Defending champions, semi-final debutants and long overdue contenders are the protagonists after the UEFA Champions League cast was whittled down to clubs from four different nations.
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Relationships will be rekindled and long overdue success sought when sides from four different countries line up in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time in six years.
FC Internazionale Milano v FC Barcelona (20 and 28 April)
Having overcome former employers Chelsea FC in the first knockout round, José Mourinho again renews old acquaintances in the last four. The coach, who has now led three clubs to this stage of the competition – FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter – worked under Sir Bobby Robson at Camp Nou during the 1990s and has twice pitted his wits against the European champions this season alone.
A goalless draw at San Siro and a 2-0 away defeat in Group F means the Nerazzurri are yet to score against Barcelona in four UEFA Champions League attempts. The 2002/03 second group stage also witnessed a 3-0 triumph for the Blaugrana and another stalemate in Milan. Both teams progressed to that year's quarter-finals but only Inter reached the semi-finals – their last appearance in that round until now.
Samuel Eto'o and Zlatan Ibrahimović's summer swap adds intrigue to a tie which has Barcelona goalkeeper Víctor Valdés licking his lips. "We face an old friend in Samuel Eto'o and it's always more difficult to play against a pal," he said. "But it will be the same for him. He's one of several terrific Inter players we have to face and overcome." Further incentive for Barcelona comes with the prospect of a final at the Santiago Bernabéu home of arch-rivals Real Madrid CF.
Barcelona will be without key midfielder Andrés Iniesta who is suffering from a thigh injury and several players are one booking away from a suspension: Inter quartet Thiago Motta, Maicon, Dejan Stanković and Javier Zanetti plus Barcelona's Carles Puyol.
FC Bayern München v Olympique Lyonnais (21 and 27 April)
Lengthy waits have been ended by these clubs' appearance in the climactic weeks of the competition. Not since Bayer 04 Leverkusen's great 2001/02 adventure has a German side made the last four, while France has been without semi-final representation since AS Monaco FC in 2003/04.
Lyon, who fell three times at the quarter-final hurdle while collecting seven Ligue 1 titles between 2002 and 2008, have never gone this far. Bayern show their face for the first time since winning the tournament in 2000/01. That campaign featured two second group stage encounters with Lyon – the respective hosts prevailing by 3-0 in France and 1-0 in Germany. Sidney Govou scored in the latter game and also in the teams' most recent collision, a 3-2 away victory for Bayern in the group stage last term.
French international and former Olympique de Marseille winger Franck Ribéry returns to his homeland for the second leg and is well aware of the size of the task ahead. "This semi-final will be very tough," he said. "Lyon are coming on strong in Ligue 1, so we will have to keep it tight and play our game. Both teams have a chance to reach the final. We're having a good campaign, though, and can do it."
Holger Bastuber and Mark van Bommel will be suspended for the first leg for Bayern with Danijel Pranjić on booking from missing the return. Also a caution away from a suspension are Lyon players Aly Cissokho, César Delgado, Maxime Gonalons, Kim Källström, Cris, Miralem Pjanić and Jérémy Toulalan.