[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] The semifinals start Tuesday in Germany and they will include rising stars, world champions, storied rivalries, colorful coaches, two Ballon d’Or winners and the four best teams in Europe. Gorgeous venues in Munich, Dortmund, Madrid and Barcelona will play host -- in that order -- to four fascinating games determining the owners of two precious tickets to Wembley, where the Champions League trophy awaits.
GERMANY THEN SPAIN: Bayern Munich hosts Barcelona on Tuesday and Real Madrid visits Borussia Dortmund the following day, with the German teams in Spain the week after.
CREAM RISES: Bayern already clinched the Bundesliga title in record fashion, and it will shatter the all-time points mark record set by Dortmund just last season, when Madrid also set the La Liga points record. Barcelona, considered by many to be the finest soccer team that has ever laced them up, will have to settle for reclaiming the Spanish crown in 2013, without a new points record.
Chelsea’s miraculous title run a year ago offered the only semifinalist in the last two seasons from England’s celebrated Premier League, while UEFA’s computers just took one of Italy’s UCL berths and handed it to the Bundesliga based on performance.
Spain’s national team is first in FIFA’s rankings, Germany is second, and an astonishing 23 of the 28 players who appeared in those country’s last matches at Euro 2012 are on one of this year's UCL semifinalists. And lest you forget, Bayern, Barcelona and Madrid were all in last year’s semis. Is there any doubt the world’s best soccer now emanates from Spain and Germany?
GOALS WIN GAMES: The six teams with the highest goals per game in this year’s UCL are: Madrid 2.3, Bayern 2.2, Paris St. Germain 2.0, Dortmund 1.9, and Barcelona at 1.8. Chelsea’s 2.67 is still tops, though 10 of its 16 goals came in two games against FC Nordsjaelland during its group stage exit.
Barcelona leads La Liga at 3.16 goals per game; Madrid’s second with 2.58. Bayern leads Germany at 2.86, Dortmund’s next at 2.48.
SOUND BITES: "We have a great scouting department, I have two scouts who make me a detailed work-up of every opponent. Moreover, I know everything about Barca." Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes dismissing the notion his successor Pep Guardiola, who spent more than half his life winning titles at Barcelona, has any additional insight.
"(Robert) Lewandowski is the most dangerous. It is difficult to pronounce his name and even tougher to defend against him,” Marcelo’s shrewd take on Dortmund’s devastating striker.