The Reuters global sports blog
There may not be a Superclasico in Munich after all
A mouth-watering clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona in this season’s Champions League final in Munich appeared to be on the cards when the two Spanish giants were kept apart in the draw, but the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi watching the showpiece on television instead of taking centre stage on May 19 now looks just as likely.
While Barcelona missed a hatful of chances in their 1-0 defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a pulsating first leg of their semi, Real were maybe fortunate to escape with only a 2-1 defeat at Bayern after they were undone by a stoppage-time winner from Mario Gomez.
Second-best for long spells with Ronaldo also subdued for much of the game, Real were lucky to be on level terms before Gomez struck to give Bayern a slender lead ahead of the return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.
One could argue the away goal still puts Real in the driving seat to reach the final, but the nine-time winners of Europe’s elite club competition face a stern test of their credentials against a fit, cultured and determined Bayern outfit who showed the ability to match them in every department.
Although Barcelona seemingly have more to do than Real after failing to score against Chelsea, the holders should in fact have a slightly easier task than their traditional rivals, whom they entertain in an eagerly awaited Spanish league clasico on Saturday.
The woodwork, a string of superb saves by Petr Cech and some poor finishing by Barcelona, along with the outstanding job John Terry and Gary Cahill did to keep Messi at bay, secured a memorable night for Chelsea fans which they will cherish at least until the return leg.
It is hard to imagine that Chelsea could escape with another cagey and defensive performance as the length and width of the Nou Camp will give Barcelona’s quick and crafty outfit that much more room to operate and find gaps where last-gasp tackles denied them at Stamford Bridge.
But they will be in trouble if Chelsea score first as the Londoners will then have the tie by the scuff of the neck and even a team as resourceful as Barca might find it difficult to turn things around.
Should both Real and Barcelona fail to reach the final, thousands of their supporters will be left ruing their teams’ untimely dip in form, as will millions of neutral fans worldwide mesmerised by the thrills and skills they have been treated to by Messi and Ronaldo week after week.
Instead, the Bayern faithful could be flocking confidently to their own stadium and Terry’s tumultuous season could yet end in a spectacular reprieve for his astonishing miss in the penalty shootout in the 2008 final.
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Here is a view of the Chelsea game from Phil O’ Connor