UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents provide you with build-up to this evening's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second legs and reaction from last night's games.
All times CET.
Wednesday 18.27, Paul Bryan en route to Santiago Bernabéu
José Mourinho stepped out of the confines of Madrid's stadium earlier this afternoon and was spotted heading towards the club shop on Padre Damián Street, where he was mobbed by surprised APOEL fans. The Portuguese tactician was happy to sign autographs and pose for photos as he went about his business. The serious stuff begins in just a few hours, however, and the 49-year-old will be confident he can maintain his 100% record at this stage of the UEFA Champions League having emerged victorious with Madrid, Inter, Chelsea and Porto in past quarter-finals.
Wednesday 18.17, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea will be keen for a repeat of the support their fans gave them in the round of 16 decider against SSC Napoli. Indeed, there are already masses of fans gathering on the famous Kings Road and the surrounding streets, eagerly awaiting kick-off. The temperature in the English capital has dropped in recent days following an unseasonably warm end to March, but interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has called on the Chelsea faithful to raise the temperature on Benfica tonight and act as the team's 12th man. "Your support will be important, as always, and I know you will be back us all the way, so let's do this together. C'mon you Blues!"
Wednesday 17.44, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
Winners in Lisbon last week thanks to Salomon Kalou's goal, Chelsea know a draw against Benfica tonight will secure a semi-final berth for the sixth time in nine years. However, in his programme notes Roberto Di Matteo echoes much of the sentiment he expressed in yesterday's press conference, and is keen to emphasise that at half-time in the tie the contest is far from over. "We have the chance to reach the semi-final of the Champions League tonight," he writes. "However, in order to so, we must be focused and strong until the lack kick of the game ... as we showed against Napoli – there's a lot of football to be played when you are just 90 minutes into a 180-minute match."
Wednesday 16.40, John Leonidou in Nicosia
Former APOEL forward Costas Fasouliotis says the Nicosia side have come a long way since the days when they were on the receiving end of an 8-0 reverse at the hands of RC Deportivo La Coruña back in 1995. Having already lost the home leg 3-0, some locals fear another heavy defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu tonight but, speaking to a local radio station, Fasouliotis says that the heavy defeat at the hands of Bebeto and Co in that 1995/96 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup tie served as a valuable lesson for APOEL.
"We were never in that game and I remember walking back to the changing rooms at half-time 5-0 down", said Fasouliotis, who is now a television pundit. "Nobody was talking to each other. It is the worst feeling in the world for a player to lose like that. You end up wishing that the game would just end. We learnt a valuable lesson that night. Two years later we returned to Spain to play Espanyol and we were a lot better. Deportivo were an excellent side, an unstoppable side you could say, but an 8-0 defeat still does not befit a team like APOEL."
Wednesday 16.25, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) focuses on Franck Ribéry following his display against Olympique de Marseille last night: "A week ago, the Frenchman was given a hostile welcome at his old club. But Ribéry is currently in such form (except the first leg in Marseille) that he should not be provoked. His intention, to show his critics his true ability that night, could even be felt during the warm-up. After setting up [Ivica] Olić's first goal, he passed Marseille's fans, challengingly looked upwards and several times pounded his broad chest," said the paper.
SZ continues: "Later, the Frenchman underlined how good he feels in Munich. 'The fans cry out my name, the crowd is incredible, madness', Ribéry said. 'I get lots of trust, play freely, and enjoy myself on the pitch. Yes, it's super.' Ribéry is still sad that he missed the 2010 final against FC Internazionale Milano through suspension. 'Back then I was sad and nervous. Now the final is at home. But we have to stay relaxed, we must not put ourselves under too much pressure. It will not be easy against Madrid, they're a huge team.'"
Wednesday 16.15, Paul Bryan in Madrid
It's Semana Santa - or holy week - and in Madrid that generally means two things: processions and rain. We've got plenty of the latter but the thousands of visiting APOEL fans will be hoping it won't be a stroll for the nine-time European champions at the Santiago Bernabéu this evening. They may be 3-0 down from the first leg but the first Cypriot team to reach this stage of the UEFA Champions League will be keen to uphold an admirable away record that has brought just two defeats in seven away encounters in Europe this term.
Wednesday 16.02, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL midfielder Nuno Morais has spoken of his admiration for Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho as he prepares to take on his former coach’s side tonight. Morais spent three seasons at Chelsea under Mourinho before switching for Cyprus back in 2007. "I spoke to Mourinho after the first game. He is a great guy and good friend. In fact he's wonderful. He told me that I played well and congratulated me personally and my team for our campaign in Europe."
Speaking about this season, the 28-year-old added, "This season has been really good because we achieved something historic - not only for APOEL but for all of Cypriot football. We are delighted with our campaign but I feel we were unfortunate to be drawn with Real who are an exceptionally strong side."
Wednesday 15.44, Steffen Potter, German newdesk
The German press has wasted little space on double-scoring Ivica Olić. With the Croatian behind Mario Gomez in the pecking order and probably leaving this summer, focus was on Franck Ribéry's improved display after a sub-par show in Marseille.
"Being booed in the first leg in Marseille hurt Franck Ribéry. The little Frenchman took vengeance for that in Munich: in the 2-0 win against Marseille, he had a part in almost every dangerous attack," Frankfurter Rundschau writes, adding: "The speedy dribbler benefited from his wingman David Alaba. The Austrian is becoming a vital cornerstone of the Bayern ensemble as left-back."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung thinks similarly about Alaba. "19-year old David Alaba, whose selection as left-back has coincided with Bayern's current streak of wins, initiated a blitz counter-attack on the left, which parted the French defence like a poultry knife."
Wednesday 15.23, Trevor Haylett in London
Former Chelsea coach Graham Rix believes Roberto Di Matteo should start with both Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba tonight in a bid to get the quarter-final clash decided early. "If they are both on fire, the tie could be all over after 20 minutes," he said in praise of the two strikers. Rix hailed the influence of Di Matteo, adding: "There seems to be a togetherness in the squad and a willingness to go the extra mile."
Wednesday 15.08, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Despite holding a 3-0 advantage over APOEL going into tonight's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg, Real Madrid will not - according to Spanish daily El Mundo - be easing up at such a crucial stage of the campaign. "No rest or relaxation, not even when 3-0 ahead," the publication says. "José Mourinho - General Mou - wants all of his troops standing to attention. The Portuguese tactician will start with his strongest available side tonight," knowing that a "physical or mental lull" at this point of the campaign is not what is desired.
Wednesday, 14.51, Marcos Prieto in Madrid
Real Madrid trio Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain could reach tonight 100 goals this season if any one of them scores against APOEL. They could equal the record of Barcelona trio [Lionel] Messi, [Samuel] Eto'o and [Thierry] Henry in the 2008/09 season. Around 4,000 APOEL fans will be at Santiago Bernabéu wearing orange clothes and supporting the team in this historical match for Cypriot football.
Wednesday 14.38, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
"Inventing luck" says O Jogo, once again referring to the absence of all (or almost all) centre-backs of Benfica against Chelsea. "Without any natural central defenders, Jorge Jesus may have to improvise a new defence, but even so he will not talk about impossible tasks", the newspaper continues. "Refusing to recognise defeat, because he believes that his players have the quality to win in London, the coach admits the Eagles have to expose themselves and he assures the team will attack at Stamford Bridge".
Wednesday 14.30, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Catalan publication Sport were extravagant in their praise for Josep Guardiola's side whom they refer to as "The Kings of the Champions League," in reference to the Blaugrana reaching their fifth consecutive semi-final. There was also a mention of "Another milestone for Messi", after he struck two penalties to bring his UEFA Champions League total for the current campaign to 14, equalling José Altafini's all-time European Cup record for Milan in 1962/63.
Wednesday 14.22, Steffen Potter, German newdesk
The weekly football magazine Kicker was enthralled by Bayern's first half last night: "The German record champions spoiled their fans in Munich with a swift showing in the first half. After the break, the hosts switched to energy-saving mode without losing control of the game. While Bayern were economic in their use of force, the French tried to attack, but were limited in their attempts to do so."
Munich-based tabloid Abendzeitung had the headline "Bavarian weeks" and said: "Bayern started the match as if they wanted to win the big-handled cup that night. After two minutes, Toni Kroos pointed the way with a powerful if not perfectly aimed shot: "We are playing to win here! Don't get your hopes up, mes amis!". The paper then quotes keeper Manuel Neuer: "The anticipiation [of a semi-final against Madrid] is huge of course. Of course we are happy to still be in all competitions. But we would be even happier to have a couple of titles at the end."
Wednesday 14.05, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
"This League is for Champions" says the headline on the Record. "The 'encarnados' ['Reds'] must try to repeat the successes already achieved in England, such as the recent victories at Liverpool (2005/06) and Everton (2009/10) or the epic triumph against Arsenal (1991/92)", says the newspaper, analysing the Eagles' chances for this match.
Wednesday 13.55, UEFA.com newdesk
The Daily Telegraph looks ahead to Chelsea's match with Benfica tonight and if it is time for much-maligned striker Fernando Torres to silence the doubters. "Could this be the game when he finally scores a winning goal for Chelsea?" asks the newspaper, saying that after "breaking that hoodoo that has affected him for 188 days, 1,035 minutes" against Aston Villa FC at the weekend, the stage is set for the £50m signing to make "a decisive intervention."
Adds the paper: "He has improved his form, he is playing better, he is providing goals — not least creating the one that has given Chelsea the advantage going into this second leg. A goal to kill off the tie against the Portuguese may convince the doubters that Torres can sustain the belief his form is returning."
Wednesday 13.43, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Spanish daily El País offered their thoughts on Barça's 3-1 quarter-final, second leg triumph over Milan at the Camp Nou, saying that the current holders are through to the last four despite not being at their usual best against the Serie A leaders last night.
"Barcelona, without their normal fluidity, opened up the game and the tie thanks to [Lionel] Messi twice stealing possession in midfield. Milan, as predicted, ceded the ball and field position to Barça and their objective was to slow down the their opponent's circulation, which worked during many phases of the game. However, Josep Guardiola's side were the better team yesterday as they have been over the four meetings between the sides this season."
Wednesday 13.28, Steffen Potter, German newdesk
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung turns to the match against Marseille: "The self-confidence against Marseille was so big that [Jupp] Heynckes went without his two top scorers in the starting XI, [Arjen] Robben and [Mario] Gomez, who had scored ten goals each in the past seven matches. After the second goal, any last doubts were removed and the wish for a big spectacle made way for the professional sanity of saving strength for harder tasks. The crowd of 66,000 could live with that; they know that the real highlights are yet to come."
Wednesday 13.13, UEFA.com newdesk
Despite being many people's favourites to go through, Barcelona's stars said they felt a mixture of relief and pride when UEFA.com spoke to them after they had eliminated Milan last night. Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves said: "When you think about being in the semi-final after a game like that, there is a sense of relief at having eliminated a difficult, historic rival like Milan."
A delighted Thiago Alcántara echoed those sentiments, and added: "It was the meeting of two historic, almost mythical clubs in terms of European competition so of course it was a lovely night to play a part in. The feeling of eliminating them and reaching the semi-final once again is one of absolute delight and pride. It's the best."
Wednesday 13.00, John Leonidou in Nicosia
APOEL boss Ivan Jovanović has been given a welcome boost ahead of his side's second leg tie against Real Madrid with Brazilian frontman Aílton reportedly ready to lead the attack having overcome a virus. With Ivan Tričkovski sidelined through injury, Jovanović was already short on options meaning Aílton's absence would have left him with Esteban Solari as his only option up front.
Jovanović will also be pleased to see midfielder Gustavo Manduca return to action. The Brazilian has been in impressive form in Europe and in the Cypriot top flight, where he scored the winner deep into added time to hand APOEL a vital league win against title rivals AC Omonia last weekend.
Wednesday 12.47, Trevor Haylett in London
Chelsea are putting faith in their goalscoring ability in the UEFA Champions League as they try and negotiate a way past Benfica tonight to earn a place in the semi-finals for the sixth time in the last nine seasons. They have found the net in each of their last ten games – their best-ever European run. They will also be anxious to protect their defensive record: with only one goal conceded in their four home fixtures they have the most solid rearguard in this season's competition.
Wednesday 12.32, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
"Milan's miracle in Barcelona lasted only seven minutes," said Corriere della Sera. "The space of time betweeen Antonio Nocerino's equaliser and Lionel Messi's second penalty. The second blow was probably harsh but Barcelona created more chances, attacked more, often with a brave 4-2-4 formation. Barcelona are the 'meravilloso equipo', everybody knows, but Milan played a good game, defending well in an organised way without using a rough catenaccio."
Wednesday 12.14, Steffen Potter, German newdesk
The German press is not overly focusing on the match last night. It was too easy; too dominant were Bayern, too little did Marseille have to offer. The press rather takes a wider look at "The Road to Munich":
Frankfurter Rundschau writes: "Confidently and without much effort, Bayern disposed of the compulsory task that was Marseille. Outside of the arena, the preparations for the final on 19 May have already begun. Inside, the Bayern players were reminded of the big goal, the route their Champions League campaign is supposed to take. They entered the pitch through a arch with the writing 'Road to Munich' on it and after 90 rather one-sided minutes they left unerringly towards the semi-finals.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's (FAZ) headline is "Bayern on the road to Munich", writing: "The long way home, to their own arena, started for Bayern one year ago by sacking Louis van Gaal. The team was ranked fourth in the Bundesliga and threatened to miss out on the Champions League entirely. The rescue was successful; third place was grabbed and the trip which is called "Road to Munich" by UEFA, started. One year after the impending total disaster, a final hurdle remains before the home final: With all prudence, it will be called Real Madrid."
Wednesday 11.54, John Leonidou in Nicosia
Cyprus' top sports papers are equally excited about the tie at the Bernabéu. Goal newspaper splashes the words "A round of applause!" over a picture of the APOEL players entering the stadium for training yesterday. The paper goes on to say that "No matter what happens, APOEL can feel proud of their magic journey and reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League."
Sport Day features a similar picture of the team at the Bernabéu under the words "A Legend [APOEL's nickname] at the temple of football" before quoting Madrid coach José Mourinho, who told reporters yesterday: "We need to respect our opponents, the occasion and the supporters." Gipedo, meanwhile, simply has the headline: "A crowning moment!"
Wednesday 11.33, Pedro Gonçalves in Lisbon
The injury problems affecting the Benfica squad are the main focus of newspaper A Bola, which underlines the fact that the team could play at Stamford Bridge without any natural central defenders.
"Central Hospital" is the headline from the newspaper, with Luisão in doubt for today's match, after Ezequiel Garay, Jardel and Miguel Vítor stayed in Lisbon. "Luisão is a doubt but there is still a chance," it says. "If the captain does not recover, then Emerson [left-back] will play with Javi García [defensive midfielder] at the back." Nevertheless, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus coach believes "we have quality to see off Chelsea".
Wednesday 11.16, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
"OM did not have the weapons," claimed French sports newspaper L'Équipe, who chose to put Lionel Messi on his front page this morning and congratulate an "untouchable Barça". "Let's immediately dismiss the minimal suspense remaining on Tuesday evening: Olympique de Marseille failed to exploit the opportunity," L'Équipe said in their report of the game. "What's next?"
La Provence deals with yesterday's defeat for OM, saying: "Now a run of ten games without a single win" and "a busy program awaits which could make things more difficult for this team".
Wednesday 11.04, John Leonidou in Nicosia
There are two big talking points in Cyprus this morning – the power cut which has left the capital Nicosia without electricity once again and APOEL's historic clash against Madrid. It hasn't been the best start to the day and thousands of islanders will be hoping that there will be no more power stations on the blink tonight when they tune in to watch the local champions take on what many people describe as "the greatest team on the planet".
Wednesday 11.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Before the day's business gets under way, a polite reminder that there are a number of ways to win great prizes with UEFA.com, including Predictor, Player Rater, and Classics. Today will also see plenty of activity in our UEFA Europa League section, with pieces planned for all four of Thursday's ties. This might also be a good day to think about your UEFA Europa League Fantasy Football team.
FAZ then turns to the match against Marseille for a short while: "The self-confidence against Marseille was so big that Heynckes went without his two top scorers in the starging XI, Robben and Gomez, who had scored ten goals each in the past seven matches. After the second goal, last doubts were removed and the wish for a big spectacle made way for the professional sanity of saving strength for harder tasks. The crowd of 66
000 could live with that: They know that the real highlights are yet to come."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.