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Noah Hickey: Champions League dream


By Noah Hickey

Published: 6:47AM Wednesday April 18, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have set the football world alight this season with a record breaking 41 goals each in La Liga.

Better yet they are both part of the mouth-watering line-up of Champions League semi-finals football this week.

Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is possibly the best line-up anyone could ask for in a Champions League final four and having the world's two best players involved makes the match-ups even more tantalising.

For me both Real Madrid and Barcelona head into their clashes with Bayern Munich and Chelsea respectively as favourites; however anything can happen at this stage of the competition. I must note Bayern have never lost to Real Madrid at home (8W - 1D).

While Messi remains the spark for the European champions, his success - 63 goals in all competitions this season, four short of the all-time record of 67 set by former Bayern Munich striker Gerd Mueller in the 1972-73 season - can only come into fruition if the whole Barcelona team is functioning, although this is something Pep Guardiola's men do with ease.

Another player who holds the key for his side is Chelsea's Mata, who has been one of the best in the English Premier League this season.

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery also fit into this category. Both of them are always going to be a threat but they will have to be at their best to stop Real Madrid from scoring.

Real's Ronaldo (8) and Benzema (7) are third and fourth on the goal scorers' tally this season in Champions League football - a stat we hope will carry on. Messi (14) is number one and Bayern Munich star Gomez (12) sits at number two and it's great to have the four top scorers still in the competition.

Although Chelsea have shown recent good form, they have serious problems in defence with David Luiz doubtful after being stretchered off at Wembley against Tottenham on Monday. Other issues include Gary Cahill (foot problem). John Terry (rib injury) though looks set to play.

Of all the managers Roberto Di Matteo is the one whose side have struggled domestically this season. He has a tough decision on playing either Dider Drogba, who scored against Tottenham, or Fernando Torres, who started both games against Benfica in the quarter finals and is looking like he finally getting back into form.

Either way Barcelona won't be worried after winning14 of their last 15 matches and drawing the other 0-0 against AC Milan in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

This impressive run is because Barcelona has no obvious weakness, although Javier Mascherano and Carlos Puyol are both only one yellow card away from a suspension.

Real Madrid are in a similar position after resting players in the weekend, star strikers Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria will be reinstated to the starting line-up.

Bayern also rested three stars in Philipp Lahm, Ribery and Gomez for the weekend's game. The Germans are tough and no one would be surprised if they were to win however Real have the best defensive record in the competition this year and have yet to be beaten.

The line-up of players is outstanding however the clash of the record breakers is going to be a hot topic in both games as Ronaldo and Messi continue their head-to-head competition to be the greatest.

And after their leg-one semi-final clashes, the footballing world could see a preview of the Champions Leagues final in Munich next month when the two superpowers meet in the 164th 'El Clasico' at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

I can't wait.

Read more Noah Hickey opinion here