Eight became four in the Champions League earlier this month as the thrilling quarter-final stage came to a close. Just Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich remain, with their dreams of claiming Europe’s most coveted trophy very much alive.
This week will see Europe’s elite competition take to the Spanish capital, as Atletico and Real welcome Chelsea and Bayern, respectively, looking to set up the first all-Spanish final since the 1999/2000 campaign.
Below, we take a look at who could steal the show in the Champions League semi-final first legs and where you can watch the drama unfold.
Atletico Looking To Continue Rich Vein Of Form
Diego Simeone’s side have played some breath-taking football this season and are on the brink of sealing the La Liga title for the first time in 18 years.
Winning the Champions League, though, would be an achievement that would top all others, and they will be confident of seizing the tie’s initiative against the topsy-turvy Blues.
Chelsea were defeated by the Premier League’s basement club, Sunderland, on Saturday, ending Jose Mourinho’s remarkable unbeaten home run:
78 – Jose Mourinho has lost his first home league game as Chelsea manager, in his 78th match at Stamford Bridge. Blue.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 19, 2014
The last time that they tasted a league defeat, they travelled to Paris in their following match and were humbled by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
PSG romped to a 3-1 victory in the French capital over Mourinho’s men; but fortunately for them, they turned the tie around at Stamford Bridge.
With Atletico in imperious form, Chelsea will be praying that there isn't another repeat first-leg performance in Madrid, as they’d surely be punished by Simeone’s in-form side.
Per SoccerWay, Atletico have won their last eight La Liga matches in a row and are unbeaten in 12 in all competitions, giving them incredible confidence heading into Tuesday’s clash.
There’s also the matter of a certain Diego Costa returning to action. Having picked up an injury in Atletico’s recent 2-0 win over Getafe, there were doubts about the Spaniard’s availability to face Chelsea.
However, the 25-year-old managed 90 minutes in Friday’s win over Elche and scored a late penalty to seal another 2-0 victory for the La Liga leaders.
It was the 27th league goal in Costa’s remarkable campaign, as WhoScored.com revealed:
Diego Costa: Only Cristiano Ronaldo (28) has scored more goals in La Liga this season than Costa (27) #Atleti— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 18, 2014
The frontman is reportedly a summer transfer target of Mourinho’s and Tuesday could act as somewhat of a scouting mission for the Portuguese manager, though he’ll be hoping that he doesn't produce an impressive performance.
Clash Of The Titans At The Bernabeu
Arguably the two best sides in the world will meet at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich clashing in a mouth-watering semi-final tie.
Real Madrid & Bayern Munich have won the Uefa Champions League a combined 14 times. Historic clubs. pic.twitter.com/LD4GFiaVJN— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) April 20, 2014
Madrid have been in outstanding form in the Champions League so far this season, winning nine of their 11 matches during the campaign and scoring 34 goals—per SoccerWay.
Fourteen of those 34 goals have arrived courtesy of Portuguese sensation Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a doubt ahead of Wednesday’s match with a hamstring injury.
However, as the club’s official Twitter feed revealed, the 29-year-old was back in training on Sunday and will be in line to start:
Ronaldo will undoubtedly be a key player for Madrid on Wednesday, and they’ll need his goalscoring ability against the stubborn Bayern defence that have conceded just seven goals in this season’s competition.
However, Bayern manager Pep Guardiola says that his side must improve if they’re to stand any chance of reaching their fourth final in five years, as FIFA.com reported:
We won't reach the Champions League final unless we put in a commanding performance against Real Madrid. It's not been easy for us after winning the German title, but we fought despite a difficult situation. When Real Madrid play Bayern Munich, it's a game the whole world will be watching. I'm always for seeing the best players on the pitch.
The German giants have lost two of their last three Bundesliga matches since claiming the league title having previously gone unbeaten, and they need a drastic step up if they’re to trouble the Whites.
However, with the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos in their ranks, Bayern have what it takes to turn any game in their favour.
It’s bound to be a tight affair in Madrid with the world’s best players on display, but it’s got all the ingredients of a classic.
The stakes couldn't be higher in the Spanish capital, with the winner of this semi-final destined to be the favourite to take home the trophy come the end of May.
If Ronaldo and Co. can continue their Champions League form, then expect Madrid to take an advantage to the Allianz Arena for the second leg, but the defending champions can never be written off.