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UEFA Youth League semi-final preview: Juventus-Benfica, Atlético-Salzburg

Benfica aim to reach a record-equalling fourth final as they face Juventus before 2017 champions Salzburg take on Atlético in Friday's Nyon semis.

UYL 2122 Finals Promo
Get ready for the 2022 UEFA Youth League finals

The UEFA Youth League finals return to the traditional four-team April format as the semis are played at Nyon's Colovray Stadium on Friday.

Juventus, only the second Italian team to reach this stage, open the action against finals regulars Benfica. Then 2017 champions Salzburg take on Atlético who, like Juve, have entered all eight editions of this competition but only now are making their semi-final debut. The decider follows at 18:00 CET on Monday to crown the first champions since Real Madrid won a COVID-19 reformatted finals in August 2020; last season's competition was cancelled due to the pandemic.

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Finals sold out

All tickets have been sold for the finals at Colovray Stadium in Nyon

Juventus vs Benfica (14:00 CET)

Quarter-final highlights: Juventus 2-0 Liverpool
Quarter-final highlights: Juventus 2-0 Liverpool

Roma are the only previous Italian side to take part in a four-team finals, losing 4-0 to Chelsea in 2015, but Juventus now have the opportunity to go one better. They did actually play in the expanded 2020 finals in Nyon, losing 3-1 to eventual winners Madrid in the round of 16, which had been Juve's previous best run, but this season they have truly excelled, getting both the most points (16) and joint most goals (18) in the group stage, ousting AZ Alkmaar away on penalties in the last 16, then defeating Liverpool 2-0 to reach Nyon.

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Benfica, meanwhile, have achieved everything except the title in this competition. They are in a record-equalling fourth semi-final, have won their previous three, and by playing their 69th all-time UEFA Youth League match they will match Madrid's record, which they will then beat if they reach Monday's decider.

Quarter-final highlights: Sporting CP 0-4 Benfica
Quarter-final highlights: Sporting CP 0-4 Benfica

Having lost their group opener 4-0 at Dynamo Kyiv this season, Benfica have since won all seven matches, scoring 21 goals and conceding only twice, both those goals coming in the 3-2 round of 16 success at Midtjylland that preceded last week's 4-0 derby victory at Sporting CP in which Pedro Santos and Diego Moreira both struck twice.

Luís Castro, Benfica coach: "We want to show, and have shown, why we are a European and world-class academy. That's the main focus, showing our quality. And we know that the more games we play, the longer we are in the competition, the more we test ourselves, the more we develop and we can show the quality we have."

In-depth: Meet the semi-finalists

Atlético vs Salzburg (18:00 CET)

Quarter-final highlights: Dortmund 0-1 Atlético
Quarter-final highlights: Dortmund 0-1 Atlético

Three times Atlético had fallen in the last eight before this season, giving them the odd record of having got through the group stage in every edition but never made the four-team Nyon finals.

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That has changed thanks to Javier Currás's nerveless penalty in front of nearly 20,000 fans away to Borussia Dortmund, again showing Atleti's strength on the road having won a group qualification decider 2-1 at Porto, edged through on penalties at Hajduk Split and memorably visited Real Madrid and knocked out the holders 3-2. Currás will miss the semi-final through suspension but watch out for their hero against Madrid, Pablo Barrios.

Quarter-final highlights: Paris 1-3 Salzburg
Quarter-final highlights: Paris 1-3 Salzburg

Salzburg are the only past champions to reach these finals, having triumphed in 2016/17 with 2-1 wins against Barcelona and Benfica. That season they also defeated Paris Saint-Germain 5-0 in the round of 16; this time they met the same team, highly-fancied, in the quarter-finals and won 3-1 away. The side they beat in the next round after Paris in 2017? Atlético.

Just as in that season, much of the Salzburg squad play their domestic football for the club's nursery team FC Liefering in the Austrian second tier, also coached by René Aufhauser.

René Aufhauser, Salzburg coach: "We are all looking forward to the great adventure of Nyon. The euphoria is great, but we know our opponent's strengths. We're up against a very robust team that defends compactly and well, in the typical Atlético style."