It is important to know that for the first time in Champions League history, two countries have two representatives each in the semi-finals. Both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich of Germany are alive and will each host a Spanish team in the first leg of the semi-finals. Today, Munich will host Barcelona; tomorrow, Dortmund will face Real Madrid.
The random draw that situated the match-ups has allowed Real Madrid to put off facing Bayern Munich until a possible Championship matchup. Last year, Real Madrid was swept cleanly out of the semi-finals by Munich. However, Madrid will have to get through yet another strong German side in Dortmund this year (Dortmund being arguably the most exciting club in the competition).
In today’s tilt, Barcelona will be hoping for the return of star striker Lionel Messi. If he is in the fold, then Barcelona’s chances of netting a victory or at least a goal or two to contribute to the aggregate score are significantly increased. Messi, who has missed the club’s last three league matches, has eight goals in Champions League play this season. Munich’s top goal scorer, Thomas Müller, has five goals. If Messi cannot lace up, it could spell disaster for the Spanish powerhouse. With the game being held in Germany, the importance of away goals is much higher due to a possible aggregate tie: if the score is even, away goals act as the tiebreaker. Both Bayern Munich and Barcelona have held time atop the World Soccer rankings this year; both teams have gotten the nod as the favorite. And so much hinges on the return of Messi — there is arguably no one better on the pitch than he is, when healthy.
Tomorrow’s matchup between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid will be interesting: the teams’ styles of play are diametrically oppose. Dortmund relies on a balanced attack, having no real star player, whereas Madrid is fast and shot-heavy, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the Champions League with 11 goals. Dortmund, coming off an incredible win in the second leg of the quarter-finals against Malaga, will look to carry that magic into the semis. Though they probably shouldn’t rely on scoring two goals after the 90th minute this time around.
The real winner here, though, is the Champions League. With high-energy matches like this, ticket receipts and public sentiment will both be strong and television ratings willy likely set records. And the eventual championship will provide even more of that. Yes, there will be a favorite, with the winner of the Barcelona/Munich matchup likely to take it all, but both Dortmund and Madrid can play up to the bill. Madrid knows a thing or two about the tournament; no club has more Champions League titles than Madrid’s nine.
Wembley Stadium in London will host the finals, but depending on how the semis shake out, Germany or Spain might fully represent the UEFA Champions League final showdown.