UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals: Key Storylines to Watch
The UEFA Champions League semi-finals have thrown up some excellent ties and tense storylines but which are the most compelling?
With Atletico Madrid to play Chelsea, Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone are set to clash. There's also the small matter of whether or not Thibaut Courtois will play against his parent club, with UEFA stepping in to suggest he can play no matter what clauses the Blues put in place.
What else do we have to look forward to?
The Will-He-Won't-He Saga of Thibaut Courtois
Atletico Madrid's on-loan goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, has seen his side draw his parent club, Chelsea, in the semi-finals.
According to Neil Ashton and Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail, a clause in the player's contract stipulates Atletico must pay a £5 million fee if he plays in two legs against the Stamford Bridge outfit.
Who's right, who's wrong? Expect this one to pick up plenty of steam in the coming weeks.
There are millions of football fans out there who believe UEFA are not an entirely "fair" organisation and that Spanish clubs are treated a little better than the rest.
UEFA's decision to wade in on the Thibaut Courtois loan issue, branding any payment clauses unenforceable, is seen as another favour given to Spanish football by an organisation often branded "UEFAlona" (in favour of Barcelona).
They've never bothered themselves with a similar issue in the past and often ignored contract disputes, so why now? Fuel to the fire for the many theorists out there, we're sure.
Offensive Pairings, Defensive Pairings
Of the four teams left in the UEFA Champions League, two can be thought of as attacking (Bayern Munich, Real Madrid) and two can be thought of as defensive (Chelsea, Atletico Madrid).
The draw has split the two footballing theories apart nicely, giving us a fast-paced, frenzied game in semi-final No. 1 and a careful, methodical tie in semi-final No. 2.
Both Bayern and Real will be looking to subject each other to pressure periods and consistent attacks, while Atletico and Chelsea will challenge each other to break them down.
La Decima vs. Dynasty
If Real Madrid can overcome Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, "La Decima" (the 10th European title) is all the fans will be talking about for weeks.
The nine-time winners have been searching for that elusive 10th UEFA Champions League victory since 2002. They've fallen short every time since that date, often reaching the semi-finals only to fall at the final hurdle.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are attempting to set up a dynasty and win back-to-back UCLs for the first time since its re-branding from the European Cup.
It's La Decima vs. Dynasty as two titans collide.
Diego Costa Playing Against His Future Employers?
Diego Costa's Atletico Madrid have drawn Chelsea in the semi-finals—a fact that will only serve to heighten the hype surrounding the Spaniard's expected move to the Blues this summer.
Jose Mourinho is in dire need of an elite striker. Many UK news outlets, including the Daily Mail, have strongly linked Costa to Stamford Bridge for around £40 million.
The 33-goal striker missed Atletico's second leg vs. Barcelona through injury but stands to be reinstated as soon as he's fit. Given his performances this season and the style in which he plays, he's certainly a Mourinho kind of guy.
Diego Simeone vs. Jose Mourinho
Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea will be charged for a number of reasons, chief of which could well be the Diego Simeone vs. Jose Mourinho factor.
There's a little bit of history between the two thanks to Mourinho's past employment with Real Madrid, and Atletico's Copa del Rey victory over los Blancos late last season left a stain on the Blues boss' managerial record.
Marca suggested Mou "didn't have the balls" to confront Simeone on the touchline, and that he instead picks on calmer, gentler managers such as Tito Vilanova.
Watch this space.
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