Friday, 24 April 2015

Friday's UEFA Champions League draw permutations

With this season's UEFA Champions League nearing its thrilling climax, we take a look at the potential outcomes of the semi-final draw.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid are anxiously waiting to find out who they will face in the last four and six different ties could come out of the hat.
Here are the permutations and the rivalries that could be played out next month…
Barcelona v Juventus
A potential match-up between Barcelona and Juventus would pit Luis Suarez against two not-so-friendly faces from his past. The former Liverpool forward was banned for eight matches during the 2011/12 Premier League campaign after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, now of Juventus. Suarez has long disputed the charge and punishment handed down to him, resulting in a more than frosty relationship between the pair.
In addition, Suarez would also come face-to-face with Italy international Giorgio Chiellini for the first time since he infamously bit him at the 2014 World Cup. The Uruguay forward was hit with a four-month worldwide football ban and only returned to action last October, but has since rediscovered his very best form.
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid
Reigning European champions Real Madrid could return to the Allianz Arena - the scene of their devastating semi-final victory last season. Real, who would meet Bayern at this stage of the competition for the third time in four seasons if drawn together, cruised to an emphatic 4-0 victory in Munich, with Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo both scoring twice to seal a 5-0 aggregate win.
A potential tie between the two sides would see Real midfielder Toni Kroos take on his former employers for the first time since his £20m switch to the Bernabeu. Madrid will be more than wary of Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski, who smashed four goals past them for Borussia Dortmund in the 2012/13 semi-finals.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich
Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola could face his old club at the Nou Camp for the first time since leaving in 2012. Guardiola, now in charge at Bayern, led Barca to unprecedented success during his four-year stint as manager, which included three La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns.
Despite having achieved huge domestic success since taking over at Bayern in June 2013, Guardiola is yet to replicate this in European competition. His former side would certainly be out to ensure this continues and make it an unhappy homecoming, especially having suffered a demoralising 7-0 aggregate loss to the Germans at this stage of the competition in 2013.
Real Madrid v Juventus
The draw could also throw up a re-run of the 1998 final between Real and Juventus. Real ended a 32-year wait for European football's biggest prize that night at the Amsterdam Arena 17 years ago with Predrag Mijatovic netting in a 1-0 victory.
The current Real side, who are looking to create history by becoming the first team to retain the UEFA Champions League, would need to overcome Juve's formidable home record. The Italians have lost only once at home in all competitions this season and could provide a significant threat to ending Real's chances of back-to-back European titles.
Real Madrid v Barcelona
Barcelona could, however, face El Clasico rivals Real. In their last Champions League meeting in 2011, coincidentally at the semi-final stage of the competition, Barca secured a 3-1 aggregate win, with a 2-0 victory in Madrid proving decisive.
It would also give Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo the opportunity to continue their battle at the top of the all-time European scoring charts, with both currently on 75 goals each. Although, if the two sides do avoid one another in Friday's draw, it would open the door for the first ever El Clasico Champions League final.
Juventus v Bayern Munich
The final possibility of Friday's draw would be a semi-final encounter between Juventus and Bayern. Juve - targeting their first European crown since 1996 - have failed to overcome the German giants in their previous four meetings, the last of which came in April 2013, when they fell to a 2-0 home defeat in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Five-time winners Bayern - in the last four for the fourth successive season - would be out to extend that record as they target European glory once again. Though, the threat of evergreen Juve midfielder Andrea Pirlo is likely to give Bayern boss Guardiola some food for thought.

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