Once you reach the semifinals of the Champions League, you're pretty much guaranteed to see brilliant matchups between the top clubs in Europe. You don't reach the final four without being the cream of the crop.
But with two teams already in—Chelsea and Real Madrid—and two more set to punch a ticket on Wednesday, there are a few potential matchups that stand above the rest. Be it a history between the clubs or certain figures that represent the clubs, the following matchups would be highly anticipated.
Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich
It would be hard not to get excited for a rematch of the past two Champions League winners, especially when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich for the 2012 title. Bayern Munich could not only exact their revenge, but they could also put themselves in a position to repeat as champions.
And in the process, they could eliminate three English Premier League clubs along the way. Bayern already knocked off Arsenal and play Manchester United on Wednesday afternoon in Munich, with that matchup even on aggregate at a goal apiece.
You'd have to think the German giants would take some measure of satisfaction in knocking out three English powerhouses.
But it gets better. This matchup would mean Jose Mourinho would face his managerial rival, Pep Guardiola. The two regularly matched wits when Mourinho was with Real Madrid and Guardiola led Barcelona, and there hasn't been much love lost between the two.
Before these sides met in August in the European Super Cup, Michael Cox of ESPN took a look back at the rivalry between these managers:
The two have produced some tremendous games, but when you think of their rivalry, you don't think about the football. You think of Mourinho's post-match sprinkler-interrupted celebration at the Camp Nou, of Guardiola's rant, of Mourinho poking Guardiola's assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye, of Guardiola giving Zlatan Ibrahimovic tactical instructions with Mourinho sneaking over to interrupt. These incidents occur before the games, or after them. On the sidelines or in the press conferences. The happenings on the pitch are often forgotten.
Managers are not supposed to dominate so much—their influence should be reflected in the way their players act, the way the team functions. Both managers are excellent in this respect—Guardiola's Barcelona genuinely revolutionised passing football, Mourinho has created devastating counterattacking sides in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
The meetings between the two have been fascinating because they approach matches so differently. Guardiola is about possession and control, Mourinho is about position and counter.
If that doesn't get you excited for the possibilities of these two managers facing one another again, you might not have a pulse. There are so many fantastic storylines in this potential matchup that it's hard not to look forward to the possibility of these teams meeting.
Real Madrid vs. Barcelona
There's nothing quite like El Clasico. And this iteration would be for a place in the Champions League final, in a season when the two teams are engaged in a bitter battle to the finish (alongside Atletico Madrid) atop La Liga's table. Honestly, watching Cristiano Ronaldo do battle versus Lionel Messi alone is worth the price of admission.
C'mon, admit it—you want to see this matchup. The whole world wants to see this matchup on Europe's biggest stage.
Barcelona have to get past Atletico Madrid first, of course—the teams are tied on aggregate at a goal apiece—and most folks would settle for a Madrid derby. But given the history between these clubs, the bitterness of this rivalry, the implications in Spain, well, it's hard not to get excited about the possibility of El Clasico crashing the Champions League.
Chelsea vs. Real Madrid
Just imagine the articles and interviews and opinion pieces that would come pouring out the week or two before Mourinho faced his old team. Real Madrid players admitting what they didn't like about Mourinho. The now-Chelsea manager playing mind games with his former players, critiquing them.
That's good stuff right there.
You'd guess Mourinho would love the chance to stick it to his old club. Of course, he wouldn't admit as much when asked by RTE Sport if he wanted to face Los Blancos:
No, not really. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico, Bayern, Manchester—it doesn't matter. We are in the semi-finals and if the quarter-finals had eight fantastic teams, imagine the four that are going to reach the semi-finals. Anything can happen.
A big opponent is waiting for us in the semi-final, but I think it doesn't matter who. They know that we are a team with a special spirit, even if we are not in the maximum of our potential.
This would certainly be an interesting clash of styles. Los Blancos would surely be the aggressors behind Ronaldo and Gareth Bale out wide and a slew of talented players between them, but Mourinho's counterattacking style would always present a danger.
Of course, Real Madrid's players would be more than prepared for the style of play they'd face.
But let's be honest—we'd all be enamored by the storylines off the pitch more than the ones on it. Mourinho remains one of the most controversial yet successful figures in world football, so the chance to see him face the former team he left on poor terms would be brilliant stuff.