Of the three teams Barça could meet in the Champions League semi finals, there is none they know better than Real Madrid. The eternal rival. For a decade, Madrid supporters have been dreaming of what is simply known as ‘la Décima’ (the tenth). And they’ve come close in the last two seasons, losing in the semi finals to Bayern and Barça.
La Liga: They might have won the Spanish title in 2011/12, but soon lost the pace this season against a magnificent Barça. With eight games to go, they are a massive 13 points adrift of the lead, and not even sure of second place, with local rivals Atlético Madrid hot on their heels. Manager José Mourinho has been rotating his squad in recent matches, having given up the Liga hunt and preferring to concentrate on the tournaments that they still have a realistic hope of winning.
Champions League: grouped with Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, the all-whites finished second to the Germans in the ‘group of death’. That set them up for a tough second round clash with Manchester United, which they won with an away win at Old Trafford (1-2) after the first leg ended level. In the quarter finals, they looked home and dry after beating Galatasaray 3-0 at the Bernabéu, but there were moments of uncertainty when they met again in Turkey.
Precedents: Madrid and Barça have already met six times this season. In the preseason Supercup, they won a game each, but Madrid took the title on away goals. In the league, the sides drew 2-2 at the Camp Nou and then Madrid won 2-1 at the Bernabéu. And in the Copa del Rey, Madrid knocked Barça out in the semi finals after a 1-3 win in Catalonia followed by a 1-1 draw at Chamartín. They now go on to meet Atlético Madrid in the final.
Suspended: Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos both served their suspensions against Galatasaray, meaning that the only Madrid player who’ll miss the first leg of the semis will be defender Arbeloa, who was red carded in Istanbul.