Que Te Pasa, Fernando?

Liverpool will take on Atletico Madrid in the marquee semifinal of the Europa League, a match-up with several implications including Fernando Torres’ return to the Calderon to take on the club he grew up with. The winner of this home and away series will have a chance to win a major European title, a remarkable possibility for two clubs whose season has been marred by inconsistency.

Hamburg SV and surprise contender Fulham will meet in the other semifinal. A strong Hamburg side claimed its place in the semis convincingly with a 3-1 away victory at Standard Liege, while Fulham’s Cinderella run in Europe continued after a shockingly early goal from Bobby Zamora and a determined performance that knocked Wolfsburg down psychologically, then finally out of the Europa League. Manager Roy Hodgson looks genial after take a small but talented club as far into the competition, far exceeding all projections. On the other side, Wolfsburg must feel greatly disappointed about this failure and must know that the opportunity to keep Edin Dzeko past this season is slipping away.

Liverpool advanced to the semifinals of the the Europa League with a convincing 4-1 trouncing of Benfica. With a chance for an all English final, Liverpool and Fulham meet this weekend in the Premiership in a potential preview. Two goals from Fernando Torres sealed the qualification, the last one putting a dagger into Benfica’s hopes when the match got to the same juncture as Man United – Bayern. At 3-1 down, Benfica was energized knowing it would have gone through with a second away goal, but this time around it was the home side that delivered the decisive blow and put an end to the suspense.

Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard celebrate Europa League success.

Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard celebrate Europa League success.

Liverpool’s manager Rafa Benitez will now lead Esteban Gerrard, Pepe Reina, Mascherano, Insua and former Atletico Madrid stars Fernando Torres and Maxi Rodriguez against the Colchonerros, who survived the pressure from Valencia and got through on the away goals. This is an improbable and positive achievement for a club that started the season terribly, barely collected a couple of points in the Champions League, languished in the bottom half of La Liga for most of the season and finally improved in 2010. Atletico has so much talent that the belief is still there when the team takes the field. Its offensive weapons – Forlan, Aguero, Simao, Reyes, Jurado – overshadow its defensive weaknesses. It should be an entertaining encounter with mixed emotions for Fernando.

Prediction: it will be a classic, early 1980s Hamburg – Liverpool final.