Two teams each from Spain and Germany remain in the Champions League ahead of the draw for the semifinals of the Champions League in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday.
While too much can often be read into outcomes from a knockout competition, it would be hard to argue that the sides remaining in the competition do not represent an accurate barometer of where the current power lies in Europe.
Having come through a nail-biting test against Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight to reach a record sixth successive semifinal, Barcelona remain in contention for a third title in five years. Lionel Messi, whose psychological as well as physical influence on the Barcelona side was there for all to see in Paris, has two weeks to get fit for the first leg of the semifinals, which will be played on April 23 and 24. The second legs follow a week later.
Many will be hoping that the semifinal draw paves the way for a first Clasico final in the European Cup. Real Madrid were given a brief scare in the second leg of their quarterfinal tie with Galatasaray, but a 3-0 win in Spain always looked like proving decisive and Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal in Istanbul sealed their progress 5-3 on aggregate.
Madrid’s desire to lift the trophy has been overwhelming for some time, with their chances of retaining their La Liga title having long since gone. The quest for the “Decima” a 10th European Cup is the focus of everyone at the club, including manager Jose Mourinho, who is also seeking to become the first manager to claim the trophy with three different clubs.
Last season their ambitions were halted by Bayern Munich in a dramatic semifinal only settled by penalties. Given Madrid’s poor record against German clubs, and Bayern in particular, that may be a tie they want to avoid.
Bayern have reached this stage of the Champions League for the third time in four seasons and are eager to put right the anguish of losing last year’s final in a shootout. The performance of Jupp Heyncke’s side against Juventus in the quarterfinals, when they won 4-0 on aggregate, demonstrated they have every chance of doing just that.
The quartet is rounded out by the emerging force of Borussia Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp’s exciting young side have already conquered Germany by winning the Bundesliga in the past two seasons and have now firmly emerged as a force on the European stage.
Dortmund had the most dramatic progress to the last four as they scored twice in injury time to oust Malaga. While Kopp equated that victory to winning a title, his ambitions in the competition have far from been fulfilled.
Where to watch: The draw for the Champions League semifinals will take place at 6 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel. A live stream can be viewed at UEFA.com.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.