Germans aim to land first blow
© AFP

For the first time in the history of the UEFA Champions League, both semi-final ties will see a German team take on Spanish opposition, with all four teams having won the competition previously: 18 times between them.

Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid all reached this stage of the tournament last season, while Borussia Dortmund have replaced Chelsea, the eventual champions on that occasion.

The first legs will be played in Germany on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with the return games taking place in Spain on 30 April and 1 May. 

The final will be played on 25 May at Wembley Stadium, London.

Fixtures
Semi-final first legs

Tuesday 23 April
Bayern Munich (GER) - Barcelona (ESP)

Wednesday 24 April
Borussia Dortmund (GER) - Real Madrid (ESP)

Bayern Munich-Barcelona

The match
Impressive in disposing of Juventus 4-0 on aggregate in the last round, the newly crowned Bundesliga champions and German Cup finalists are targeting their third Champions League final in four years. Bayern tuned up for the tie with a comfortable workout at Hannover at the weekend, with braces from Mario Gomez and Claudio Pizarro helping them to a 6-1 win.

Opponents Barça, who are appearing in the semi-finals for the sixth season running and are all but assured the Spanish title, also know a thing or two about big occasions, as they showed in squeezing past Paris Saint-Germain on away goals in the quarter-finals. While Lionel Messi is fit for the trip to Germany, the Catalans will have to make do without defensive stalwarts Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano, while Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are both just a yellow card away from a one-match suspension.

Victory will most likely go to the side better able to control possession and impose their game, though the match could also hinge on a flash of individual brilliance from the likes of Messi or Franck Ribery. One interested spectator with divided loyalties will be Pep Guardiola, formerly in charge at Barça and soon to take over coaching duties at Bayern.

The history
Bayern Munich and Barcelona have met six times before in European competitions, their last two encounters coming in the last eight of the Champions League in 2008/09, when Barcelona won 5-1 on aggregate en route to defeating Manchester United in the final. Overall Bayern hold sway, however, having won three, drawn two and lost just one of those six games.

The player to watch
Given a stern examination by Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-final second leg at the Camp Nou, Barcelona had to call on their lethal weapon Lionel Messi to help them clinch their semi-final slot. Despite carrying an injury when he came on in the second half, the Argentinian turned the tie with his mere presence, inspiring his team-mates and playing a key part in Pedro’s all-important equaliser.

As far as Barcelona are concerned, Messi is “more than a player”. Further proof of that came on Saturday evening, when Barça struggled to break down Levante’s defence without him, the three points only coming their way when Cesc Fabregas hit an 84th-minute winner.

The stats
20 
- The number of times Bayern Munich have met Spanish opposition at home in the competition. The Bavarians have prevailed in 14 of those games, drawn five and lost only one, to Deportivo La Coruna in 2002.

102 - The total number of matches Barcelona have won in Europe’s leading club competition, putting them level with Manchester United and just two behind Real Madrid, who top the list.

What they said
“It’s not the physical duel that will decide the tie but possession of the ball. If Barça control the game, they’ll neutralise Bayern. If they don’t, Bayern will make them pay for it,” Dutch international Mark van Bommel, who has played for both Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

“We need to leave Pep [Guardiola] alone. He helped us a lot and now he’ll have to watch the game and either suffer or take something from it. My guess is he’s more likely to take something from it. He’s likes football too much to suffer when he’s watching it,” Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta.

Borussia Dortmund-Real Madrid

The match
Eleven years on from Zinedine Zidane’s sublime volley at Hampden Park, Real Madrid are still searching for la décima, their tenth European Cup/Champions League crown. Just as they did in last year’s semis, they have come up against a well-drilled German side, who are the only unbeaten team left in this season’s competition.

Borussia only just scraped into the last four, however. Trailing Malaga by one goal as their quarter-final return leg went into injury time, the Germans dug deep to conjure up the two goals they needed to go through in a heart-stopping finale. Since going down 2-0 to Ajax in the quarter-finals in 1996, Dortmund have not lost a home game in the competition, a record their coach Jurgen Klopp is determined to maintain: “We’ve already shown this season that we can beat Real Madrid, and we’ve also got a little bit of unfinished business to attend to because they beat us in the semi-finals in 1998.”

While Borussia’s strengths are their compactness and teamwork, Real have the individual gifts that turn can games in a moment, though coach Jose Mourinho will have to overcome the absences of Marcelo and Luka Modric, both of whom picked up injuries in Saturday’s Liga match at home to Real Betis.

The history
Real Madrid hold a slight advantage with two wins, three draws and one defeat in the six previous meetings between the sides. In 1998 the Spaniards booked their place in the final at Borussia’s expense by securing a 2-0 home win and following up with a goalless draw in Germany, though the men in yellow and black did have the better of their group-phase meetings earlier this season, winning 2-1 in Dortmund and drawing 2-2 at the Bernabeu.

The player to watch
The top scorer in the competition this season with 11 goals in ten matches, having scored in each of the last five, Cristiano Ronaldo has been in irresistible form. Bursting with confidence, the Portuguese also leads the field in terms of shots on target, having fired in 49, well ahead of second-placed Lionel Messi on 27, and almost as many as Dortmund’s top trio of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski together, who have amassed 55 shots on target between them.

The stats
5
 - The number of wins Borussia Dortmund have recorded at home in the Champions League this season in as many games, in which they have scored ten goals and conceded three. The Germans are also the only undefeated side in European competitions this season.

3 - The number of semi-final ties Real Madrid have lost since last winning the competition in 2002. Having reached this stage of the competition 24 times in all, Los Merengues are looking to contest their 13th final.

What they said
“Real Madrid are tough opponents, but of the three teams we could have faced, they’re the only ones we’ve beaten this season,” Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.

“I don’t care who our opponents are. So they’ve got their own style and strengths? All the big teams do. We’ve had the last two weeks to prepare for this match,” Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.

Have your say
Will this week’s first legs be decisive?