The semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League get under way with a pair of first-leg fixtures, when Liverpool welcome AS Roma to Anfield on Tuesday before Bayern Munich host holders Real Madrid the following day.
Roma's only other appearance in the last four came in 1984 when the competition was the European Cup, and Liverpool will end a decade-long absence from the semi-finals when they meet the Italians on Merseyside.
Champions Real were taken to the brink before a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty salvaged a 4-3 aggregate victory over Juventus in the previous round.
They face another European juggernaut in Bayern, who are in the semis for the sixth time in seven seasons and are hoping to avoid the same fate as Juve, who lost their home leg against Los Blancos 3-0.
Read on for a preview of this week's semi-finals, complete with live-stream information and score predictions.
Liverpool vs. AS Roma
Date: Tuesday, April 24
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK), beIN Sports 1 (U.S.)
In a semi-final draw that had no easy opponents, Liverpool and Roma stood out as the underdogs in terms of recent pedigree, but that doesn't make Tuesday's meeting any less appetising.
One of the major storylines in the buildup to this match is Mohamed Salah's encounter with his former club 10 months after leaving Rome. One of his former team-mates, Radja Nainggolan, told Het Laatste Nieuws of what makes the two sides alike, per Kristof Terreur:
Kristof Terreur 📰 @HLNinEngeland
Nainggolan in @hlnsport:”Liverpool are the most difficult opponent. They don’t have more quality than Bayern or Real, but they play with a lot of determination & have nothing to lose. Believe me, it’s gonna be difficult. They’re all warriors - a bit like us.” #lfc (👌🏼@niels_27) https://t.co/SAlqnbJe5L
Both clubs boast a rich history and sit just outside the real upper crust of their respective divisions but have promoted attractive and enticing football throughout this campaign.
The Reds conceded two late goals in a 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday in a disappointing warm-up for the Roma tie, although Liverpool Echo journalist James Pearce highlighted why overreaction was unnecessary:
Roma's 3-0 win over SPAL was a lot more encouraging in their case, but Liverpool are capable of making a big statement at home, as they proved in their 3-0 first-leg win over Manchester City in the quarter-finals,
The Reds haven't conceded in their past five home games, while the Giallorossi have lost their last three European matches on the road, begging the question as to whether they can stand the heat of Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 AS Roma
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Date: Wednesday, April 25
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Munich
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK), ESPN Deportes (U.S.)
Bayern won't want to use their recent home stalemate against Sevilla as a template for how to tackle Spanish opposition, as Real promise to be an altogether more dangerous threat.
Los Blancos have developed a penchant for Champions League success under Zinedine Zidane, although that record was only preserved by Ronaldo's controversial stoppage-time penalty against Juventus a fortnight ago.
It doesn't take a football genius to realise the Portugal international needs pacifying if Bayern are to build a foundation with a strong home result, but Ronaldo has been in unstoppable form of late:
Any manager would be foolish not to build his team around its biggest talents, although Zidane has cautioned against an overreliance on Ronaldo, per The Independent's Samuel Lovett:
“We can think there will be other players as well as Cristiano who could make the difference in Munich.
“We have to stay focused because it’s a Champions League semi-final and we’re defending our title.”
The centre-back pairing of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels has been imperious for Bayern this season, and the team have conceded only eight goals in 10 European games this term, three of which came in a defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.
However, Real have had a full week's rest while the German champions were in action against Hannover 96 on Saturday, when they won 3-0.
Any disadvantage will have to be set aside for the Bavarians, though, as they encounter the first leg of what's likely to be the biggest test of their Champions League credentials.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-2 Real Madrid