Barcelona's Leo Messi (L) is congratulated by team mate Samuel Eto'o after scoring his second goal against Bayern Munich during their Champions League quarter-final, first-leg soccer match at the Nou Camp stadium April 8, 2009. (Photo : REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN SPORT SOCCER))
Those hoping for a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona or a Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich final were given hope when the draw for the Champions league semifinals was unveiled on Friday. Bayern Munich will take on current Spanish leaders Barcelona while the other tilt features a rematch from the group stage between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
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Munich has had a solid campaign but did not always look convincing in its group stage victory. The team lost to BATE Borisov and drew 1-1 with Valencia and did not exact its offensive prowess until late in the round. In the group of 16, the German champions destroyed Arsenal in the first leg but withered away at home in a 2-0 lead. However, Munich seems to have peaked at the right moments as it not only collected its fastest Bundesliga title, but also trampled through Juventus in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile Barcelona has stumbled through the tournament despite showing flashes of its genius. Few will forget the tight matches with Celtic, including a loss, or the 2-0 defeat to AC Milan in the round of 16. But by the same token, who can ignore the dominant 4-0 effort in the return leg against Madrid or a methodic dismantling of Spartak Moscow in the group stage. In the quarterfinals, Barcelona met its match in Paris Saint-Germain but managed to pass on away goals despite ending the two games in a 3-3 aggregate.
X-Factor: The major factor that will decide this matchup is Lionel Messi. He is healthy and clearly Barcelona's MVP. The team left him on the bench during the second leg against PSG and failed to generate much offense. His insertion in the latter stages gave the team the boost it needed and the tying goal and secured qualification.
History: The teams have met six times in the past. They met in the 1995-96 Europa league semifinals with Munich winning on an aggregate 4-3; the two sides drew the opening match 2-2 but Munich won the second 2-1. In 1998-99, the two sides met in the Group stage of the Champions league. Munich won its home game 1-0 and then defeated Barcelona 2-1 in the second group meeting. In their most recent battle, the Spanish champs dominated Munich 4-0 in the opening leg of the 2008-09 champions league quarterfinals at home before drawing 1-1 in Germany; Lionel Messi scored twice in the 4-0 win.