UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents are providing all the build-up to this evening's UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg meeting between Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern München, and the reaction from last night's game, as Chelsea FC dramatically eliminated FC Barcelona.
All times CET.
Wednesday 19.15, UEFA.com London newsdesk
That is it for today as we make way for the UEFA.com MatchCentre, which will bring you all the action from inside the Santiago Bernabéu. The blog is now closed.
Wednesday 19.10, Paul Bryan en route to Santiago Bernabéu
It is my last bus ride along the Paseo Castellana this season and it is a journey I always look forward to. Past the Prado museum, on towards Banco España and the Alcala Arch off to the right. Along we go as we pass the national library, traffic building on a warm and breezy evening that has the giant Spanish flag on the Plaza Colon waving proudly. The white Madrid shirts become more apparent entering the business district at Nuevos Minesterios and in an instant there it is; the Santiago Bernabéu standing tall and proud. There couldn't be a more fitting venue for this encounter between two giants of European football.
Wednesday 18.50, Marcos Prieto in Madrid
Real Madrid fans expect to see a lot of goals tonight. Real are the top scoring home side in the UEFA Champions League this season with 22 strikes tallied at the Santiago Bernabéu. They have won all five home games this season, defeating AFC Ajax 3-0, Olympique Lyonnais 4-0, GNK Dinamo Zagreb 6-2, PFC CSKA Moskva 4-1 and APOEL FC 5-2. They have netted 4.4 goals on average per match.
Wednesday 18.35, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Much of the talk surrounding tonight's match is focused on the two prodigious attacking personnel on display in Madrid, something the statistics back up. With Cristiano Ronaldo leading the charge, Real Madrid have posted an incredible return of 96 goals in 26 matches in their own back yard this season – an average of almost four goals a game.
Bayern, meanwhile, have fared particularly well away from home, having failed to score in just six of their 26 visits to opposition turf, while the in-form Mario Gomez has scored as many goals (12, four ahead of Ronaldo) in this season's UEFA Champions League as in all his previous campaigns combined. It would also seem that scoring early is the key for Bayern, who have won 34 of the 35 matches in which they were leading in all competitions this season.
Wednesday 18.10, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Arsenal FC midfielder Jack Wilshere is sidelined through injury at the moment, but he is keeping a close eye on tonight's European proceedings, according to his latest comment on Twitter:
@JackWilshere: Another night of Champions League in store for me tonight....I fancy Madrid tonight.....what you think?
Remember you can follow us at @UEFAcom and make sure you have your say on tonight's action using #championsleague in your tweet.
Wednesday 17.53, Paul Bryan en route to Santiago Bernabéu
A stroll through Madrid's magnificent Plaza Mayor in the city's old town many moons ago may have brought you face to face with anything from a bullfight to a gruesome hanging. Times, thankfully, have changed and the worst you can expect in the square nowadays is some off-key football songs as demonstrated by the Bayern fans gathered there earlier today.
No doubt brought on by the local cerveza, spirits are high among the traveling contingent who are dreaming of a 'home' UEFA Champions League final next month where Chelsea lie in wait.
Wednesday 17.36, Marcos Prieto in Madrid
Today is Raphaël Varane's 19th birthday. The French defender was born on 25 April 1993 and arrived at Real Madrid last summer from RC Lens. He has so far played 14 games with the team, scoring two goals and is considered to be one of the most promising defenders in European football.
Wednesday 17.19, Paul Bryan in Madrid
As witnessed at the Nou Camp last night, the glory of reaching a UEFA Champions League final can be somewhat soured for those who will miss out on the showpiece through suspension. Along with his team-mates Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Ramos and Fábio Coentrão, Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso will be walking a similar tightrope being just one booking away from possible final disappointment. Despite that, the 30-year-old said he would be giving everything to tonight's cause. "We want to give our absolute all against Bayern as we have a fantastic opportunity to be in Munich for the final next month," he said. "Let's hope we can enjoy the moment." Bayern, meanwhile, have seven players on bookings.
Wednesday 16.58, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb
Bayern and Croatia forward Ivica Olić has been used only sparingly this term, but told the Croatian press that he is not unhappy that he did not play in the first match against Real Madrid. The lively attacker, who hit a double in a rare outing against Olympique de Marseille at the beginning of the month, thinks it will be a completely different story tonight in Madrid: "I see my chance at Santiago Bernabéu. I believe I will be needed there," he declared. "In Germany everyone knows the power of Bayern and we have already shown our strength in the first match."
Wednesday 16.39, Delfín Ramírez, Spanish newsdesk
Regarding tonight's match, much of the talk in Spain has highlighted that Real Madrid need the support of their fans more than ever. "Tonight, the Bernabéu needs to get the first goal against Bayern," says the paper AS on this theme. "Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid's new militant hero, said the club and the fans must make sure that tonight brings the return of the magical European nights of the 70s and 80s." Defender Sergio Ramos wrote yesterday on his Twitter account that "we want to feel the 80,000 souls to guide us to victory."
Wednesday 16.17, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Spain's main television channel TVE1 reported that last night's encounter between Barcelona and Chelsea was the most watched game in the country thus far this season with around 14 million people tuning in shortly before Fernando Torres rounded Víctor Valdés and stroked in for 2-2.
The result left the nation stunned and caused respected pundit Axel Torres over on Gol Television to comment, "Watch out for tomorrow's game at the Bernabéu. After what we have witnessed at the Camp Nou tonight who knows what might be store when Madrid face Bayern."
Wednesday 15.55, Marcos Prieto in Madrid
Real Madrid director Zinédine Zidane has appeared in a video encouraging fans to fervently support the team during the match against Bayern. "This match is yours to win," he says. The players also asked for support: "I expect the Bernabeu crowd to score our first goal," said [Cristiano] Ronaldo, while captain [Iker] Casillas added that "we're going to play for something beautiful and together we can make it."
Wednesday 15.37, Emil Gasevski in Macedonia
The excitement for tonight's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Bayern has even spread to Macedonia, with the match being discussed in many of today's sports pages. Almost everyone feels that Madrid can triumph tonight, despite their 2-1 deficit. Under the headline "Hell for the Bavarians at Santiago Bernabéu", the most influential Macedonian daily Dnevnik says that Madrid are high on confidence and self-esteem following their Clásico win. They also say that José Mourinho "knows how to beat the Bavarians in a decisive match" referring to FC Internazionale Milano's defeat of Bayern in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final at... the Santiago Bernabéu.
Wednesday 15.18, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Tonight at the Santiago Bernabéu supporters are planning to unveil a giant mosaic of former club legend Juanito, the Madrid number seven who died in a car crash 20 years ago this month. The forward was famed for his battling qualities and that is exactly what Madridistas will be asking their team to show as they look to overturn a 2-1 deficit. The stadium will also be graced by a banner that reads, "On to the final, come on Real!"
Wednesday 15.00, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Real Madrid also have cause for concern about a potential final meeting with Chelsea. In three matches, the Spanish side have never won, and have been defeated twice by the Londoners – the last time being a 1-0 loss in the UEFA Super Cup; a match in which Chelsea's current interim manager Roberto Di Matteo started in midfield for the Blues.
Wednesday 14.45, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Should Bayern beat Real Madrid tonight and reach the final, Chelsea fans will be encouraged by the Blues' history against the Bavarians. The clubs have met just twice before, in a 2004/05 quarter-final tie in which Chelsea triumphed 6-5 on aggregate.
What Bayern should perhaps fear is that three of Chelsea's likely starters in May's showpiece – Petr Čech, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba – all featured in both games, with Lampard and Drogba firing five goals between them over the two legs.
The only current Bayern player to have featured in that tie is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who scored in Bayern's 4-2 first leg defeat at Satmford Bridge.
Wednesday 14.25, Berend Scholten, Dutch newsdesk
Former Bayern striker Roy Makaay was part of the team that last eliminated Real Madrid, prevailing on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate draw in the 2006/2007 round of 16. Makaay got his name on the scoresheet in that tie, and speaks about the difference between then and tonight, and whether Bayern can repeat the feat.
"The difference between now and then is that we ended with a home match. Returning to your own stadium is always nicer. But I am convinced that Bayern will score in Bernabéu at least once, so Real has to score twice to at least reach extra time," Makaay says in the Dutch press.
"Bernabéu is an intimidating stadium for an opponent however; a stadium with 90,000 spectators and stands so steep that from pitchside it seems they never end," said Makaay, who was in the stands in the last match. "Bayern now play for the final in their own stadium, and that gives an extra touch to this semi-final," concluded the 37-year-old.
Wednesday 14.09, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Tonight's match between Real Madrid and Bayern could well be a tale of two playmakers - both German. Bayern's Toni Kroos has been one of the standout players this season, admirably filling the vacancy left by Bastian Scweinsteiger, and becoming almost undroppable of late. Mesut Özil, meanwhile, has created 47 goals in two seasons in the white of Madrid, becoming a vital part of the Merengues attack.
The duo had contrasting fortunes in the first leg, however. Kroos was Bayern's most abundant passer, completing 49, while Özil completed fewer passes than any Real Madrid player (15), only 42% of which were successful.
Wednesday 13.50, Paul Zaharia in Romania
The daily sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor had plenty to say on Barcelona's defeat to Chelsea last night. "Heroic Chelsea, Barcelona died" is the headline. "With one man fewer on the pitch, Chelsea managed what seemed impossible because Messi simply cannot score against this team. He has not scored a goal in any of the eight matches contested so far against Chelsea. The London side has a style which is not aesthetically pleasing, but is so very efficient."
The daily sports newspaper Pro Sport runs with the headline "Tiki Taka gata" ('gata' means 'over'). The paper talks of the irony of last night's match: "Pep's Barcelona were born in a semi-final against Chelsea, which killed its own creation in a cynical way."
Wednesday 13.29, Domenic Aquilina in Malta
"Ten-man Blues stun Barca" is the big headline in the sports pages of Malta's most established newspaper Times of Malta.
The story says that Chelsea produced one of "the greatest escapes in the history of European football" last night as they survived the dismissal of captain John Terry to win an astonishing Champions League semi-final clash with Barcelona. Messi's crucial penalty miss was also a talking point, while Fernando Torres' late effort is described as the "golden goal" that sent the Blues to the second UEFA Champions League final in the history of the club.
Wednesday 13.13, Delfín Ramírez, Spanish newsdesk
Sports daily AS feels that Barcelona only really have themselves to blame after their elimination to an "inert" Chelsea, writing: "It was cruel and undeserved if you judge by aesthetics, but a hard-fought win is the reality of the professional world. There was no one element to blame; the club committed suicide. Barça did a lot on their part to jump off the balcony themselves. The main culprit wasn't luck, or the players, who can't be criticised for effort, but more the lack of inspiration, freshness and the magic needed to win."
Wednesday 12.55, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
"The fall of the gods", was the headline of Corriere delle Sera. "Are they really the football gods we used to know?" asked the newspaper. "They were beaten by a team of brilliantly human players. No domestic league, no Champions League for the most beautiful team in the world. Maybe too beautiful. Having the ball always at your feet is perhaps a tactic that no longer pays off in these situations. Still, the Camp Nou gave a lesson to the world, applauding their defeated idols. A sporting gesture or a goodbye to a team which probably will not be the same anymore? Time will tell."
Wednesday 12.36, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Cologne-based tabloid Express writes: "Of all things, a missed penalty by the "Extraterrestrial" Lionel Messi saw Barcelona fail to reach the final of the Champions League. Europe's biggest football party will now take place without the world's best player. Nine outfield players of the Blues defended their box with great spirit against Barcelona' attacking avalanche."
Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, a daily newspaper, adds: "The meeting between Barcelona and Chelsea was something totally new. It was a handball game, but played with the feet. From the very first second of this semi-final, the hosts pushed the guests back to their box and then passed the ball from right to left to right until they found a gap – or, rather, did not. Even though Barcelona had to make up for a 1-0 first-leg defeat, from the first second they played as if they felt that they would lack time in the end."
Wednesday 12.17, UEFA.com London newsdesk
One of the big themes in the press this morning is of Chelsea's ability to fight against adversity. The Guardian: "The more you stack the odds against this Chelsea team, the better they seem to like it. Down to ten men before half-time, they saw off opponents who had taken what seemed to be an impregnable 2-0 lead on the night. "
The paper adds: "So who would bet against Chelsea now, in whatever shape they travel to Bavaria on 19 May? This success was a victory for obduracy, pure and simple. In dismissing the challenge of a side generally reckoned to be among the best ever assembled, they demonstrated that defending effectively is just as much of a football skill as the ability to construct attacking moves that ravish the senses."
The Sun concurs, calling the Chelsea players "heroes, all ten of them" and featuring a quote from Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo, who says: "We've had a difficult season and it seems we always get something special out when we need to – it is part of the DNA of these players."
Wednesday 11.55, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
French newspaper L'Équipe have their front page full of Chelsea's joy and Lionel Messi's dismay this morning, while Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, one of the two French stars on the European stage in the Spanish capital tonight (the other being Bayern's Franck Ribéry), also features. "When Messi is fine, it's well known that Barça are unplayable", L'Équipe commented about last night's thriller.
"But when the little genius is not decisive – like missing from the spot, the key moment of the game – then the Catalan team become vulnerable. Or at least look more human. Pep Guardiola's men may have scored two goals but that was not enough to see off Chelsea, now through thanks to their huge bravery."
Wednesday 11.40, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens
The front page of SportDay features a large photo of Didier Drogba celebrating at the end of the encounter at Camp Nou under the headline "Wipe out!" The paper reads: "Sensational Drogba and his Chelsea threw Barcelona out of this season's UCL final, clinching one of the most astonishing qualifications in football history."
GoalNews' headline hails Chelsea's "Greatness of soul" by a photo of Ramires, underlining the fact that the English side were reduced to ten men for more than 50 minutes. As for Derby News, it talks of "Divine intervention", adding that Chelsea got revenge for their elimination by Barcelona three years ago.
Wednesday 11.25, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The English newspapers are understandably full of praise for Chelsea after their stunning display against Barcelona last night, The Telegraph leads the way with this comment: "What a night. What a display of defiance from Chelsea. To the delight of their fans up in the Gods, ten men went to mow a meadow, and thrillingly, amazingly, they cut Barcelona down to size."
The Guardian, meanwhile, is almost lost for words, stating: "There are many emotions inspired by Chelsea's place in the Champions League final but, more than anything, it is sheer wonder."
Wednesday 11.15, UEFA.com newsdesk
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FC Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea FC (agg: 2-3)
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