The majority of football chatter this week will undoubtedly centre around Chelsea’s chances against Barcelona, but it is the other tie where the real drama will unfold.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are probably more evenly matched than the teams taking part in the adjacent fixture and the meeting serves up a mouth-watering prospect.
Roberto di Matteo’s side deserve great praise for the recovery they have made since the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, but it is hard to envisage them having any objective other than attempting to survive the expected Barca onslaught, beginning at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The expectation in Spain, and likely everywhere else, is that we will be witnessing the ultimate El Clasico in the final on May 19 at Bayern’s very own stadium, but the German’s have possibly the greatest motivation for denying the predicted showdown between the world’s two best players.
The first, and most obvious, argument is that they want to play at their home ground, where it would be a significant advantage in their attempts to lift Europe’s biggest prize.
Their other motivation is the prospect of going a season without silverware – something that is perceived to be complete failure at the Bavarian club.
They are also in the final of the German cup but there they face Borussia Dortmund, who have defeated them four times in a row now and as recently as last week in what looks to have decided where this year’s Bundesliga title is going.
It is not unreasonable to suggest Jupp Heynckes’ side may have developed a complex with their rivals and the effects of that crucial defeat resonated into their next league game – a goalless draw at mid table Mainz 05.
It has been a season of wasted promise in the league for Bayern, as they were leading the league and in devastating form before the winter break, but a period of inconsistency was ruthlessly exploited by BVB, who now look certain to become this year’s Meister, having a six-point lead and just three games remaining.
It could be that their run in Europe has provided some sort of respite to a domestic league campaign that has ultimately frustrated.
The expectation surrounding this tie is that Cristiano Ronaldo will do what he has done for most of the season and make a decisive contribution at some point or another, which doesn’t account for the pile of other superstars Los Merengues have in supply.
However, Bayern’s desire to avoid derision from their fans for a season not decorated with silverware is a powerful driving force.
FCB have similarities with Manchester United in this country, with the fabric of the club being all about winning titles and trophies in general.
Winning has become so habitual over the years that the spectre of a season without something to boast about is seen as something unsavoury and all players will be aware of the expectation placed upon them by a famously outspoken hierarchy of former playing greats and officials.
While the drama of a Champions League final El Clasico would surely be something to behold, the danger posed by Bayern’s devastating wingers should not be taken lightly.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who are both capable of delivering quality in large quantities and goal-machine Mario Gomez will arguably pose the Madrid side’s sternest test this season outside of Barcelona.
La Liga giants bestride the footballing world at the moment, but another of Europe’s institutions could be ready to upset the presumed order.
One thing is for sure, it will be one hell of a tie.