Old scores to settle for semi-finalists
As the only team left in this year’s UEFA Champions League yet to lift the trophy, Chelsea go into the semi-finals as clear underdogs. The Blues are joined in the last four by Barcelona, who have won Europe's top club competition four times, Bayern Munich, also four-time winners and Real Madrid, whose nine triumphs mean the other three sides have won the title 17 times between them.
Barça are appearing in the semis for the fifth year in a row, and are aiming to become the first team to successfully defend their crown since the Champions League was created in 1992/93.
In the other semi, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are preparing to face off in the last four for the fifth time. And with both sides determined to win the competition for the first time in eleven and ten years respectively, the stage looks set for a classic.
Match of the day
Bayern Munich-Real Madrid, Allianz Arena, Munich, Tuesday 17 April, 20.45
Bayern Munich have never lost at home to Real Madrid, with a record of eight wins and a draw from nine previous encounters. They have also won three of their four semi-final appearances against the Spanish outfit. The Bavarians would appear to have realistic hopes of becoming the third side to lift the trophy on home soil, after Real in 1957 and Inter Milan in 1965. And with the Bundesliga title slipping from their grasp, Jupp Heynckes’ men will no doubt have made Champions League glory their main objective.
Real are locked in a thrilling battle with Barcelona for the Spanish league title, and will be in no mood to roll over at this late stage of the competition. The Merengue remain unbeaten in this year’s competition, with nine wins and a draw so far. Their impressive firepower up front has helped to generate 107 league goals this season, and is capable of inflicting damage on any defence.
The road to the semis
- First in Group A with 13 points (4 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat)
- Round of 16: Basel 0-1, 7-0
- Quarter-final: Marseille 2-0, 2-0
- First in Group D with 18 points (6 wins)
- Round of 16: CSKA Moscow 1-1, 4-1
- Quarter-final: APOEL Nicosia 3-0, 5-2
Players to watch
If it is true that strikers are nothing without good service, then Bayern Munich’s 11-goal marksman Mario Gomez will once again be looking to Franck Ribery to supply his ammunition. Ribery is joint top of the Champions League assists table with five, and has created 18 goals in the Bundesliga. Good passes are also unlikely to be in short supply for Cristiano Ronaldo (eight goals), as team-mates Karim Benzema (seven goals) and Kaka both have five assists apiece.
11- The last time Bayern Munich won the Champions League, 11 years ago, they knocked out Real Madrid in the semi-finals. Real dumped Bayern out of the competition on the way to winning their two most recent titles, in 2000 and 2002.
What they said
“Real Madrid are a great team, but they are not extraordinary. They work efficiently but don’t have the same incredible fluidity as Barcelona,” Franz Beckenbauer, honourary president of Bayern Munich.
The other match
Chelsea-Barcelona, Stamford Bridge, London, Wednesday 18 April, 20.45
There is a certain element of revenge attached to the week’s other semi-final. On 6 May 2009, at the same stage of the competition and having secured a goalless draw in the away leg, Chelsea went out on away goals after Andres Iniesta’s last-gasp strike. This time around, the first leg takes place at Stamford Bridge, where the Blues are unbeaten in five outings against Barça and have won all five of their home games in this season’s competition, scoring 16 times.
Barcelona have travelled well in Europe this season, with four wins, a draw against AC Milan and 15 goals scored on the road. The Catalans have also won three of their four previous two-legged encounters with Chelsea. But the Blues, led by the old guard, have been in resurgent mood since Roberto di Matteo took charge, while Barça have appeared increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi in the latter stages of the season.
The road to the semis
- First in Group E with 11 points (3 wins, 2 draws, 1 defeat)
- Round of 16: Napoli 1-3, 4-1
- Quarter-final: Benfica 1-0, 2-1
- First in Group H with 16 points (5 wins, 1 draw)
- Round of 16: Bayer Leverkusen 3-1, 7-1
- Quarter-final: AC Milan 3-1, 0-0
Player to watch
Like a fine wine, Lionel Messi just keeps getting better with age. The Argentinian already has 63 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season, and is now just four short of the single-season record set by Gerd Muller in 1973. He also recently matched Jose Altafini’s all-time European Cup record of 14 goals.
6 - Chelsea are appearing in the last four for the sixth time since 2004, but reached the final just once, in 2008. Barcelona, for their part, are in the semi-finals for the fifth straight year, and have won six of their 12 previous last-four ties.
What they said
“Roberto [Di Matteo] has managed to instil confidence in us. We’ve started to realise just what a great team we can be. We went through a tough period, but now we’re going from strength to strength,” Ramires, Chelsea midfielder