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It has become a classic in European football, a high-stakes tie at the Champions League semifinal stage between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
With the final of the tournament next month in Kiev as the prize, Madrid and Bayern will clash one more time after this Friday’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland.
This will be the seventh time the two titans — No. 1 (Real Madrid) and No. 2 (Bayern Munich) in UEFA’s club rankings — have met in the semifinals of the European club championship. Real Madrid has beaten Bayern Munich in five straight matches.
Combined, the Spanish and the German giants have won 17 titles of the world’s most prestigious club tournament. Defending champion Real Madrid is looking to increase its record Champions League haul to 13 titles. Bayern Munich, meanwhile, is trying to win the tournament for the sixth time.
The Bavarians lifted its last European trophy in 2013, perhaps a poor record considering they have reached the semifinals in eight consecutive years.
But Bayern will find a Real Madrid team that knows that winning the Champions League one more time is the only way to rescue its season. Out of the Spanish Cup and 16 points behind Barcelona in the Spanish League, Zinedine Zidane’s team has to get rid of Bayern and then win the final to justify a campaign otherwise very unstable for the “Blancos”.
Bayern on the other hand has already won the Bundesliga and will play next week in the semis of the German Cup. Almost business as usual for a club that has almost no opposition in German football.
Aside from Real Madrid-Bayern, the other semifinal tie of this Champions League features perhaps the two surprise teams in Europe this season: Roma vs. Liverpool.
Roma has reached this position thanks to its stunning upset of Barcelona. The Italian team is almost new at this. It has never won the Champions League and its last appearance in the semifinals was 34 years ago.
Liverpool, which has five European titles but hasn’t reached the semifinals since 2008, is brimming with confidence after its 5-1 aggregate triumph over Premier League champions-in-waiting Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
The tie against Roma will have a special flavor for Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah. The current superstar for the Reds spent the previous two seasons with Roma, scoring 29 goals. Now in England, he has 39 goals this season, the most by a Liverpool player in the Premier League era.
The two-leg semifinals will take place April 24-25 and May 1-2. The winners will meet in the Ukraine capital for the final on May 26.