Tuesday 19.55, UEFA.com newsdesk
That is it as far as the blog is concerned for today. It will return tomorrow morning with reaction from tonight's games in Barcelona and Munich as well as all the build-up to the other two quarter-finals in London and Madrid. In the meantime, you can follow all the action in the UEFA.com MatchCentre.
All times CET.
Tuesday 19.05, Marcos Prieto at the Santiago Bernabéu
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanović confirmed in today's press conference that Aílton has been suffering from a virus for the last two days and the technical staff will have to monitor the player's recovery before deeming him to be match fit. The 50-year-old adde that there are two other players struggling with injuries but stopped short of naming them. As far as we can deduce defender Marcelo Oliveira (knee) and forward Ivan Tričkovski (arm) are the players concerned.
Tuesday 18.32, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea FC coach Roberto Di Matteo has announced that a full contingent will train at Stamford Bridge this evening, as they prepare to defend a 1-0 lead from last week's away leg. "Fortunately we have a fully fit squad," said the 41-year-old. "That will help us in this run-in, to be able to play every player that we have, give everybody an opportunity to play and have some fresh players in the team. David Luiz is expected to train. We'll have to see how they come through training but at the moment everybody seems available."
Tuesday 18.20, Jürgen Baumgartner, German newsdesk
Bayern are not only on course in the UEFA Champions League; after last weekend they are also back on track in the Bundesliga. Last Friday Mario Gomez and some of his team-mates watched the 4-4 draw between leaders Borussia Dortmund and his former club VfB Stuttgart, and saw his friend Christian Gentner score the last-minute equaliser for Stuttgart that leaves Bayern just three points behind Dortmund. "Directly after the match Mario sent me a compliment," Genter told the newspaper Bild. "But it was not a simple SMS – he filmed a video with some of his Bayern team-mates!"
Tuesday 18.05, Philip Röber in Munich
Former coach Ottmar Hitzfeld introduced the "rotation principle" to Bayern 11 years ago en route to victory in the 2001 UEFA Champions League. This elaborate process of resting players during a very demanding part of the season also serves to keep fringe players happy, and Jupp Heynckes will most likely make a couple of changes today. The options are plentiful: Diego Contento, Danijel Pranjić and Ivica Olić all have realistic hopes of starting the match. As there are four players who would be suspended in a likely semi-final if they were to receive a yellow card – Boateng, Kroos, Müller and Luiz Gustavo – and are all candidates to sit out, predicting the correct lineup for today seems almost impossible.
Tuesday 17:22, Andy James in Munich
Marseille had their weekend fixture against Montpellier Hérault SC rearranged in order to optimise their preparations for tonight's fixture, but any hopes of a stress-free build-up were spoiled by a six-hour delay brought about by airport strikes in France on Monday afternoon. Coach Didier Deschamps has nonetheless announced he will be accepting no such excuses should his side face elimination.
In order to ensure his team remain entirely focused on the task at hand, the 1998 FIFA World Cup winner insisted his side train behind closed doors and forbade them from taking part in any interviews or press conferences prior to this evening's second leg. This imposed silence is hardly befitting of a side enjoying their best run in the UEFA Champions League since winning its inaugural edition in 1993, according to Munich-based tz, which goes as far as to describe the atmosphere in the visiting camp as "that of a funeral".
Tuesday 16.52, UEFA.com newsdesk
Barcelona head into the second leg of their tie against Milan knowing that a record-equalling semi-final appearance is just one win away, and captain Carles Puyol is determined to make that happen.
"Our idea is the same as usual: to win, playing our game against a great opponent. This is a final and we can only win, no draws, no 0-0, just win. The Camp Nou will be full, supporting the team. They are always by our side and this is no exception."
Puyol believes he has Milan's gameplan worked out, and knows how best Barcelona can succed: "They will probably wait at the back and counterattack. It's always important not to concede, so we have to play seriously in defence, move the ball fast, and try to score as soon as possible," said the Camp Nou stalwart. "We only know how to play one way: attack and win the game."
Tuesday 16.35, UEFA.com newsdesk
The UEFA Futsal Cup finals draw will take place tonight during half-time of Barcelona's clash against Milan, which kicks off at 20.45CET. Barcelona are staging the finals at the 6,100-capacity Pavelló Barris Nord in Lleida having reached the semis on their debut UEFA Futsal Cup entry. Tonight's draw, will be made by Barcelona striker David Villa and UEFA Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee chairman Borislav Mihaylov.
Tuesday 16.24, Andy James in Munich
Bayern have four players on thin ice this evening. Jérôme Boateng, Toni Kroos, Luiz Gustavo and Thomas Müller are all just one booking away from missing a potential semi-final first leg against Madrid, who hold a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg lead over APOEL.
Coach Jupp Heynckes, who is already without midfield ace Bastian Schweinsteiger for this evening's match due to suspension, insisted that would not affect his team selection: "I can't worry about things like that – that doesn't help anyone."
The 66-year-old explained he would be picking a side which "guarantees" progression. Marseille are also shorn of a key midfielder at the Fußball Arena München. Alou Diarra, who spent two years in Bayern's reserve team before establishing himself as a French international, misses tonight's game having collected the requisite number of yellow cards in the competition.
Tuesday 16.06, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL striker Aílton has said that his team will be welcomed backed as "heroes" in Cyprus if they manage to stop Real Madrid from scoring when the two sides meet in the second leg on Wednesday night. The Cypriot title holders go into the game 3-0 down on aggregate after a first leg – in which APOEL failed to register a single shot on target – that was dominated by Madrid.
"We always knew that we were up against a great side," says the Brazilian. "I believe the game at the Bernabéu will tougher than the one at the GSP. Real have that ability to quickly take control of the play and they rarely lose possession. I hope we can have a good game there and all we can do is hope for the best result. If we manage to stop them from scoring, then I think we will be heroes."
Tuesday 15:50, Andy James in Munich
There is little doubt among the German press that Bayern will complete the job against Marseille this evening and progress to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the seventh time in their history. The Bavarians hold a 2-0 advantage from the first leg thanks to goals from Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, who are hailed by Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and tz respectively.
SZ describes Gomez, who netted the opener in Marseille last Wednesday, as "irreplaceable". The 26-year-old has bagged 11 goals so far in this season's competition, just one short of Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Robben, meanwhile, has contributed three goals to Bayern's quest for a home final on 19 May and, like Gomez, is expected to sign a fresh deal with the club any time soon. "It's been agreed for some time now. I'm working under the assumption that Arjen will sign at some point this season," says coach Jupp Heynckes in tz.
Tuesday 15.28, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
Zlatan Ibrahimović is the subject of 'morbo' in Spain now that he is returning to face the club he left after one successful, but controversial, season. The Swede has often made clear his belief that he deserved more time to fit into the very demanding playing style at Barcelona, and while Josep Guardiola has never had anything less than glowing adjectives for Ibrahimović in public, the situation has remained both tense and fascinating.
'Morbo' is a basic lifeblood of Spanish football - essentially, a compelling fascination for a situation where the motif of revenge, confrontation, or raking over the ashes of recent football history is involved. Ibrahimović missed the group game at the Camp Nou through injury but returns tonight, quite probably wary of what reception the Barcelona fans, who should really applaud his contribution to the club, have reserved for him.
Tuesday 15.04, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
"Jorge Jesus takes all available players", says newspaper A Bola regarding Wednesday's match against Chelsea in London. Benfica will take 22 players to England but only one central defender, as Ezequiel Garay, Jardel and Miguel Vítor are injured. The "Invasion of London" is also one of the newspaper's highlights, explaining that "Benfica players will not be alone in Stamford Bridge" because more than 3,000 Benfica supporters will be in London to help the team reach semi-finals.
"Jardel fails the last test and stays in Lisbon", reveals Record, highlighting Jorge Jesus's problems in the centre of defence.
"[Pablo] Aimar is back on the team and will be a key player on Jorge Jesus's strategy to overturn the deficit. Undisputedly, 'El Mago' is a true specialist at eliminating English teams. For 12 years in Europe, Aimar faced English opposition in eight occasions and only once, against Liverpool, at Benfica, he did not prevail", says O Jogo.
Tuesday 14.45, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL chairman Fivos Erotokritou is already looking ahead as his side prepare to take on Madrid in their second leg quarter-final game on Wednesday. Having lost 3-0 at home in Nicosia, Erotokritou believes his side's amazing run in the Champions League is all but over but still looks back with glowing pride on what the Cypriot title holders have achieved. "We appear to have reached the end of APOEL's historic journey. We have had a unique season and we go to Madrid very proud of what we have achieved. I hope that we return back to Cyprus without any injury problems because we have one target left to accomplish – to win the league title."
Speaking about what lies ahead for his club, he said: "Our next target is to win the league title and get back into the groups, whether that is the Champions League or Europa League.
"We need to be realistic," he said, before adding with a smile, "because we reached the quarter-finals, does that mean that next year we need to reach the semi-finals?"
Tuesday 14.32, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
"Milan take the Camp Nou" declares Gazzetta dello Sport, who give four ways the Rossoneri can achieve qualification:
1) A shield in the centre formed by Massimo Ambrosini, Philippe Mexès and Alessandro Nesta forcing Lionel Messi wide.
2) Pressing Sergio Busquets – the deepest player in the Barcelona midfield – with Robinho, who could force him into mistakes.
3) Sacrificing Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swedish striker will have to chase every long pass, try to protect the ball and allow Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antonio Nocerino to arrive in support.
4) Milan will not have to attack in force should they concede one goal. One-nil down with 15 minutes to play would be good because Barcelona could be tired in the final minutes of the game, a good moment to use the pace of Pato.
Tuesday 14.11, Marcos Prieto from the Real Madrid press conference
Madrid's big advantage heading into their match with APOEL has got their coach José Mourinho looking ahead to the final four. "I will watch the match between Bayern and Marseille tonight, as this is the most interesting match for me. The most important thing is playing the semi-final," says the Portuguese tactician.
Mourinho does not want Madrid's standards to slip tomorrow, however. "I want my team to win and to play well. The team is all right and not tired - they are confident. We have a great record in the UEFA Champions League with only one loss in two very good years. We want to continue this way."
Tuesday 14.03, John Leonidou in Nicosia
Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is brimming with confidence ahead of the visit of APOEL tomorow. "I will not be hypocritical – I believe that qualification is 90% done," says the Portuguese forward. "There is a 10% chance that we could lose because anything can happen in football, but we are playing at home and we don't want to miss the chance to go as far as we can in this competition. A 3-0 win away from home is a dream result. We are on a good road towards winning the league title and the Champions League."
Tuesday 13.51, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
El País has suggested that the threat of returning forward Zlatan Ibrahimović is proving a real cause for concern among the Barça ranks. "Barcelona play without a classic centre forward as opposed to Milan who in Ibra have the most complete striker around."
The Spanish newspaper goes on to point out the threat posed by the Swedish international in the first leg was proof that the UEFA Champions League holders will need to be extra wary tonight. "Gerard Piqué defended well against Ibrahimović at San Siro while Javier Mascherano also helped out. Not one defender, however, could avoid the forward setting up Robinho for a clear chance at the start of the game, while only a good save from Víctor Valdés prevented the Swede from scoring himself later."
Tuesday 13.24, Christian Châtelet, French UEFA.com newsdesk
La Marseillaise urges OM fans to "keep in mind the feat of FC Metz in 1984," where, after Barcelona had won 4-2 a fortnight earlier in Saint-Symphorien in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, "shocked Catalan socios witnessed a miracle with Metz winning 4-1 to go through."
French newspaper Le Monde, meanwhile, decided to write a portrait of UEFA Champions League Final Ambassador Paul Breitner, who remembers his youth at Bayern when he was dubbed "Der Afro" and known for his left-leaning political views. "I don't regret anything," he says.
Tuesday 13.09, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
Given his energetic role during Monday night's open training session for Barcelona it looks likely that Cesc Fàbregas has overcome the back-muscle spasm which afflicted him last Thursday while training with his team-mates at Inter's facilities. He'll return to the team carrying two records that put a stamp on his debut season for the Barça first team. He's the club's second-top scorer and between goal assists and those he's scored himself, his work has brought the team 30 goals.
However, the last time the former Arsenal FC captain hit the net was back in January. Having registered 'big' goals in the UEFA Supercup, the Clásico against Real Madrid and the FIFA Club World Cup victory over Santos FC, this would be the moment for him to re-discover his previously prolific touch.
Tuesday 12.53, Jürgen Baumgartner, German newsdesk
German newspaper Bild today deals with the problem of yellow cards at Bayern, as four players would be suspended if they receive a booking tonight. "Yellow alarm at Bayern. Does Heynckes today lose four stars?" the paper asks. "Jupp Heynckes must already plan for the desired semi-final. He has to choose between risk and risk. Risk number 1: Heynckes lets Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng, Toni Kroos and Luiz Gustavo play – and maybe loses all four stars for the next round against Real Madrid. Risk number 2: Heynckes abdicates the quartet because of the looming ban. But imagine if the advantage from the first leg was gambled away – then Bayern would be the fools of Europe, and Heynckes the chief fool."
The Munich-based Abendzeitung also focuses on the starting lineup, writing: "Tuesday lottery at FC Bayern: 10 from 17. After the 2-0 win in the first leg Jupp Heynckes will rotate against Marseille. He has 17 outfield players available."
Tuesday 12.36, UEFA.com newsdesk
Chelsea's semi-final appearance record is similarly impressive; the Blues are in pursuit of a sixth UEFA Champions League final-four showing in nine years tomorrow night. The London club's 100% winning record at home in this season's competition will give them reason to believe, though Jorge Jesus' Benfica should not be short on confidence either as they chase their first European Champions Clubs' Cup Cup semi-final for more than 20 years – indeed they have already held Manchester United FC on English soil this term.
Tuesday 12.20, UEFA.com newsdesk
Mourinho may be hunting a place in his third consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-final with Madrid, but Madridistas will be aware that Barcelona as a team are itching to match one of their long-standing records tonight. Pep Guardiola's side go into the return match against Milan chasing their fifth successive semi-final appearance – a feat that would equal the record set by their arch-rivals Madrid from 1956 to 1960. Madrid will be hoping that at Camp Nou tonight Milan can bring an end to their winless run of form on their European travels this term.
Tuesday 12.00, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Real Madrid's players arrived at the club's training complex in Valdebebas this morning and took to the practice pitch at 11.00 to be put through their paces by José Mourinho on what is an overcast and chilly morning in the Spanish capital. Few would bet against the two-time UEFA Champions League winning coach reaching a third successive semi-final - he did so with FC Internazionale Milano in 2010 and with Madrid last year - after his charges earned a 3-0 first leg victory away to APOEL last week. Mourinho and defender Pepe will greet the press when training concludes later this morning.
Tuesday 11.52, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
There was a real holiday atmosphere in Barcelona yesterday with large sections of the vast tourist crowds across the Ciudad Condal decked out in the red-and-black striped shirts of Milan. But the Monday sun has disappeared and those who have travelled from Italy to Catalunya for tonight's crucial UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg have been greeted with grey skies and incessant rain this morning. Good news for umbrella and waterproof anorak salesmen outside the Camp Nou.
Tuesday 11.37, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL will go into their game against Madrid in confident mood at least after their last-gasp 2-1 victory over title rivals AC Omonia at the weekend. The victory moved them into second place, just two points behind current leaders AEL Limassol FC in the end-of-season playoffs. Jovanović's press conference today is set to take place at 6.15pm, while the players will have their training session at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at 7pm.
Tuesday, 11.24, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
A "colossal" challenge. That is how Marseille's local newspaper La Provence describes OM's task at Fußball Arena München tonight, calling Bayern "a mountain to climb". "The Olympians have only a slim chance to go through but they will try their luck for an achievement," they added.
Tuesday 11.13, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Despite their late arrival in Barcelona due to an air traffic control strike yesterday, several of Milan's players still found time during their evening training session at the Camp Nou to practise penalties.
Should the Serie A leaders and their quarter-final opponents produce another scoreless draw this evening and again fail to find the net in extra time, a penalty shoot-out would be required to decide who advances to the semi-finals. "On the order of coach Massimiliano Allegri, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimović all took an extra ten minutes out to test themselves from the penalty spot," Catalan daily Sport revealed.
Tuesday 11.03, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL touched down in Madrid on Monday night despite their flight being delayed due to heavy air traffic over Spain and France. Boss Ivan Jovanović's task has been described as 'mission impossible' by most of the media on the island and his side's job at the Bernabéu has been made more difficult with the absences of Marcelo Oliveira (cruciate knee ligament) and Ivan Tričkovski (broken hand).
Other concerns to suddenly surface include that of striker Aílton who is currently fighting a virus while Cypriot internationals Nektarios Alexandrou (groin) and Athos Solomou (bruised shin) are also racing to be fit in time for Wednesday's game.
Tuesday 11.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
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