UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League - Semi Finals Draw

Spain versus Germany in Champions League semi-finals


The prospect of an all-German or all-Spanish Champions League final is alive after today’s semi-final draw pitted Bayern Munich against Barcelona and Real Madrid with Borussia Dortmund.

The games will be played on April 23 and 24, with the return legs a week later.

“I think we will see two very good games, played at the highest possible level,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “Barcelona are the benchmark for me in Europe. They are the best team in Europe at the moment, with fantastic attacking potential.”

Real made it this far with a 5-3 aggregate win over Galatasaray, despite losing 3-2 in the second leg in Istanbul this week. Barcelona needed Lionel Messi’s inspiration off the bench against Paris Saint-Germain as Pedro scored a 71st-minute equalizer that tied the second leg at 1-1 in the Nou Camp, 3-3 on aggregate, and ultimately put the Spanish league leaders through to the last four on away goals.

Bayern had a much less stressful time against Juventus, winning 2-0 in each leg for a 4-0 aggregate triumph. Dortmund, though, staged an incredible comeback in injury time to oust Malaga, 3-2 on the night after a goalless first leg.

You’ll remember that Bayern – already crowned German league champions – lost on penalties to Chelsea in last year’s final in their own stadium. This year’s showpiece is at London’s Wembley Stadium on May 25.

The most recent Champions League final between clubs from the same nation was in 2007-08, when Manchester United topped Chelsea in a shoot-out in Moscow. Prior to that, A.C. Milan beat Juventus, also on penalties, in Manchester in 2002-03. There was an all-Spanish final in 1999-00, when Real Madrid crushed Valencia, 3-0 in Paris. That preceded a pair of Spain-Germany clashes in the next two years, as Bayern beat Valencia on penalties, then Real overcame Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 in a match remembered for a stunning goal from Zinedine Zidane.

Underlining the strengths of La Liga and the Bundesliga, each of the past four Champions League finals has had a Spanish or German presence.

Meanwhile, in the Europa League, Chelsea meet Basel and Fenerbahce face off against Benfica. Those semi-finals are on April 25 and May 2.

Mourinho “working like never before” to turn Chelsea around

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Jose Mourinho got the dreaded much-needed vote of confidence from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich last weekend, seemingly giving the Portuguese manager a temporary stay of execution despite the Blues’ worst start to a season in 37 years.

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Speaking this week, Mourinho has revealed that while he’s thankful to have been kept on at the club for which he regularly professes his love, he still thinks it was no-brainer for Abramovich. In other words, Mourinho’s not backing down from his incredible, seven-minute rant to one question following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.

Mourinho, on what he’s doing to turn Chelsea around — quotes from the Guardian:

“It shows the confidence of Abramovich in the manager who has won three Premier League titles with this club. I thank him and I keep working.

“What’s going on? I do not know. The results with Chelsea at the moment have been really bad. I cannot hide that reality, and I don’t want to. And I struggle to find an explanation. But I assure you: I’m working like never before and we will come out of this. And there is also the Champions League that we will not neglect, for certain.”

What did you expect from Mourinho? Well, you know, I should probably be fired, but thanks to Mr. Abramovich for not realizing this and keeping me employed? It’s simultaneously interesting and the least surprising thing ever, though, that Mourinho claims to not know what’s wrong with Chelsea at the moment. Of course he has a theory (or five), and of course he’s “working like never before” to correct it.

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The most fascinating thing about Chelsea’s sluggish start to the season is to see, hear and read Mourinho speaking from a position of powerlessness. Always the clever one, the one dictating where the discussion goes, the one in charge of every press interaction, Saturday’s rant felt like watching a desperate Mourinho grasping for anything by which to pull himself back up.

Reports link Guardiola with Manchester City summer move

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
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There are claims out of Spain that Manchester City has a verbal agreement to bring Pep Guardiola to town when his Bayern Munich contract expires in June.

Don’t expect comment from Guardiola, who bristles when discussing his future. In the past he’s hinted he might not be the right man for the Bavarian side, but has lamented any questions about clubs other than Bayern.

Now Mundo Deportivo writer Francesc Aguilar says there’s a secret agreement between Guardiola and Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain to reunite at the Etihad Stadium this summer.

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Both Barcelona buffs and former Spanish internationals, Begiristain was Barca’s director of football when Guardiola took over for Frank Rjikaard in 2008.

Manuel Pellegrini signed a contract extension this summer and has led the club to a Premier League title, though the club has struggled in European competition. For what it’s worth, the Manchester Evening News got rumor reaction from Sergio Aguero:

On the latest Guardiola rumour, Kun said: “It has been talked about a lot. I don’t know him, but he’s a great manager and it’s wonderful to have the best managers train you.”

But he also added: “I’m very good with Manuel Pellegrini, we talk a lot. I’m happy in the team and with him, but the club will be the one who chooses who comes in.”

In other words, “I’m really good, and they pay me well enough that I’m prepared to play for any big name that arrives.”

It’s a story to keep up with, even as it intrudes on the seasons of two big, rich European clubs.