Having enjoyed a special relationship with the European Champion Clubs' Cup since the tournament's inception, fans of Real Madrid CF are in emphatic agreement with their coach José Mourinho when he says the club "is back where it belongs" – among the continent's top four sides.
Madrid president Florentino Pérez plucked the Portuguese tactician from UEFA Champions League holders FC Internazionale Milano with the view of aligning the nine-time European Cup winners with the man who led both the Italian side and FC Porto to glory. Yet with the Liga title slipping into the distance with FC Barcelona, Mourinho will now be expected to use his immense UEFA Champions League experience to outfox Josep Guardiola in the semi-finals for the second successive year and propel the Merengues into the Wembley final, having already beaten their rivals to take their first Copa del Rey since 1993.
UEFA club competition honours (runners-up in brackets)
• European Champion Clubs' Cup: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002; (1962), (1964), (1981)
• UEFA Cup: 1985, 1986
• UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: (1971), (1983)
• UEFA Super Cup: 2002; (1998), (2000)
Domestic honours (most recent triumph in brackets)
• League title: 31 (2008)
• Spanish Cup: 18 (2011)
Previous European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals
21 (won 12, lost 9)
UEFA club ranking
7 (opponents FC Barcelona are 2nd)
Liga: Cristiano Ronaldo 29
UEFA Champions League: Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo 6
Strengths and weaknesses
The Santiago Bernabéu has been a fortress under Mourinho this season, with Madrid winning all five of their UEFA Champions League games. A solid defensive structure that contains holding midfielders Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira was further consolidated by Pepe, normally a centre-back, for Saturday's 1-1 Liga draw with Barcelona, the hosts seeking to avoid a repeat of their 5-0 Camp Nou defeat in November. The system may not inspire attractive free-flowing football but it has proved difficult to break down in Europe. Cristiano Ronaldo has delivered with 41 goals in all competitions this term but concerns remain over the inconsistent form of strikers Karim Benzema, Emmanuel Adebayor and the fit-again Gonzalo Higuaín.
With Madrid having been eliminated from the competition at the last-16 stage in their previous six campaigns, there was a collective sigh of relief among Madridistas when the team reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004, Olympique Lyonnais their victims. Crucially, Madrid were not on the losing side for the first time in four visits to Lyon's Stade de Gerland, Benzema's goal against his old club earning a 1-1 draw. Marcelo, Benzema and Ángel Di María then scored in a 3-0 second-leg success for Mourinho's men.
After catching the eye at the 2010 FIFA World Cup where he helped Germany to a third-place finish, Mesut Özil took little time to settle at the Bernabéu following his transfer from SV Werder Bremen. From an attacking midfield role, the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship winner has produced a tournament-leading six assists in this season's UEFA Champions League, while his tireless performances and clever combination play with Ronaldo and fellow newcomer Di María have caused headaches among opposition defences.
League position: 2 (Last five games: WWLWD)
Many pundits in Spain believe Madrid's failure to beat Barcelona in Saturday's Liga fixture made the Azulgrana's eight-point lead at the top unassailable. Morale had also been damaged in the surprising 1-0 reverse to Real Sporting de Gijón – Mourinho's first home league defeat in 150 games. The onus is now on the former Porto and Chelsea FC boss to focus his side on achieving UEFA Champions League glory after their Copa del Rey success.
Madrid have yet to concede a goal after 450 minutes of UEFA Champions League football at the Bernabéu this term.
What their opponents say
Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach:
One of Mourinho's strengths is that he knows how to play in different ways. His team are better than they were in the first half of the season and they are also better than us in a lot of things.
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