and gleefully spurred on by El Cholo’s enthusiastic stewardship and wild, touchline arm flapping.
Europe's big guns in the hat for today's Champions League draws
And they’re still there, in the last four, along with Salzburg, who overturned their tie against Lazio in style, Arsenal and Olympique de Marseille. They will be keen to see the outcome of today’s draw which gets underway at midday. Shortly after that, at 1pm, we have the Champions League draw to look forward to – this time with representatives from all four of the major leagues: Madrid, Liverpool, Bayern and Roma. Madrid made it by the skin of their teeth but remain favourites with the bookies – although only just slightly ahead of Bayern. From now on, nothing will be easy. Many wrote off Roma in the quarter finals but they proved everyone wrong with a magnificent comeback. As for Liverpool, European nights at Anfield have a compelling magic that is impossible to put into words, as Manchester City discovered in the last round. And then we have Bayern, Madrid’s eternal foes, who are always there – they were Los Blancos’ bête noire right up until that redeeming 0-4 drubbing in Munich just a few seasons ago.
Jury still out on Madrid's quarter-final penalty
But in the meantime, everyone is still talking about that penalty, a decision which has completely divided opinions. But it’s a good enough reason to reopen the VAR debate, and brace ourselves for what we can expect from it when it is finally launched. Let’s try and imagine what might have happened if it had been in place at the Bernabéu on Wednesday night. Would it have upheld the ref’s penalty call? Or would it have sided with Juve - and the opinions of so many Barça and Atlético fans who were up in arms because they felt it should never have been awarded? And what if VAR had ruled it out, would madridistas protest? In these kinds of situations, those who feel defrauded at least can come to accept the decision if it is made instantly - there and then – and by one person alone rather than by three anonymous people watching monitors tucked away in a room somewhere. I must say, the idea doesn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm…