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Champions League Semi-Final Preview: Spain v Germany Round One

UCLFor the first time in the history of the UEFA Champions League, both semi-final ties will see a German team take on Spanish opposition, with all four teams having won the competition previously: 18 times between them.

The first legs will be played in Germany on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with the return games taking place in Spain on 30 April and 1 May. Here is a look at the two ties.

Tuesday 23 April: Bayern Munich v Barcelona
You ge the imrpession that these are two sides going in opposite directions. Bayern lost in the final to Chelsea last season, and they have steamrolled through the Bundesliga this season, scoring goals for fun, on the way to winning in the title.

In the last round they were impressive in beating Juventus 4-0 on aggregate

Barcelona on the other hand were lucky to get past both AC Milan and PSG in the knockout stages. This will be Barca’s sixth consecutive appearance in the semi-finals, but you get the sense that their run is gettiung close to ending.

Injuries have played a big part in Barca’s performances since the beginning of the year, and while Lionel Messi is fit for the trip to Germany, the Catalans will have to make do without defenders Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano, while Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are both just a yellow card away from a one-match suspension.

The Prediction
Barcelona have managed to overcome their defensive weaknesses in recent years because of their incredible ability to keep the ball. But in Bayern, they are facing the one team in Europe who dominates possession like they do. I expect Bayern to turn that possession into goals and win this tie. I would not be surprised to Bayern win both legs.

Wednesday 24 April: Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid
Eleven years on from Zinedine Zidane’s sublime volley at Hampden Park, Real Madrid are still searching for la décima, their tenth European Cup/Champions League crown.

While Borussia only just scraped into the last four with those two late goals against Malaga, they are not a side to be underestimated. Since losing to Ajax 2-0 at home in 1996, Dortmund have not lost a home game in the competition.

This is a rematch of the group stages where Dortmund won 2-1 in Dortmund and drew 2-2 at the Bernabeu. Dortmund won by pressing Madrid high up the field and taking away their ability to quickly counter-attack.

While Borussia’s strengths are their compactness and teamwork, Real Madrid have the individual stars that turn can games in a moment. Cristiano Ronaldo has been brilliant in the competition this season with 11 goals in 10 matches, having scored in each of his last five Champions League matches.

The Prediction
This is a harder game to predict. All the pressure is on Real Madrid to win la décima and that could be an advantage to Borussia. But if Dortmund give the Real Madrid forwards the same space that they gave Malaga’s strikers then it will be Jose Mourinho back at Wembley next month.