ROME (AP) — When Juventus visits Benfica in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals Thursday, it will mark the first appearance for the once dominant Turin club in the final four of a European competition since finishing runner-up in the 2003 Champions League.
After the 2006 Italian match-fixing scandal and the subsequent relegation to Serie B, it's been a long road back to continental prominence for Juventus, which also is closing in on its third straight Serie A title.
While Juve holds an eight-point lead in Serie A with four matches to play, it faces a Benfica squad that clinched the Portuguese title last weekend.
In the other semifinal, Sevilla coach Unai Emery will face his former side Valencia in an all-Spanish matchup.
It is the first time the two clubs have met in European competition, and Sevilla will be confident as it has not lost at home against Valencia for nearly a decade.
Here are five things to know about the Europa League semifinals:
TEVEZ'S 5-YEAR DROUGHT: Juventus forward Carlos Tevez's goal-scoring drought in European competitions has passed the five-year mark.
The Argentine's last European goal came on April 7, 2009, for Manchester United when he came off the bench and scored against Porto in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Tevez is among the Serie A leaders with 18 goals this season, but has been bothered by an inflamed thigh muscle lately and has not played a full 90 minutes yet this month.
He is expected to team with Fernando Llorente up front Thursday.
BENFICA'S GHOSTS: Benfica clinched the Portuguese title last weekend with two rounds left to play, helping to banish some of last season's demons.
The Lisbon club fell at the final hurdles in three competitions last season, including the domestic title race, and ended up with no silverware. It conceded late goals in the Europa League final, when it lost 2-1 to Chelsea, and in the Portuguese Cup against Guimaraes.
Now, apart from reaching the Europa League semifinals, Benfica is also into the final of the Portuguese Cup and the semifinals of the Portuguese League Cup.
As it pursues its 10th European final and two other trophies, its packed game schedule is taking a toll. Argentine winger Salvio (fractured forearm) and Portuguese defender Silvio (broken shin) will miss both the Juventus matches.
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