Champions League: Semifinal Draw Sets Up 2011-12 Competion’s Two Leading Countries

Mario Goetze of Borussia Dortmund (Google Creative Commons)

Mario Goetze of Borussia Dortmund (Google Creative Commons)

Friday’s Champions League semifinal draw will have been particularly pleasurable for those symmetrically inclined.

The 2011-12 Bundesliga winners (Borussia Dortmund) are taking on the same season’s La Liga champions (Real Madrid) in one match, with each division’s runners-up (Bayern Munich and Real Madrid respectively) of that campaign contesting the other. For an added bonus, both German sides will be at home for the first-leg.

More pertinently (and interestingly!) for football fans, the composition of the draw means the possibility of an all-Spanish or all-German final remains alive—with the prospect of a Wembley ‘El Clasico’ particularly enticing for those who have been so captivated by the rivalry in recent years.

Oh, and of course both games are pretty darn appealing in their own right.

A guaranteed final between a Spanish and German club may have been the more suitable conclusion to a season in which both country’s clubs have been the dominant forces in the Champions League (and it may still transpire as such). Whoever ends up in London in May, an exciting conclusion to the tournament is on the horizon.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich safely navigated their way to the last four earlier in the week. The former were given a second-half scare by a Galatasaray side who admirably did not give up the fight, despite being 4-0 down on aggregate prior to Emmanuel Eboue initially reducing the deficit.

You suspect Jose Mourinho will be pleased to have avoided Bayern. On performance at least, the Bavarian giants can quite reasonably claim to be a team to be feared. Even considering Serie A’s comparative inferiority at this present time, their opponents Juventus had shown in their results throughout this season’s tournament they were not a team to take lightly.

Bayern’s overall 4-0 victory highlighted the strength and growing confidence of this group. You imagine it will be with some relish they approach the task of taking on Barcelona.

Watching Paris Saint-Germain recoil as they did at Lionel Messi’s introduction in their Champions League quarterfinal with the Catalans was a shame. Up until that point they deserved their goal advantage over Barcelona.  Tito Vilanova’s side passed the ball with typical conviction, but lacked the decisive incisiveness of their Argentinian talisman.

The swiftness with which PSG cut them apart will certainly give Bayern cause for optimism. Lucas Moura’s thrilling directness unsettled the Barca defense time and time again, while the exquisite combination between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Pastore for the latter’s goal highlighted Gerard Pique and co’s vulnerability when faced with a give-and-go of such intelligence.

How Bayern respond to (what might be by then a fully-fit) Messi might prove the deciding factor later this month. Though already this season we have been shown it is not wise to count Barcelona out until the final bell has rung. Less we forget too, the two club’s meeting brings into contact Pep Guardiola’s lifelong love with his soon to be employer.

Guardiola’s old adversary Mourinho will be preparing for a Borussia Dortmund team not short on guts. Even with the assistance of some questionable officiating, their defeat of Malaga was testament to their unwillingness to give up.

Spain’s precocious Champions League debutants, Malaga under Manuel Pellegrini have proven themselves a worthy presence at this latter stage of the competition. That it may be this team’s last experience in this wider company for some time is a harsh consequence of the convoluted financial means with which they reached this point.

As it was, their inexperience cost them, with Dortmund’s return to prominence having prepared them well for life in reach of a final place. Real Madrid will likely provide a thorough examination of just how far they have progressed.

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