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May 18, 2021

Champions League: FC Barcelona and Man United, favorites for the big final

Two years after they met in the UEFA Champions League showpiece, Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona seem to be on a collision course again as the semi-finals reach their conclusion this week, when Barca are hosting eternal rivals Real Madrid (on Tuesday evening) and Man United the Germans of Schalke 04, on Wednesday, according to uefa.com.

Goals in the 2009 final from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico prevented the Red Devils from becoming the first club to win back-to-back titles in the UEFA Champions League era, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team having triumphed 12 months earlier against Chelsea FC in Moscow.

In the first leg of the all-Spanish semi-final, Barcelona established what would appear to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead against Real Madrid CF. Pepe and coach Jose Mourinho had been dismissed before two Lionel Messi strikes left the Merengues with it all to do on Tuesday at the Camp Nou. “Against ten players they could play much easier,” said Mourinho. “The second game in Barcelona will be very difficult, almost impossible.”
Following the semi-final first leg between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona, UEFA has opened disciplinary cases against the clubs, to be heard by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on Friday 6 May.

Only two sides have recovered from a first-leg home defeat to win a tie in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League, and in both cases they only had to overturn 1-0 deficits: FC Internazionale Milano’s triumph at FC Bayern Munchen in this season’s round of 16 (0-1 home, 3-2 away) and the 1995/96 semi-finals, when AFC Ajax recovered from losing 1-0 at home to Panathinaikos FC with a 3-0 away triumph.

Madrid have lost the home first leg five times in UEFA competition and won only one tie, recovering from a 1-0 loss with a 2-0 victory at Schwarz-Weiss Tirol Innsbruck in the 1970/71 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup second round.

Barcelona have progressed 30 out of the 32 times they won the away first leg in UEFA competition, including all six in which the away leg finished 2-0 in their favour. They have let a two-goal advantage slip, however, a 4-2 win at FC Metz preceding a 4-1 home reverse in the 1984/85 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup first round.

There are no such chinks in United’s armour as they await the return against FC Schalke 04. Having won 2-0 in Gelsenkirchen last week, the statistics say they are on the way to the Wembley final on 28 May; United have progressed in all 14 UEFA competition ties where they won the first game away from home, including against Chelsea in this season’s quarter-finals (1-0 away, 2-1 home).

Schalke have lost only one home first leg in UEFA competition, going down 1-0 to Barcelona in the 2007/08 UEFA Cham­pions League quarter-finals.

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