The forums have spoken. FC Bayern München, the team the digerati have selected as playing the best football in the UEFA Champions League this season, will prevail against FC Barcelona. In some places, you can even find Blaugrana supporters saying as much.
The statistics seem to back up the view that the Bundesliga champions enter this tie as favourites. Jupp Heynckes' team have struck 22 goals this term – just one fewer than top-scoring Real Madrid CF – and won seven matches, more than any other side. Furthermore, Bayern's form in the knockout stages (P4 W3 D0 L1 F7 A3) is markedly more impressive than Barça's (P4 W1 D2 L1 F7 A5).
Bayern may have the stronger credentials on paper, but this is exactly how Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova would want everyone to think. Let someone else handle the pressure of being favourites for a change – see how they cope with the media reminding them there may never be a better opportunity to beat this great Barcelona team. And let the Catalan outfit's players for once enjoy the luxury of slightly lowered expectations. Bayern captain Philipp Lahm may already have cottoned onto this as he has rightly insisted the tie is a "50-50" affair.
Vilanova and Heynckes know that when you reach the last four of the UEFA Champions League, nothing is clear cut. Of the 38 semi-finals since the format changed in 1992/93, 13 were decided by a single goal on aggregate (one of which was in extra time), four on away goals and two on spot kicks. Both penalty shoot-outs were lost by José Mourinho, with Chelsea FC in 2007 and Madrid in 2012.
Meanwhile, many of the ties won by a significant margin featured sides that had got this far for the first time. All of this season's final four are seasoned campaigners in their own way and are unlikely to succumb to heavy defeats.
So let us be clear about this: pre-match talk of favourites before any UEFA Champions League semi-final is, when you get down to it, little more than conjecture. It is nothing that the players and officials at either club will take too seriously.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
Paul Simpson is editor of Champions Matchday. The official magazine of the UEFA Chammpions League is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print, and you can follow Champions Matchday on Twitter @ChampionsMag.
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