UEFA Champions League Semifinals: Top 10 Headlines of the Last Four
The first legs of the semifinal matches are a little over a week away, so now is a good time to have a look at some of the biggest stories surrounding the four teams left with a chance of becoming the champions of Europe.
Real Madrid and Barcelona Draw in First Semifinal Preview
Real Madrid held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in the first of four matches between the two Spanish giants over the next few weeks. The two sides will meet in the Copa del Rey final before they face each other in the Champions League. Despite the amount of times these teams will meet, any of the matches could turn into a classic; the good news for Champions League fans is that the first of the four matches wasn't such a classic.
Jose Mourinho showed that he has learned from the 5-0 destruction that his side experienced at the hands of their rivals earlier in the season. The match has left the world with no better idea of who will come out on top; any idea that the match would be a walkover for the Spanish champions has been thrown out the window.
Real, with 10 men, continued to hold their own for almost half the game, an indication of their drive to match a team that, unless something drastic happens in the Copa del Rey final, will go into the semifinal as favourites.
Schalke Make It to the Semifinals
Schalke are the surprise package for the Champions League this season. Domestically, they have been far from impressive and currently sit in mid-table. In Europe, however, they have been impressive, dealing with defending champions Inter Milan with ease.
In Raul, the German side have one of the great players of the modern era, and the leading European goalscorer of all time. He has won the Champions League three times in the past, invaluable experience for a side that will be underdogs against Manchester United, one of the powerhouses of European Football.
Don't write Schalke off just yet; a strong domestic season isn't vital to European success; Liverpool won the tournament in 2005 but finished fifth in the league, for example.
Ronaldo Wants To Play Manchester United in Champions League Final
Real Madrid's star winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, wants to take on his old club, Manchester United, in the Champions League final. It is hardly a surprise that Ronaldo wants to play in the Champions League final, or, in fact, that he wants a chance to take on his old side.
Ronaldo said "we are the best two teams in the world" of Barcelona and Real Madrid, perhaps a jab at the Premier League leaders. Nonetheless, he says he "had six great years" at Manchester and still has plenty of friends there.
Sir Alex and his side will want to show Ronaldo that he made a mistake in swapping Manchester for Madrid by triumphing in the Champions League and maintaining their position at the top of the Premier League.
Mourinho Stops Talking to the Media
Jose Mourinho, famous for his controversial press conferences, angered journalists by refusing to speak at an interview session in the build up to the league match against Barcelona. His assistant, Aitor Karanka, said he "doesn't want his words blown out of proportion."
Clearly the journalists weren't there to talk to Karanka—30 of them walked out when they heard that the Special One would not be participating, despite being present.
Normal service was resumed after the match, when Mourinho was interviewed. The Real Madrid manager has been receiving a lot of criticism in Spain for reducing the amount of time that the media can spend around Madrid's stars.
Manchester United's German Record
Manchester United don't have the best record against German sides in the Champions League knockout stages. A win in the final against Bayern Munich aside, the Red Devils lost to Borussia Dortmund in the 1997 semifinal, Bayern Leverkusen in the 2002 semifinal and Bayern Munich in the 2001 and 2010 quarterfinals.
Obviously, history is not the best indicator of how a side will perform, but it is the type of thing that can worry fans and players. Alternatively, they may not care. These are things that are there to be broken (like Mourinho's undefeated streak at home or no English team having ever beaten Porto at home).
Manuel Neuer Has Decided His Future
Germany's first choice goalkeeper has been the subject of much talk regarding his future. He has been widely linked to take over from Edwin van der Saar at Manchester United, along with David de Gea, the 20-year-old Spanish goalkeeper.
Neuer has said that he has decided where his future lies and that "People who need to know, know." The 25-year-old has not, however, revealed what that decision is.
Manchester United should get a good look at the German over the two legs of the semifinal and will, no doubt, be hoping to give him plenty of practice.
Manchester United Wanted To Sign Raul
Christoph Metzelder, the Schalke defender, has claimed that Manchester United tried to sign Raul last summer when it became apparent he was on his way out of the Bernabeu.
Metzelder, who played at Madrid with the Spanish legend, went on to say that he tried to convince him to sign with Schalke. Regardless of whether he had any influence or not, Raul ended up at Schalke, something the German defender is very grateful for.
The former German international finished up by saying that "It's only Raul who has played finals—the rest of us just watch them on television."
Manchester United Miss out on Treble Chance
Manchester United lost their FA Cup semifinal match to crosstown rivals Manchester City last weekend, ending their chances of a treble. Yaya Toure scored the only goal of the match, while Paul Scholes was sent off. Scholes is the most booked player in the history of the Champions League with 32 cards to his name.
The loss does allow United to better focus on the Champions League and the Premier League. United, especially the likes of Giggs and Scholes, will be desperate to go out on a high and will not want to miss out on what could be their final trip to Wembley. As if there wasn't already enough motivation to make it to the Champions League final!
Cristiano Ronaldo to AC Milan?
Silvio Berlusconi may have expressed an interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player, but Jose Mourinho believes it would take a truly crazy amount of money to secure the Portuguese international's release from Real Madrid. And he's right.
Ronaldo has scored at almost a goal a game since signing with Real Madrid and if anything, his value will have gone up since he left Manchester United. Furthermore, Jose Mourinho has threatened to leave the club if his compatriot were to be sold.
However, Mourinho has admitted that he's "not saying it's impossible, because in football, you never know."
Jose Mourinho to Return to Inter Milan?
There are rumours in the Italian press that Jose Mourinho could make a shock return to Inter Milan next season if he fails to win a trophy with Madrid this season.
The Gazzeta dello Sport reckons that Mourinho has already applied for his children to study at the same school they studied at while he was managing Inter Milan. Furthermore, he still has a good relationship with the club, describing the President as "an incredible man who shows the football world what a president should be."
Mourinho has previously stated that he would prefer a move back to the Premier League, the league he feels he is best suited to, but as he said in an earlier slide, anything is possible.