Titleholders Bayern Munich are to face nine-time winners Real Madrid in a dramatic UEFA Champions League semi-final, which was drawn yesterday.
Surprise packages Atletico Madrid must take on 2011-2012 winners Chelsea in the second semi-final which could create a showdown over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who plays for Atletico, but is owned by the English club.
Bayern, who knocked out Manchester United on Wednesday, are aiming to become the first club to successfully defend the 22-season-old Champions League title.
Pep Guardiola’s German champions met Real in the semi-finals in 2011-2012. They won that match on penalties in Madrid, before losing to Chelsea in the final.
While Bayern, seeking their sixth European trophy, are trying to reach their fourth final in five years, Atletico are aiming to make it to their first.
The Spanish league leaders’ reward for their victory over Barcelona is a match up against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Mourinho is trying to win the coveted title for a third time with three different clubs after Porto and Inter.
Before the draw, UEFA made a veiled warning to Chelsea that they must not stop Atletico using goalkeeper Courtois.
European soccer’s governing body said any provision in Courtois’ loan agreement preventing his participation is against the competition’s rules.
“Both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations contain clear provisions which strictly forbid any club to exert, or attempt to exert, any influence whatsoever over the players that another club may (or may not) field in a match,” UEFA said in a statement. “It follows that any provision in a private contract between clubs which might function in such a way as to influence who a club fields in a match is null, void and unenforceable so far as UEFA is concerned.”
Courtois has been a key player in Atletico’s spectacular season.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo told Spanish radio station Onda Cero that his side would have to pay “a lot of money” for the Belgium international to play due to a provision in his contract.
Spanish media reports estimated the fee to be 3 million euros (US$4.17 million) per match.
Courtois has faced Chelsea once as an Atletico player in the European Super Cup last season when the Spaniards won 4-1.
The Champions League first legs are on April 22 and 23, with the return legs on April 29 and 30. The final is in Lisbon on May 24.
The Europea League semi-final draw pitted Spanish duo Sevilla and Valencia against each other, while SL Benfica of Portugal play Juventus of Italy, with the ties to be played on April 24 and May 1.