On towards the dream final. Bayern Munich-Barcelona and Borussia-Real Madrid are the pairings that came out of the draw for the semi-finals of the 2013 edition of the Champions League, held today in Nyon, Switzerland. The two Spanish sides avoid each other and leave open the possibility of facing each other in the final at Wembley on 25 May. Both Barcelona and Madrid play their first leg away and will have the decisive return leg in their home grounds. Barcelona play on 23 April and 1 May, while Madrid are in action on 24 April and 30 April. The 'home-side' in the final will be the winner of the Dortmund-Real Madrid semi.
Although Madrid's fans were keen to face their eternal rivals in the semi-final according to AS.com's survey, the team appears to have come out the best of the four, looking at the history and CVs of each team. That said, Dortmund is the only unbeaten team in this year's Champions (6 wins and 4 draws) and is hoping to be only the seventh team to win the trophy without losing a single game, the previous being Marseille (1992-93), Milan (93-94), Ajax (94-95) Manchester United (98-99 and 2007-08) and Barcelona (2005-06). Klopp's Dortmund have already beaten Madrid in the group stage in Germany (2-1) and drew in the Bernabéu (2-2).
Arbeloa will be out for the first leg as he is suspended, while Dortmund have no suspensions and with Grosskreutz as the only uncertainty. This will be Real Madrid's third consecutive semi-final under Mou, who is seeking his third 'big-ears', the European Cup, and above all, the 'Décima', the club's tenth European Cup. Real Madrid have won 12 out of the 23 European Cup semi-finals they have played, but have now lost three on the trot: 2002-03 (Juventus), 2010-11 (Barcelona) and 2011-12 (Bayern). Between 1968 and 1980 Madrid fell four times at this stage. This year they are clear favourites in their desire to lift the trophy again, something that hasn't been true since 2002.
Barcelona are tied with the rival they didn't want to see. Guardiola brings the intrigue, being as he is the future coach of the German club as well as the brains behind this triumphant Barcelona team. Especially because the Barcelona fans are beginning to suspect that he will be helping Bayern prepare for the semi-final with his exhaustive knowledge of the Catalan side. This team have come through seven of their 14 semi-finals. Since 2001-02 they have alternated qualifying and going out: 2001-02 (knocked out by Madrid), 2005-06 (beat Milan), 2007-08 (knocked out by United), 2008-09 (beat Chelsea), 2009-10 (beaten by Inter), 2010-11 (beat Madrid), 2011-12 (knocked out by Chelsea). They are on a run of six consecutive semi-finals. Their current form and the injuries they are suffering from has seen them lose some of their strength, but the bookies still make them favourites to win their fifth European Cup. To do so they need to overcome the beast, who have only been beaten in five of their 14 semi-finals, and have made the final in their last three semis. The last time they failed to get through a semi-final was in 1999-00 when Madrid did for them.
Tito Vilanova's team are coming into the semi-final with a veritable sieve for a defence. The tough ties against Milan and PSG have left them severely weakened at the back. Puyol, Mascherano and Adriano are injured. The Brazilian is suspended anyway for the first leg. Piqué, Alba and Song (a possible stand-in) are one yellow away from being suspended. Tito's first option would be to put Piqué with Bartra, as he did for the last few minutes against PSG. The other, force Puyol's return. Other options are to put Song at the back, or Busquets. Abidal's presence seems unlikely.
If Piqué, Alba or Song see yellow in the first leg, they miss the return. If they make it through the away leg, but pick up a booking in the Camp Nou, they would miss the final if Barcelona make it through. There are no pardons here, like in World Cups and European Championships. Vilanova's problems then could multiply if Piqué gets booked. For Bayern, Mandzukic is suspended and Lahm, Dante and Luiz Gustavo are a yellow away from being so.