Champions League: Are Barcelona the underdogs of the tournament semi-finals?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The teams in the semi-final are so strong, drawing the Catalans may not be the worst result.

Barcelona

Coach Tito Vilanova (since July 2012)

Winners 4

Last five years (most recent last): SF - W - SF - W – SF

Astonishingly, the team everyone has feared for the last five years may be the one to be drawn against. Barcelona started with eight of the all-conquering Spanish XI against Paris Saint-Germain but still trailed before Lionel Messi limped on. The Argentine upped the tempo and forced the goal that secured a sixth successive semi-final. Relief, though, was mixed with concern at confirmation that Barça have what the Catalan press has diagnosed as a bad case of Messidependencia.

Not that this is necessarily coach Tito Vilanova's main concern. Gerard Pique is the only fit central defender, with the other options either injured (Javier Mascherano, Carles Puyol), unconvincing (Alex Song, Marc Baltra), suspended (Adriano) or easing back from serious illness (Eric Abidal). If Puyol and Abidal are not ready, Sergio Busquets could drop back. That may allow Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil or Thomas Müller the freedom to cause havoc. There are Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, David Villa, the under-appreciated Pedro, plus rampaging full-backs, and Barça have the experience of being here before, but...

Real Madrid

Coach Jose Mourinho (May 2010)

Winners 9

Last five years: 2R - 2R - 2R - SF – SF

Real Madrid, surprisingly, have never played at Wembley, old or new, having not featured in the venue's eight European finals. Their coach, however, knows Wembley well, having led Chelsea to win the 2007 FA Cup final, the first at the rebuilt stadium.

Jose Mourinho long ago ceded La Liga to Barcelona to focus on the Champions League, in which he aims to become the first coach to win it at three different clubs. Real are equally obsessed, having last won the trophy they are so associated with in 2002.

Beaten by Barcelona and Bayern at this stage in the last two seasons, Real are as reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, the tournament's top scorer with 11 goals, as Barcelona are on Messi. In part because of his pace, Real prefer to counter-attack – as Angel di Maria's five assists, the competition's best, underline.

Alvaro Arbeloa will be banned for the semi-final's first leg after his daft dismissal in Istanbul but Xabi Alonso, back, like Sergio Ramos, after a convenient suspension, will direct play. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, the one survivor from 2002, is back after injury, not that Mourinho is guaranteed to select his captain.

Bayern Munich

Coach Jupp Heyneckes (July 2011)

Winners 4

Last five years: DNQ – QF – F – 2R – F

Runaway Bundesliga winners, Bayern have responded impressively to losing last season's final in such devastating circumstances (on penalties, on their home ground, to a Chelsea team they had dominated and led with seconds remaining). Winning in Chelsea's backyard would be an apt riposte and the comfortable quarter-final victory over Juventus marks them out as the form team, even if Arsenal showed they can be vulnerable.

Arguably the best-balanced of the last four with excellence and experience in all areas of the pitch. Brazilian centre-back Dante, Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic and Spain's Javi Martinez have been added to the squad since last May, increasing Jupp Heynckes' options as he aims to leave incoming coach Pep Guardiola with a daunting benchmark. Key men like Franck Ribéry, Phillip Lahm and Bastien Schweinsteiger remain.

The injured Toni Kroos will be missed, and banned Mandzukic misses the first leg. Thomas Müller is a fine replacement for Kroos while Heynckes, who led Real Madrid to the trophy in 1998, has Mario Gomez or Claudio Pizarro to fill in up front.

Borussia Dortmund

Coach Jurgen Klopp (May 2008)

Winners 1

Last five years: DNQ - DNQ - DNQ - DNQ – Gp

The outsiders historically in this heavyweight quartet, having only once before reached the final. That was in 1997 and there is a link with this team. Lars Ricken, who scored within 16 seconds of coming on in that final, is now head of a youth academy which has produced Mario Gotze, Nuri Sahin and Marco Reus (who left at 17 and cost £13m to buy back).

Having been back-to-back champions, Dortmund surrendered the Bundesliga title to Bayern this week, trailing by 20 points. However, they are the only unbeaten club in the Champions League, albeit only just after their amazing recovery against Malaga on Tuesday.

Coach Jürgen Klopp admitted his team were nervous against Malaga, which may be an indication of their relative inexperience at this level, but could well have been because of the burden of expectation. That will not apply now, as Dortmund will be underdogs in the draw.

Dortmund are a high-tempo, attacking team, who have played some of this season's best football. This may also be their best shot at success as Reus, Gotze and Robert Lewandowski are much-fancied elsewhere.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick