With the first leg of the UEFA Champions League still over a week away, the biggest storyline undoubtedly centers on Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, who will be making an emotional return to Camp Nou when Bayern face his former team and home on May 6.
The former Barcelona player and manager will be facing the club he won nine league titles with for the first time apart from a charity friendly shortly after he took over Bayern.
“Everyone understands how special this game is for me, for Thiago [Alcantara] (a former Barca midfielder) and my staff. Barcelona was our life. When you are in a semifinal, then you will always face a big team. What can I say? Barcelona is my home. I knew this would happen sooner or later. I am very happy that I can experience this. It’s a nice game, but not easy. Believe me, Barcelona are the strongest,” Guardiola said.
While the Bayern coach concedes, Barca is the stronger club, the German club’s chances will be bolstered by the likely return of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Still, the task will always be uphill when you are facing a club featuring Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar all playing in top form.
In the other semifinal bracket, Real Madrid are looking to become the first club to win back-to-back titles since the Champions League format took shape in 1992. They visit Juventus on May 5 in Turin for the first leg of their tie.
“Juventus are having a very good season and have practically won the Italian league,” said Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, who like Guardiola, will be facing his former team. “That means they can focus more on the Champions League.”
The Los Blancos, who are coming off a stiff challenge from neighbors Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, are facing what appears to be the least dangerous opponent on paper, and the team that both Barcelona and Bayern would rather face.
The second leg of the Real-Juventus tiff will be on May 13 at the Bernabeu, while the second leg of Barca-Bayern is on May 12 at the Allianz Arena.