The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League semi-final first legs take place this week. UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents from across Europe will bring you all the build-up as we count down to kick-off on Tuesday.
All times CET.
Monday 19.30, Daniel Lerche, Fußball Arena München
Sergio Ramos has insisted Real Madrid are not thinking about their league encounter against Barcelona at the weekend as Tuesday night's match represents a match of enormous importance for the nine-time European club champions. "We must not think about Barcelona or the Spanish title," Ramos told this evening's press conference. "We are playing in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern. We are playing against a world-class team. They have a lot of quality in their team and players like [Arjen] Robben or [Mario] Gomez who can make the difference."
Monday 19.19, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Football fans the world over are unlikely to have forgotten Andrés Iniesta's dramatic added-time equaliser at Stamford Bridge that took Barcelona through to the 2009 UEFA Champions League final at the expense of Chelsea. Speaking prior to the Blaugrana's trip to London for Wednesday night's rematch the Spanish international said: "It is a wonderful thing to look back on that night because it was such a special and intense moment for all who lived through it – not just for me. But time passes and now we are involved in a different situation."
Monday 18.43, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Chelsea have an injury concern ahead of Wednesday's clash with Barcelona, as Brazilian centre-back David Luiz is a doubt to play after damaging his hamstring during his side's FA Cup victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Luiz pulled up during the second half of the 5-1 victory and was carried off the field on a stretcher, and Roberto Di Matteo has told reporters: "He picked up a hamstring injury so we have to assess him tomorrow, but it looks doubtful."
Monday 18:22, Andy James in Munich
Jancker went on to win the UEFA Champions League as part of the Bayern side which beat Valencia on penalties in the following year's final (beating Real along the way) and believes his ex-club have just as much chance as their La Liga counterparts of reaching the Munich decider on 19 May.
"If I take my Bayern goggles off, I'd say their chances are 50-50. It depends how Bayern react to the defeat against Dortmund. If they can turn their disappointment and anger over the lost title race into positive energy, then they have a good chance of reaching the final."
Monday 18:16, Andy James in Munich
Tuesday's semi-final at the Fußball Arena München will bring fond memories flooding back for former Bayern striker Carsten Jancker, who twice faced Madrid in the last four at the beginning of the century. The towering frontman scored at the old Olympiastadion to set the German side on course for a 2-1 second-leg victory during the 1999/2000 campaign, though it was the Merengues who progressed that year 3-2 on aggregate.
Speaking to the Bundesliga's official website, Jancker recalled the encounter as one of the highlights of his career: "I still remember it well. I scored early, but we were chasing a 2-0 deficit and ultimately we didn't manage it because Nicolas Anelka equalised before half-time. In the end we won 2-1, but it wasn't enough."
Monday 17.47, UEFA.com London newsdesk
From bad omens for Bayern to positive ones for Chelsea. Whether he starts or makes an appearance from the substitutes' bench, Fernando Torres will be a man Barcelona have to watch carefully. The Spaniard has always been a thorn in the paw of the Catalan side, and has scored seven goals in ten games against Barça for former club Club Atlético de Madrid. Chelsea meanwhile, are undefeated in five matches against the Spanish and European champions.
Monday 17.34, Justin Schroll, German newsdesk
Is this a bad omen for Bayern? Englishman Howard Webb will be the referee for Tuesday's semi-final first leg against Real Madrid. The 40-year-old official's last game with Bayern's involvement was the 2010 UEFA Champions League final - a match that Bayern lost 2-0 against FC Internazionale Milano. It will be Webb's 25th match in the UEFA Champions League.
Monday 17.13, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Daily Mail has identified "five ingredients Chelsea need to cause an upset" against Barcelona tomorrow. The first is, unsurprisingly, stopping Lionel Messi, a job that the newspaper hands to Ramires who they describe as the "only player Chelsea have who could shackle Messi". The second ingredient is starting Didier Drogba, a man they call "impossible to handle" on a good day.
The third crucial component is work rate – "there is no room for passengers" – while the fourth is fearlessness. Finally, says the paper, comes luck: "There's no two ways about it, luck is a factor Chelsea will need, but they won't be able to produce it themselves." The Mail adds that even if a great slice of luck is what it takes for the Blue to win, "you'd be hard-pressed to find any Chelsea fans complaining."
Monday 16.54, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Lionel Messi's double against Levante meant he had registered in each of his last ten Liga outings and, according to Sport, the Argentinian represents Barça's best chance of a goal in London. "Scoring in the away leg of this type of tie is key and for Messi there is no such thing as a break," it says. "Every game for him is a new challenge and on the horizon is Chelsea; there is homework to be completed by the world's best player, who is hoping to score his 100th goal away from the Camp Nou."
Monday 16.31, Andy James in Munich
It was clear from Bayern's drab 0-0 draw with 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the weekend where the Bavarians' priorities lie from here on in. After Borussia Dortmund effectively sewed up a second successive Bundesliga title earlier in the day with a 2-1 victory over Ruhr rivals FC Schalke 04, Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes opted to rest several of his star names ahead of Tuesday's highly-anticipated UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid. Captain Philipp Lahm, who had played 105 consecutive league matches previously, as well as Toni Kroos, Franck Ribéry and top scorer Mario Gomez were all left on the bench as Bayern were held on home turf.
Thomas Müller was fielded from the start, but according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the 22-year-old forward will be limited to a substitute's role against Real. The paper suggests that given the Spanish side's attacking threat, coach Heynckes will prefer a typical ball-winner such as Luiz Gustavo alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in defensive midfield, so the returning Kroos will dislodge Müller in the central attacking midfield role.
Monday 16.10, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Much of the build up to yesterday's FA Cup semi-final focusing on which striker Chelsea would rest ahead of their UEFA Champions League final four fixture. As things were, Fernando Torres was the man benched, while Didier Drogba had a fantastic game. The London Evening Standard newspaper says that Roberto Di Matteo now "cannot afford to rest Drogba" against Barcelona after a "bulldozing display in the demolition derby."
"Another one of Drogba's force-of-nature displays has surely ended all argument about who will start and given Pep Guardiola a genuine source of discomfort as he boards the plane to London," states the paper. "The 34-year-old's form has not been consistent this season but the battering-ram performance that propelled Chelsea into their stride against Napoli was reprised at Wembley in timely fashion. Barcelona's arrival will stir his soul. Torres is improving, but there is no doubt who Barcelona would rather face."
Monday 15.52, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
José Mourinho and a full squad of Madrid players are on their way to Munich. The Liga leaders were put through their paces at the club's Valdebebas training complex at 12.00 on a blustery afternoon in the Spanish capital. Defender Sergio Ramos will join his coach to field questions from the press at the Fußball Arena München from 18.30 but speculation back in Spain as to who will start tomorrow night's game has already begun. Some observers believe that Fábio Coentrão will get the nod over the more attack-minded Marcelo in the left full-back position. The Portuguese international has already played two more UEFA Champions League games than his Brazilian team-mate this term.
Monday 15.27, Justin Schroll, German newsdesk
Swiss national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who guided Bayern to their last UEFA Champions League triumph in 2001, twice beating Madrid in the semi-final in the process, expects a balanced game this time. "This is a 50-50 game with a slight advantage for Bayern," Hitzfeld told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag. "The statistics speak for themselves. Bayern have worked for a good reputation in Spain and especially in Madrid. Real have a lot of respect for Bayern. It is more advantageous [for Bayern] against Real than against Barcelona."
Monday 15.14, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Real Madrid playmaker Kaká has taken to Twitter ahead of a momentous few days for the Spanish outfit. "Going to Munich for the first semi-final game against Bayern. This week is very important. #halamadrid" tweeted the Brazilian international.
Monday 14.54, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Ahead of Barcelona's trip to London, Catalan daily La Vanguardia praises coach Josep Guardiola, who oversaw his team's 11th straight Liga victory at the weekend – a 2-1 triumph at Levante UD. "The coach has managed to keep his players switched on ahead of what is a decisive week for a team who retain chances of success on all fronts," the newspaper declares. "Producing solid form domestically was always going to be the best formula to arrive to the crucial stages of the UEFA Champions League in top condition," it continues.
Monday 14.41, Daniel Lerche from the Bayern press conference
Bayern centre-back Holger Badstuber has dismissed suggestions that Bayern's recent Bundesliga slip-ups will affect the German side against Real Madrid. "The Champions League is different to the national championship," said Badstuber. "We are confident because of what we have shown in the Champions League this season. It is a semi-final; not something you have every day.
"A 0-0 would be a good result," added the 23-year-old defender. "But of course we are confident we can do even better. The team spirit is good. We are no longer thinking about the Bundesliga, we are concentrating on the semi-final and we want to proceed to the final."
Monday 14.24, Daniel Lerche from the Bayern press conference
Heynckes is also eager to stress the importance of the Munich setting for the UEFA Champions League final, calling it "a detail that could make the difference at the end. Everybody is focused. The guys want to fulfill their dream and play a home final here in Munich. The chance to play the final on your home field comes perhaps just once in a lifetime."
Monday 14.16, Daniel Lerche from the Bayern press conference
While Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes is all too aware of the quality that this "very, very strong" Real Madrid side possess, he has been keen to talk up the challenge that faces their opponents, too.
"When I worked in Spain the Bundesliga was not of very much interest. Today everything has changed," he added. "Our football has become better and more attractive. My Spanish friends have changed their mind. Our football is better today, less physical and more tactical and the respect for Bayern is huge. Our nickname in Spain is "bestia negra" [black beast], which does not come from nowhere."
Monday 13.52, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo is also in high spirits ahead of the clash against Barcelona, and although he admitted that his side have not had time to train to face Josep Guardiola's charges, he claimed that Barça "have weaknesses" that the Blues will be seeking to exploit.
"The training sessions are very defined to the next game, so there has not been time to be able to prepare the team on the pitch for the match against Barcelona, as we've had to prepare for all the other games," said the Italian. "We only found out we were playing Barcelona when we qualified the other week and I've been watching and analysing them.
"I've watched the Arsenal victory over Barcelona [last season]. You look at the way you can hurt them and create some difficulties, so I've seen many games. Barcelona do have weaknesses, we just need to exploit them. I think they are beatable over two legs. AC Milan went quite close, didn't they?"
Monday 13.33, Justin Schroll, German newsdesk
For Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, the semi-final duel against Real Madrid is a journey into the past as he was the coach to guide the Spanish outfit to UEFA Champions League glory in 1998. In an interview with German football magazine Kicker, Heynckes talked about his side's chances in the big match. "Barcelona are the top favourites, then come Real. We are close behind," said Heynckes. "Bayern belong in the three best teams in Europe."
Heynckes thinks that both sides have a lot of respect for each other, and as Bayern won seven games out of 12 in the UEFA Champions League era against Madrid, the coach believes Real should be wary. "This record is a meaningful one. These have always been always tight games." On the other hand, however, Heynckes is envious of Real's offensive power and is fully aware of the threat posed by Madrid tomorrow night. "Real is an offensive machine with a tremendous attacking force," he said.
Monday 13.08, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Ahead of next Saturday's Clásico clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Liga, Spanish daily El País refers to "another classic encounter" between the nine-time European champions and Bayern, an opponent the paper dubs "a true aristocrat of European football."
"Despite their current form, the name Bayern generates nightmares within teams few others can," the publication explains. "The side may be average in defence but are very powerful going forward with [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribèry, [Thomas] Müller and Mario Gómez the danger men." With a good chance of claiming honours in their domestic league and the UEFA Champions League, however, the newspaper goes on to explain that José Mourinho's side are a team envied throughout the continent. "Only Barcelona are in a similar position in Europe."
Monday 12.49, Justin Schroll, German newsdesk
Bernd Schuster, former German international and (from July 2007 to December 2008) Real Madrid coach, said in an interview with German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, that "Real are slight favourites" to reach the final. "They have played a fantastic season in all competitions; in the league they are ahead of Barcelona, still the best team in the world. Real plays compactly and with [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Karim] Benzema, [Ángel] Di María and [Mesut] Özil or Kaká they have a brilliant offence. Even the defence is strong - and that is always a soft spot of José Mourinho's."
However Schuster also has a formula how Bayern could beat Madrid. "Very important: instantly pressure the defenders," he said. "The back line is not reliable in their build-up play and immediately looks for Xabi Alonso, the playmaker. It is important to prevent that. When Ronaldo & Co. have to get the ball in their own half they become tired. Early turnovers are also not good for Real, and Bayern have dangerous goalscorers in [Mario] Gomez, [Franck] Ribéry, [Arjen] Robben, and [Toni] Kroos."
Monday 12.30, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Though many have written off Chelsea's chances of ousting the reigning Spanish and European champions Barcelona in Wednesday's semi-final, the players are in confident mood. Frank Lampard was leading the rallying cries following the Blues' 5-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat of Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday, calling Josep Guardiola's side "beatable".
"From the start of every game, it's 50-50," Lampard is quoted as saying in the Independent. "Barcelona are favourites because of the players they have but if we play like we did against Spurs in the two games then we will have a chance.
"[The win against Tottenham] gives us confidence," he added. "We have to carry that on. There's no point in resting on that because the game on Wednesday's huge. We need to take that into the Champions League games and all the rest of our league games. Any team's beatable. They are the best, but we can't show too much fear. We have to take them on and I think we can do it."
Monday 12.10, Justin Schroll, German newsdesk
Despite the disappointment of two games without a goal and the German title probably out of reach, Bayern, who trail Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund by eight points with three games to go, still have two chances to win silverware. They are in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid and in the final of the German Cup, where they play Dortmund again.
"For the Champions League and the cup we will draw on all our reserves and fight," Thomas Müller said after Saturday's 0-0 draw against 1. FSV Mainz 05. "We will give all to reach the final."
"With the fans behind us we can do it," added Bastian Schweinsteiger, while sporting director Christian Nerlinger is very much looking forward to the game against Madrid: "It will be an absolute highlight. The team will be totally fit and focused," he said.
Monday 12.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
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