The UEFA Champions League semi-final draw has placed Bayern Munich against Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid, keeping open the possibility of an all German, or all Spanish, final of Europe’s premier club competition at Wembley in May.
The first semi sees last seasons finalists Bayern Munich face Europe’s most lauded club team Barcelona, and after the heartache of losing out to Chelsea in their home city last year, they will be determined to add this trophy to the Bundesliga title they have already won this season.
Barcelona and their superstar Lionel Messi have been labelled as favourites since the tournament began, and defender Eric Abidal has spoken on the importance of the semi-final for club, and on how they want to win the competition for manager Tito Villanueva, who has recently returned to the dugout after receiving cancer treatment in New York. Abidal has only recently returned to action himself after spending a year out due to a liver transplant, and he said:
“We have to qualify [for the final], no two ways about it, we have to do it for Tito. It is an honour to be here. Everything to do with illnesses affects me. They have to be researched, it has been shown that nothing is impossible.”
Real Madrid are the most successful side in the competition’s history, but will find Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund side a stern test. The German outfit have won many fans across Europe with the fluent football they have displayed during this campaign, and they are the only unbeaten team remaining in the tournament, and have also won every game at their home, the Westfalenstadion.
Jose Mourinho however will be keen to win Madrid’s tenth European Cup trophy, in what potentially is his last season in the Spanish capital, and in doing so he would become the first manager to win the Champion’s League with three different clubs. Christiano Ronaldo is the competitions top scorer, and after a disappointing La Liga season in which Real have all but lost out on the title, he will be the driving force in their push for Champions League glory.
The semi-final first leg matches will be on the 23rd and 24th of April, and the return legs on the 30th of April and the 1st of May.
The draw for the Europa League semi-finals also took place this morning with Chelsea, the only British side left in European competition, drawn against FC Basel who knocked out Tottenham on penalties to become the first Swiss team to make this stage of a continental competition.
Chelsea’s club secretary David Barnard commented on the draw against FC Basel, saying: “They have already knocked out one of our English colleagues. We are looking forward to it. When you get to the semi-final you can almost touch the cup.”
The other Europa League semi pits Fenerbahce against Benfica, and the first legs will be played on Thursday April 25th, with the return legs the following week.