Madrid will be the center of the soccer world this week when Real Madrid hosts Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid welcomes Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho dominated Spanish soccer for half a decade until Guardiola left Barcelona and Mourinho departed Real Madrid.
Now both return when Mourinho’s Chelsea plays at Atletico on Tuesday and Bayern visits Real Madrid the following day in the first legs of the home-and-home, total-goals series.
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With a combined 14 times in Europe’s top club competition, Madrid vs. Bayern is the standout matchup. Guardiola never lost at Real Madrid in seven games as Barcelona’s coach.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico defeated Mourinho’s Real in the 2013 Copa del Rey final, ensuring Real didn’t win any titles in Mourhino’s final season there..
Here are five things you should know about the Champions League semifinals:
Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final last Wednesday after Gareth Bale scoring the winning goal when sprinting half the field. ”It’s a dream come true,” Bale said. ”We’ve won the first of the three available titles and we have to keep fighting for everything.” Atletico has won eight straight Spanish league games and is closing in on its first league title since 1996.
Madrid is hoping Cristiano Ronaldo will overcome a leg injury and return after missing four games. The reigning FIFA player of the year has 14 goals in the Champions League, tying the competition record. ”The semifinal is a great spectacle that will be watched all over the world,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. ”So the best players should also play.”
PRICE OF PRIORITY
After clinching the Bundesliga title with a record seven games to spare, Bayern Munich stumbled to a tie and two losses before it beat Eintracht Braunschweig 2-0 Saturday. Bayern hopes to repeat last year’s league-cup-Champions League treble. ”The Bundesliga is over for us. Our target is the Champions League,” Guardiola said.
Thibaut Courtois, a 21-year-old Belgian goalkeeper, is on his third season on loan to Aletico Madrid from Chelsea. Atletico has only lost one of the 28 games it has played at Vicente Calderon Stadium this season.
MOURINHO’S SEMIFINAL WOES
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has coach a team to the semifinals for the fifth straight season. He lost in the semifinals at Real Madrid from 2011-13; during first spell at Chelsea from 2004-07, it was knocked out twice by Liverpool in the semis. Mourinho won the competition with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010 and is seeking to become the first coach to win it with three different teams.