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Champions League rolling blog: 27 April

Wednesday 27 April 2011, 23.30CET
The UEFA.com blog looks back on the second UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, in which FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid CF 2-0 thanks to two Lionel Messi goals.
 
 
Published: Wednesday 27 April 2011, 23.30CET

Champions League rolling blog: 27 April

The UEFA.com blog looks back on the second UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, in which FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid CF 2-0 thanks to two Lionel Messi goals.

In Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, FC Barcelona secured a potentially priceless 2-0 away win against Real Madrid CF thanks to Lionel Messi's second-half double.

Tuesday 23.30, London
That is all from the UEFA Champions League blog tonight. Barcelona and Manchester United FC appear to be in good stead to reach the Wembley showpiece when they conclude their last-four ties next week. Stay with UEFA.com for video highlights of tonight's game from midnight, and be sure to return at 12.00CET on Monday as our team of reporters bring you all the latest in the build-up to the second legs.

Tuesday 22.40, London
Barcelona hold sway over Madrid thanks to Lionel Messi's cute finish on 76 minutes and his splendid solo effort with three minutes remaining. The Merengues' task had been made harder by the dismissal of Pepe on the hour.

The UEFA Europa League semi-finals, meanwhile, get underway on Thursday and we have previews of both SC Braga's trip to SL Benfica and FC Porto's meeting with Villarreal CF.

Wednesday 19.50, London
The lineups for tonight's game have been released. They can be found in the UEFA.com MatchCentre, where you can follow all of the action from Madrid. The blog will not be updated during the match.

Wednesday 19.47, Marcos Prieto at the Santiago Bernabéu
The Madrid team bus arrived at the stadium with the aid of mounted police, who helped clear the thousands of fans surrounding the vehicle on its approach. Madrid president Florentino Pérez then shook hands with every player as they entered the home dressing room. Though the sun is setting, it is still a sultry 23C in the commentary position.

Wednesday 19.23, Paul Bryan at the Santiago Bernabéu
From a thus far empty Santiago Bernabéu, where the boiling sun is beaming its rays into the press stand, the atmosphere outside the ground is perfectly audible. The 4,000 visiting supporters are in full voice, belting out their famous "Barça, Barça, Barça" chant while, not to be outdone, the Madridistas are going through their own repertoire.

Wednesday 18.27, London
With his team well placed to reach a third UEFA Champions League final in four seasons following last night's victory in Gelsenkirchen, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be at the Santiago Bernabéu to assess the form of Madrid and Barcelona. For the third time this month former United striker Cristiano Ronaldo will line up against Barcelona's Lionel Messi as the two highest scoring players in Europe − according to the ESM Golden Shoe standings − go head to head.

"I had Ronaldo here as a player and I think he is the best player in the world," Sir Alex told ManUtd.com, United's official website. "He can play with both feet, he has fantastic skill, strength and bravery, and he's a greater header of the ball. But Messi is an absolutely fantastic player also. It's difficult to choose between the two, it's the toss of a coin."

Wednesday 17.15, Paul Bryan in Madrid
The city is finally starting to buzz as kick-off approaches. Los gatos – or the cats – as Madrileños are known, are a nocturnal people who come alive during the evening hours, providing an ambience that is quite unique; throw El Clásico into the mix and you can multiply that atmosphere by a thousand. As I make my way to the stadium I'm reminded of something Madrid full-back Marcelo mentioned yesterday, that this is the type of game everyone in the world would want to play in. Who can argue with that?

Wednesday 16.28, Marcos Prieto at the Santiago Bernabéu
Madrid had a light training session this morning. Several fans cheered the players in front of the Mirasierra Suites Hotel upon the squad's departure from and return to their pre-match base. Barcelona, meanwhile, chose not to leave the Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel. As usual, representatives of both clubs, including respective presidents Florentino Pérez and Sandro Rosell, enjoyed a relaxed lunch together.

Wednesday 15.38, Paul Bryan in Madrid
During his pre-match press conference yesterday, José Mourinho looked at the throng of journalists with a raised eyebrow and asked: "Do you think it's normal for a coach to have faced Barcelona so many times in such a short space of time?"

It's hard to argue with the Portuguese tactician, who faced the Catalan giants six times during his spell at Chelsea FC, four times with FC Internazionale Milano last season and what will be a further five occasions this term. His overall record record in those games – if we count last week's Copa del Rey final as a win for Madrid – is played 13, won four, lost five and drawn four.

Wednesday 14.41, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Lunchtime in Spain is referred to as "La hora de comer" and is religiously respected. At 14.00 workers throng to local cafés and restaurants and on a beautiful spring day like today the terrazas are overflowing with hungry customers. The main topic of conversation is, of course, tonight's massively anticipated UEFA Champions League semi-final between José Mourinho's Madrid and Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.

Although the game represents the 212th meeting between the sides and the fourth this season, the vocal enthusiasm along with customary arm waving and shoulder shrugging among the locals during their pre-game analysis would suggest this is the most important encounter between the teams yet.

Wednesday 14.29, London
Four Madrid players will have to tread carefully if they are to avoid being suspended for the second leg next Tuesday, with Sergio Ramos, Ángel Di María, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raúl Albiol within a booking of a ban. Barcelona have no suspension worries.

Wednesday 13.59, London
In two-legged European ties against Spanish clubs Madrid have recorded four overall wins out of five, including three European Cup semi-final successes. They also overcame Valencia CF 3-0 in the 2000 final in Paris.

Barcelona's record against Spanish rivals in two-legged European encounters is three wins and five defeats, including three European Cup semi-final reverses. In their last fixture they went down 3-0 to Sevilla FC in the 2006 UEFA Super Cup, a match featuring present Azulgrana players Daniel Alves and Adriano in the opposition ranks.

For a wealth of statistics relating to tonight's game take a look at the match background.

Wednesday 12.56, Marcos Prieto at the Santiago Bernabéu
Should Madrid prevent Barcelona from scoring tonight they will equal Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan team of 1993 in keeping a clean sheet in every home match prior to the final. Back then, the Rossoneri's goal was unbreached in five UEFA Champions League games at San Siro en route to the showpiece, which they lost 1-0 to Olympique de Marseille. The Merengues have also had five shutouts thus far while scoring an impressive 15 goals against AFC Ajax (2-0), Milan (2-0) AJ Auxerre (4-0), Olympique Lyonnais (3-0) and Tottenham Hotspur FC (4-0).

Wednesday 11.39, Marcos Prieto at the Santiago Bernabéu
It is a sunny day in Madrid, with the temperature at about 16C. A sell-out crowd of 71,657 is expected tonight, including 4,000 Barcelona fans. There will also be 500 journalists, 63 television and radio commentators and 92 accredited photographers in attendance.

With no kit clashes, both sides will be wearing their traditional colours. The home supporters have promised another special reception for José Mourinho's side to match the performance they put on before the quarter-final opener here against Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Wednesday 11.29, London
This will be Madrid and Barcelona's fourth meeting of the season. The Blaugrana won 5-0 at Camp Nou in November but drew 1-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu in the league rematch two weeks ago before Cristiano Ronaldo's 103rd-minute header gave the Merengues victory in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia on 20 April.

In European terms, Madrid have the edge in meetings between the sides. They eliminated Barcelona on their way to winning Europe's top club competition in 1960 and 2002. Indeed, it is 51 years to the day since they won 3-1 at Camp Nou in the second leg of a 1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-final to complete a 6-2 aggregate success.

Wednesday 10.23, London
The English press are unstinting in their praise for the Red Devils. The Mirror reflected: "Gone is the tentative team of earlier in the season, the team that went unbeaten for so long but was still damned with faint praise. United look like the real deal again now. Not just champions elect in the Premier League but a force to be feared by everyone in Europe, too."

Former Arsenal FC defender Martin Keown, now an analyst for the Mail, saw a touch of magic in Wayne Rooney worthy of the UEFA President himself, and wrote: "Wayne Rooney reminded me of Michel Platini on Tuesday night — he was that good. The way he sprayed balls across the pitch was sensational and he dictated the game brilliantly."

The Mirror, meanwhile, was eager for United to hijack Neuer's mooted move to FC Bayern München this summer after watching the goalkeeper in action. "Ferguson admitted he made a mistake in not signing Van der Sar in 1999, when Peter Schmeichel retired following the treble. Instead, Van der Sar joined Juventus and Fergie signed a succession of mediocre keepers until he finally got his man in 2005 when he signed the Dutchman from Fulham [FC]. If United do miss out on Neuer, there is a danger of history repeating itself, settling for second-best when the finest goalkeeper on the planet − with just a year left on his current contract − is available."

Wednesday 10.04, Gelsenkirchen
Germany's papers are suitably downbeat when reflecting on Schalke's first-leg loss to United.

"It was not enough," writes Bild. "The Royal Blues were taken back to school by United. A stunning goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, ensured that the final score was only 2-0, rather than 7-0. Manu alone against Man U, then, but where were the rest of Schalke? Everyone who saw this huge gulf in class will not believe there can be a miracle at Old Trafford. It was not only the defence who failed to get the job done; United keeper Van der Sar was rarely troubled and spent his time watching Neuer flying around at the other end of the pitch."

The Rheinische Post ploughed a similar furrow. "Despite the world-class Manuel Neuer, Schalke had no chance. Coach Ralf Rangnick wanted hard work from his team and for them to enjoy the occasion of Schalke's first UEFA Champions League semi-final, but the pleasure was limited. Reality caught up with Schalke's European fairy tale, but no one will forget that they have achieved something sensational at this level."

Wednesday 10.00, London
Wayne Rooney spoke to UEFA.com's Simon Hart about his role in last night's United success in Gelsenkirchen and while he was wary of being over-jubilant, the final was very much in his mind when he said: "Of course, to get the two away goals was a great result for us. We all saw what they did to Inter Milan in the San Siro, so we won't be taking them lightly, but we're hoping we can go and finish the job off. It would be great if we could get to play a final at Wembley."

But for Manuel Neuer's heroics, Schalke might have been digesting a far heavier defeat, but while Sir Alex Ferguson credited him with "probably the finest" goalkeeping display he had seen against his team, the goalkeeper took no consolation, saying: "We lose together and the disappointment is bigger than everything else. We've lost a home match very clearly and had hoped for more."

Wednesday 09.30, London
Do not forget to get involved in our Predictor competition this week, while tickets will be on offer in our Player Rater feature during the games. Prizes are also available to win in Play of the Day later in the week. Visit the Ford Classics page and enter the Champions Quiz for the chance to go to this season's final.

Keep up to date with all the latest news and exclusive interviews through our official Facebook pages for the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA.com.

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Last updated: 28/01/12 3.47CET
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