Bayern facing Real challenge in Champions League semifinal

Updated: 2014-04-13 07:34

By Reuters in Paris (China Daily)

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 Bayern facing Real challenge in Champions League semifinal

A video screen shows the results of the draw for the Champions League semifinals at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, France, on Friday. The final will be played on May 24 in Lisbon. Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Holder Bayern Munich and nine-time winner Real Madrid will square off in a mouthwatering Champions League semifinal this month, while Atletico Madrid takes on Chelsea.

Friday's draw in Nyon not only paired powerhouses Bayern and Real together but also kept alive the intriguing possibility of an all-Madrid final in Lisbon next month.

The draw also puts Atletico's goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, up against his parent club Chelsea after UEFA said in a statement on Friday the on-loan Belgian is eligible to play against the Londoners.

Atletico and Real will be at home in the first legs taking place on April 22-23, with the second legs the following week.

Real has not won the competition since 2002 and will have to end Bayern's hopes of becoming the first back-to-back winner if it is to stay on course.

Real will also be wary of a poor record against Bayern in the competition, losing to the Bavarian club in four of the five semifinals they have contested.

"What can I say? Bayern is an extraordinary organization, one of the most prestigious teams in the world and the current champion," Real director Emilio Butragueno said.

"They have an extraordinary team both collectively and individually, and without doubt they will be an extraordinary opponent for us. But it is the fourth semifinals in a row for us and we are hopeful of advancing."

Real will be sweating on the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portugese forward's knee injury prevented him playing in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund last week - a match Real lost 2-0.

"We have to wait to see how he develops," Butragueno said. "Obviously he and the doctors will do everything to make sure he is back as soon as possible."

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said a meeting with Real will be "incredibly tough".

"All Bayern and Real fans can justifiably look forward to a fantastic clash," he told the club's website.

"We have been drawn to play one of the best clubs in the world."

Surprise Spanish league leader Atletico, which knocked out Barcelona this week, is the only one of the last four not to have won Europe's elite club competition but crushed then European champion Chelsea 4-1 in the Super Cup final in 2012.

Chelsea, for whom manager Jose Mourinho is seeking to win with a third different club having triumphed with Porto and Inter Milan, is in the semis for the seventh time in 11 years.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay played down any controversy surrounding Courtois's availability for the tie, although he did not comment on reports that a clause in the agreement between the clubs means Atletico will have to pay up to $8.36 million if he plays in both legs.

"The loan was arranged back at the start of the season and it is quite simple: Thibaut can play against Chelsea. That was never in doubt," he told Sky Sports.

(China Daily 04/13/2014 page12)