With the much awaited Champions League draw completed, we're (as expected) in for a brilliant semi final round in this year's competition. Defending champions Bayern Munich have drawn second favourites Real Madrid, while Diego Simeone and his impressive Atletico Madrid side face Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.
All in all, too tough to call most would say. Here's a look at some of the key battles and factors which could decide which two sides face off in Lisbon come May 24:
1) The home advantage
Both Spanish sides play at home in the first leg of the semi finals. Whilst many would disagree with any such thing known as a "home advantage", at such a crucial stage in the competition, having hoards of fans backing you on your own turf can be enough to turn the tide (Chelsea, Bayern, and even Dortmund in the last round).
All the teams in the semis minus Atletico have vast experience in this stage of the competition over the past few seasons. Bayern and Real are almost constant names in the pot for the semi final draw year of late, and Chelsea have made it this far seven times in the last 10 years. Atletico have been hugely successful in the Europa League over the past decade but many would argue that at this stage, lack of experience could prove to be quite a banana skin for Simeone's men.
3) The league run in
As the various domestic leagues come to a close, the run in for three of these teams could prove to a large extent as to whether they are to make it to the final in this year's Champions League or not.
Bayern have already wrapped up the Bundesliga, so the Champions League is their major priority at the moment. Chelsea may have the Premier League out of their reach by the time they travel to the Vicente Calderon, and with a place in the top three already guaranteed, may choose to put all their resources into one massive European push.
Real are still in the shake up for La Liga, but to be honest, the pursuit for La Decima far outweighs domestic success. Atletico are the team that may have to choose at this stage in time, as they currently lead their domestic league by all of one point, and a slip up in either competition may cost them dearly. Still, many have bet against Simeone's team this season and been made to eat a face-full of humble pie, so don't be surprised if they make a serious claim for both trophies by the end of the month.
4) Injuries and suspensions
All teams will be hoping to have injured players back by the first leg of the semi finals, at the same time having to compensate for players missing the game due to suspension. Bayern will welcome the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and probably Xherdan Shaqiri as well. Thiago Alcantara remains a miss for the Bavarians.
Real Madrid will be hoping for the speedy return of their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, who currently is expected back just before the Bayern game. Chelsea and Atletico will be looking hopefully at the return of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa respectively. Both players have made the difference for their sides all season long and could hold the key to progress into the final. Arda Turan will also be looking to return from a groin strain, at least in time to make the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
5) Current form
Though this may seem obvious, current form is a major indicator as to how these ties may go. Bayern have looked far from their best since they clinched the title. Even though they have been giving their fringe players a chance since then, they looked far from convincing over two legs against Manchester United, and will certainly have to up their game if they are to knock out a hungry Real Madrid outfit.
Los Meringues have looked far from convincing in recent games themselves, and were on the end of quite a beating when they traveled to Dortmund in the last round. Ancelotti will be hoping that the return of Cristiano Ronaldo will help raise the spirits and general standard of play at the club, similar to what he had attained in the middle of the season.
Atletico are probably the form team out of the four right now, getting the result in almost every game they play nowadays. They are still the only unbeaten team in the competition and are coming of the back of a brilliant performance against Barcelona in the quarter finals. Chelsea seem to be emerging from a poor run of form at last, after losing the first leg of their quarter final against PSG, and two league games on the trot. A 3-0 win against Stoke City followed up by an inspirational comeback to oust PSG shows the London side looking back to somewhat near their best, which is where they'll have to be to stand a chance against their Spanish opposition.
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