The champions of Germany and Italy are joined by the two Spanish giants to make it a heavyweight lineup for the final four of this season’s Champions League. There is pedigree in abundance, with the four teams between them having lifted the European Cup on 21 occasions.
But in terms of which team will be holding the trophy aloft in Berlin on June 6, the betting odds very much reflect the recent continental success of the semifinalists.
Barcelona 13/8 (all odds provided by Bovada.lv)
In the semifinals for the seventh time in eight seasons, Barcelona have bounced back from the disappointment of last year’s quarterfinal exit. And on current form, it would be hard to argue that they aren’t the team to beat. It was a difficult start to Luis Enrique’s tenure at the Camp Nou, and it appeared that the club was set to continue the lack of direction that has blighted the four-time European champions since the departure of Pep Guardiola in 2012. Instead Enrique deserves credit for imposing his own subtle stylistic changes on the team and finding a coherent balance. The key to the team, though, is undeniably the sensational individual and linkup play between star forward trio Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. All three continued their sensational form in an emphatic win over Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals and will take some stopping en route to the trophy.
Bayern Munich 2/1
Guardiola’s current team so nearly became the victims of this year’s biggest Champions League shock. Missing a host of key players to injury, the German champions and current runaway Bundesliga leaders lost 3-1 to Porto in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie in Portugal. Still without the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery for the return, Bayern had a mountain to climb. But the Bavarians spectacularly rose to the occasion, taking a 5-0 lead before halftime and eventually cruising through 7-4 on aggregate. On the back of such a convincing performance, and with Robben, Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger now on the comeback trail, Bayern will believe they can avenge last season’s heavy semifinal defeat to Real Madrid.
Real Madrid 3/1
After an unprecedented 10th European Cup triumph last season, Real Madrid remain on course to become the first team to retain the trophy in the Champions League era. They did so with a tense victory over the team they dramatically defeated in last year’s final in Lisbon -- city rivals Atletico. Having not beaten Diego Simeone’s side in seven meetings this season, including in a goalless draw in the first leg, Real Madrid finally prevailed with a late, late strike from Javier “Chicharito” Hernández at the Bernabeu. Carlo Ancelotti’s squad have picked up form in recent weeks after a mid-seasons slump but will have to negotiate a semifinal tie without one of the men most responsible for that rejuvenation, midfielder Luka Modric. The Croatian is hopeful of a return in time for the final. It is now the job of Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. to ensure he gets that chance.
While the three other teams remaining have been regulars in the Champions League’s last four in recent seasons, Juventus are back in the semifinals for the first time since losing the 2003 final to AC Milan. For the club it represents returning to the major European stage after the 2006 Calciopoli scandal and subsequent relegation from Serie A. That they have made the breakthrough this season comes as some surprise, given far from ideal preparations to the campaign, which saw the man who led them to three consecutive Serie A titles Antonio Conte depart and Massimiliano Allegri installed as a largely unpopular successor. But, while maintaining their domestic dominance, the former Milan coach has proven a savvier operator on the European stage. After getting past Borussia Dortmund and Monaco in the knockout rounds, Juventus will now have to show they can get the better of one of the true European giants. And for that task, they will be desperately hoping for the return of currently injured midfield star Paul Pogba.