The April 12 Champions League (CL) draw in Nyon Switzerland pitted Germany’s and Spain’s top clubs against each other. FC Bayern München will play Barcelona and BV Borussia Dortmund will play Real Madrid.
At his point in the world’s most prestigious soccer competition, there were no easy draws left. Every team would necessarily draw a hard opponent, the only question was: Would it be a national or an international one. Friday’s draw has provided the answer and instead of two national semifinals, spectators will see Germany vs. Spain on a club level.
“It’s a tough draw, but that would have been the case either way. We are looking forward to the game and we are confident that we can prevail,” Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl told UEFA.com.
His side would have been the clear underdog at the beginning of the season, but that changed after the group stages, where Dortmund finished ahead of Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester City. On that occasion, Dortmund beat Madrid at home and managed a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, a result that would see them progress to the final, if they can repeat it.
“We have a lot of respect for Borussia Dortmund. We played them twice [in the group stage] but didn’t manage to beat them. This time we hope it will be different as we want to be in the final, that’s what we are all dreaming of,” said Real Madrid representative Emilio Butragueño on UEFA.com.
Dortmund is also the only undefeated team left in the competition, although they were lucky to escape a defeat by Malaga by turning a 2:1 loss into a 3:2 win in overtime in just 69 seconds. Dortmund will play Real Madrid at home April 24, with the return leg being plaid in Madrid April 30.
The other semi-final pits the best team of the last couple of years against the team that seems to be in the best shape this season.
Barcelona have dominated the competition in the recent past, reaching their sixth consecutive semifinal this year, winning the cup in 2009 and 2011. Bayern on the other hand are in remarkable shape, winning the most points from this year’s ten games and sporting the best goal difference.
While Barcelona struggled against Paris St. Germain, Bayern clearly defeated Italian champions Juventus 4:0 on aggregate, with home and away wins. They have also been in good shape recently, reaching the semis for a third time in four years having advanced to the final in 2010 and 2012, failing to win the trophy, however.
“It’s a great draw. What a game! It’s our third semi-final appearance in four years and we meet Barcelona eye to eye. I think our chances of reaching Wembley are 50/50. It will be an interesting duel between two top teams,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said on UEFA.com.
“I think we will see two very good games, played at the highest possible level. Furthermore, I think playing at home first is a slight advantage, contrary to the popular belief that it’s a disadvantage,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told UEFA.com, as Bayern already played Juventus at home first. The first leg will be in Munich April 23 with the return in the Camp Nou May 1.
FC Bayern München
European Cup semi-final record: W9 L5
Last semi-final appearance: 2011/12 (3-3 on aggregate v Real Madrid, 3-1 on penalties)
This season: W7 D1 L2 F22 A10—PTS 22 GD 12
Top scorer: Thomas Müller 5
vs Barcelona W3 D2 L1 F8 A9—GD -1
- Current season top form:
- —Beat Arsenal FC away 3:1, convincingly beat Juventus, which so far had been unbeaten, conceding the fewest goals
- —Most points together with Dortmund and most wins
- —Best goal difference
- Experience: Reached 2010 and 2012 final, core of team has been playing together for a long time
- Motivation: After two straight final defeats, the team is hungry to lift the trophy
- Flexible tactics:
- —Bayern have mastered several styles of play and are not dependent on a single source for goals. They can score from set pieces as well as from free-flowing combinations, from the air and from the ground —They are comfortable making the play but also good on the counter
- Bayern are already confirmed German champions for 2013, they can rest their complete squad between CL games
- Suspensions and long-term injuries:
- —Key striker Mario Mandzukic will be suspended for the first game in Munich. Despite good options on the bench (Mario Gomez/Claudio Pizarro), Mandzukic has been instrumental in Bayern’s pressing game this season
- —Playmaker Toni Kroos is out for the season since an injury against Juventus in the first game. Arjen Robben, who moved into the first team, is a first class replacement, but seems to have lost the finishing precision that made him so lethal in the 2010 campaign
- —Team captain Philipp Lahm and regular defender Dante will be suspended if they receive another yellow card. Both cannot be replaced without a significant loss of quality.
- Slip Ups:
- —After convincingly beating Arsenal 3:1 away from home, Bayern lost 2:0 at home against an inferior Arsenal side. A lapse like this will cost them the spot in the finals.
European Cup semi-final record: W6 L7
Last semi-final appearance: 2011/12 (2-3 on aggregate v Chelsea FC)
This season: W5 D3 L2 F18 A10—PTS 18 GD 8
Top scorer: Lionel Messi 8
v Bayern W1 D2 L3 F9 A8—GD 1
- Best team of the last years:
- —Barcelona won the trophy twice since 2009 and has featured in 6 consecutive semifinals since 2008, losing to Manchester United, Inter and Chelsea under sometimes very unfortunate circumstances
- —Barcelonas fluid combinations and pressing game have shaped the modern game. Many teams like Bayern and also Dortmund have taken them as an example
- —Having consistently made the semifinals for six years, players like Carlos Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta have the most experience at this level of the competition. Even younger players like Pedro already have 4 successful years under their belts.
- —Most of the squad also formed part of Spain’s successful world and European Championship campaign’s beating German opposition on the way to the title
- —He is the world’s best player, able to turn around games with a stroke of genius, as it happened against Paris St. Germain in the quarterfinals
- Camp Nou:
- —Seating almost 97,000, the stadium is the biggest in Europe. Opposition teams like AC Milan, Arsenal FC and FC Bayern have been sent home with 4 goals to nothing in recent years.
- Injuries and Suspensions:
- —Key team player Eric Abidal is only now starting to make his way back into the team
- —Quarterfinal defender Adriano will miss the first leg due to a suspension
- —First team players Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba will miss the next game if they pick up another yellow card.
- —Head coach Tito Villanova suffers from cancer and frequently misses training sessions and games due to treatment
- Current season’s form:
- —This year, Barcelona failed to shine on many occasions, losing to Celtic Glasgow and AC Milan
- —They also struggled against Paris St. Germain, progressing only after a late goal at the Camp Nou on away goals
- Most studied and well-known team in Europe:
- —Because of their success, most European coaches know Barcelona inside out
- —AC Milan and Paris St. Germain devised tactics that managed to neutralize Barca’s possession and pressing
European Cup semi-final record: W1 L2
Last semi-final appearance: 1997/98 (0-2 on aggregate v Real Madrid)
This season: W6 D4 L0 F19 A9—PTS 22 GD10
Top scorer: Robert Lewandowski 6
v Real Madrid W1 D3 L2 F6 A8—GD -2
- Maximally fined-tuned first team:
- —Dortmund’s first team has been playing together for more than 4 years, growing together, and they are also the youngest and probably most agile team
- —Young German players such as Mario Götze, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are amongst Europe’s hottest talents
- Overwhelming pressing game:
- —Like Bayern, Dortmund force opponents to make mistakes by putting them under pressure and not allowing them any time on the ball. This attack to defend principle allowed them to dominate away games at Manchester City and Real Madrid
- Good Set-Pieces:
- —If their counterattacking and combination football doesn’t produce results, Dortmund has many players that can score from corners and free kicks, like against Malaga in overtime
- Nothing to Lose:
- —Being the youngest team and the apparent underdog, this team has nothing to lose and they want to prove their ability on the big European stage
- —This was remarkably demonstrated by their late come-back against Malaga in the quarterfinals where they just refused to give up
- —Dortmund is a lesser well-known team in Europe and can therefore surprise opposition coaches
- Signal Iduna Park:
- —Seating 65,000, Dortmund fans turn this arena into a very difficult place to play for opponents. Dortmund has won all its home games here this season.
- Focus on CL:
- —Dortmund cannot become German champions again, but are virtually assured a direct qualifying spot, with 10 points clear of fourth-placed Schalke and six games to go. They can focus exclusively on the Champions League.
- —Despite having won two German championships in 2011 and 2012, this Dortmund team only managed to reach the knock-out stages of the CL for the first time this season
- —Previously they crashed out of the CL group stage in 2011 and out of the Europa League group stage in 2010
- —Coach Jürgen Klopp doesn’t have any coaching experience at this level
- Lack of squad-depth:
- —While their first team is superb, Dortmund cannot substitute injured or suspended players without losing a lot of quality
- —Fortunately, none of their players are currently under threat of being suspended by conceding another booking
European Cup semi-final record: W12 L11
Last semi-final appearance: 2011/12 (3-3 on aggregate v Bayern München, 1-3 on penalties)
This season: W5 D3 L2 F23 A14—18 PTS GD 9
Top scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo 11
v Dortmund W2 D3 L1 F8 A6— GD 2
- —Jose Mourinho is a tactical and motivational mastermind. He has already won the Champions League with Porto and Inter and is eager to repeat the trick with Madrid
- —He will also have made amends after the group stage defeat against Dortmund
- Individual Talent: Madrid has a very deep squad with world class attacking talent, such as Christiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Özil
- Experience: Madrid has reached the semi-finals for the third year straight and features Spanish world cup winner such as Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos
- Focus on CL: Madrid practically cannot become Spanish champions anymore but is virtually assured a direct CL qualification spot
- No players are injured or suspended
- Poor form this season:
- —Madrid did not have a chance against Barca in La Liga this season, despite winning in Barcelona to clinch a space in the Spanish Cup final
- —They finished second after Dortmund in the group stages
- —They struggled against Manchester United in the round of last 16 and even lost one game to Galatasary, arguably the weakest team in the quarterfinals.
- Historically, Madrid always struggled against German opposition
- Unbalanced team: Despite the star-studded offensive line-up, Mourinho so far has not managed to form a completely balanced team comparable to the other semifinalists. His previous teams Porto, Chelsea and Inter always played defensive minded, whereas Madrid is an attacking team.