• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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European giants clash in UEFA Champions League final four


The draw for the UEFA Champions League semi-finals was made in Switzerland on Friday, as Premier League side Chelsea manage to dodge two of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Chelsea will face the tricky task of a Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid following the draw at UEFA’s headquarters.

The Blues, who fought back from a 3-1 deficit against PSG to make the last four, were thrown into the pot with Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, with any of the opponents set to throw up a mouth-watering clash.

But it is Atletico for Jose Mourinho’s men, with the Special One bidding to claim the one major trophy he has failed to win at Stamford Bridge, less than one year after his dramatic return to the club in the summer.

The clash has extra spices to it as on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could line up for Atletico against his parent club, despite suggestions that Mourinho would try to block the Belgian from playing – unless Atletico paid hefty compensation.

Carlo-Ancelotti Pep Guardiola

In the other semi-final draw, Bayern Munich will face Real Madrid, meaning Chelsea could face the winner of either of those two in the final in Lisbon on May 24.

In the other semi-final tie, a mouth-watering clash awaits all soccer fans as it is a double header between two of European soccer’s heavyweights as Real Madrid square off against reigning champions Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid have a very poor record against Bayern Munich in UEFA competitions.

The two sides have met each other 20 in the European Cup/Champions League. That includes five semi-finals: 1976, 1987, 2000, 2001 and 2012. Only once have the Spanish giants emerged victorious – 2000.

The latest bouts between two of Europe’s biggest clubs came in the 2011-12 campaign. Then managed by Jose Mourinho, Los Blancos took the German giants all the way to a penalty shootout, which they lost 3-1.

There was nothing to choose between those two sides at the time and it will be just as tight this time around

Madrid are in the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition for the fourth season in a row and coach Carlo Ancelotti has been entrusted with the task of leading them to their 10th European Cup.

The Italian tactician has won the competition both as a player and as a coach twice each and is defiant that his players will be able to get the better of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern over two legs.

“If we want to win the UEFA Champions League, we have to beat everyone including Bayern,” said the 54-year-old, adding that “the semi-finals against Bayern will be very difficult but it’s not easy for anyone to play Real Madrid.”

Ancelotti is putting up a brave face against a team who have just the European Cup to concentrate on. Bayern have already bulldozed their way to the Bundesliga title and are aiming to become the first team to clinch back-to-back titles in the Champions League era.

mouriho simeone

Emilio Butragueno, a Madrid legend and now a club ambassador, is probably wary of all that and is less forthcoming in backing Ancelotti’s players.

“A lot of confidence in the players but it will be extremely tough against Bayern,” said the former Spain international striker. “Of course I hope Real Madrid reach the final and win.”

Chelsea will travel to the Vicente Calderon stadium in the first leg on April 22, to face Diego Simeone’s side who knocked out FC Barcelona at the quarterfinal stage. Diega Costa should be fit after being hit by injury, as the West London club know that as long as they defend well in the first leg, that can bring Atleti back to Stamford Bridge on April 30 with everything to play for. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 15 clashes with Spanish sides in the Champions League, winning six and drawing nine, and have never lost to Atletico in the UCL.

Real Madrid host Bayern at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the other semi-final on April 23, as Carlo Ancelotti’s superstar side will come up against the favourites Bayern. What a tie that will be, as Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery, Gareth Bale and Arjen Robben collide again in the second leg at the Allianz Arena on April 29.

Both semifinal matches will be played later this month, as the first legs will be on April 22/23, with the second legs to be played on April 29/30.

And hope they will. Madrid have not reached the final since 2002 when they sensationally defeated Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park in Glasgow, and the quest to win La Decima carries on.

Which team will progress to the Champions League final?

Anthony Nlebem