The football world may still be getting over Euro 2012 and the new season is still some way off, but already there is the tantalizing prospect of a Barcelona vs. Real Madrid final in the Champions League to look forward to next May.
Barca will be delighted that Wembley will host the showpiece for the second time in three years on May 25, 2013. The stadium in northwest London has been a happy hunting ground for them in the European Cup having played host to their first and also most recent triumphs in the competition.
Should they reach a fourth final in eight years, they will most likely come up against their bitter domestic rivals Real Madrid.
Jose Mourinho's team ended three years of Catalan dominance in Spain by beating them to the title in La Liga last term, and they will now have their gaze firmly set on claiming a 10th European Cup, extending the club's own phenomenal record haul.
Clearly there is a chance that they could meet earlier in the competition—such as they did when Barca won a tempestuous semifinal tie in 2011.
They could both also be eliminated before even making it to Wembley—as was the case last season when Bayern Munich beat Real on penalties and Barca were shut out by eventual winners Chelsea.
But few would argue that the "Clasico" rivals are not the two best club sides in the world. Therefore, chances are that they will meet in the final of club football's biggest competition at some point before this era comes to an end.
In Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, each side has one of the world's two best players on their books. Aged 25 and 27 years old respectively, both forwards are still to enter their peak years—a frightening thought.
Between them, Real and Barca provided 13 players of the 23-man squad that just won Euro 2012 for Spain, if you include Camp Nou-bound left-back Jordi Alba. It would be fitting for such dominance on the international stage to be reflected at club level.
There are, of course, plenty of other top teams in Europe whose own hopes of winning the Champions League are realistic, while Chelsea's dogged battle to lift the trophy for the first time shows that there is still the potential for one of the unfancied sides reaching the knockout phase to prevail.
However, it seems unlikely that either Barcelona or Real Madrid would go into any fixture as the underdogs, irrespective of the opposition.
Perhaps the only truly unknown variable in all is Barca's new coach. Tito Vilanova is about to head onto his first ever season a head coach, having worked under Pep Guardiola so successfully over the past four seasons.
Vilanova will be under scrutiny before a ball is even kicked in anger in Spain and should Barca not get off to a great start, that will only intensify.
Still, being thrust into the first-team picture having had only a year in charge of the B team didn't hamper Guardiola's performance much.
If the stars align for these two great rivals, we could be set for a classic installment of one of football's great rivalries on the grandest stage of them all.
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