Real Madrid to face Bayern Munich, Liverpool gets Roma in Champions League semis

Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was part of the Champions League semifinal draw in Nyon, Switzerl...

Posted: Apr 13, 2018 3:00 PM
Updated: Apr 13, 2018 3:00 PM

Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was part of the Champions League semifinal draw in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday.

It was only fitting, since football heavyweights Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were paired together in the last four of Europe's top club competition while Mo Salah makes an emotional return to former side Roma as Liverpool landed the Italian side that stunned Barcelona in the quarterfinals.

Real Madrid faces Bayern Munich again in Champions League semis

Will be fourth meeting in knockout phase since 2012

Mo Salah returns to Roma as Liverpool get Italian side

Real Madrid appearing in eighth straight semifinal

Real and Bayern have faced off three times in the knockout phase already since 2012, with the La Liga outfit triumphing twice including 6-3 on aggregate in last season's quarterfinal that necessitated extra time.

Both are familiar with being at this stage of the event -- Real are appearing in the semis for an eighth straight season and Bayern have been in the final four in four of the past five.

Just how Bayern -- the only team in the semis leading its domestic league; the other three are well behind in theirs -- will stop Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the key questions.

The prolific Portuguese tormented Bayern with five goals last season. And this season he has scored in a record 11 straight Champions League games, keeping his cool Wednesday when netting a penalty deep in injury time to eliminate Juventus in the tense battle of last year's finalists.

The record 12-time competition winners so nearly paid the price for sitting back at the Bernabeu nursing a 3-0 first-leg lead, with the "Old Lady" of Italian football mounting a comeback to level the tie at 3-3 prior to the late penalty drama.

READ: Incensed Buffon sees red

Ramos return

But if Ronaldo figures to be in the spotlight once again, don't forget the potential return of Real influential central defender Sergio Ramos. The Real captain sat out the the second leg against Juventus due to a suspension and would normally be expected to resume his duties against Bayern.

According to reports though, Ramos could miss at least the first leg of the semis for coming down from the stands Wednesday to join in the celebrations.

Bayern cruised to the semifinals in overcoming Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate and in Jupp Heynckes has the man who led the German powerhouse to the treble in 2013, highlighted by a fifth title in the Champions League or European Cup.

Heynckes -- who formerly coached Real -- is expected to retire at the end of the season and Bayern named his replacement Friday in Eintracht Frankfurt boss Niko Kovac.

The 46-year-old Kovac, who spent most of his playing career as a central midfielder in Germany, was a Croatian international and formerly guided the Croatian national team. He'll no doubt be keeping an eye on his future team.

Roma president Jim Pallotta jumped into one of Rome's famous fountains in joy after his team stunned Barcelona and said he didn't mind who the Giallorossi got next.

READ: Messi, Barcelona exit

But truth be told, Liverpool and Roma were probably chuffed to draw each other. The clash is a rematch of the 1984 final Liverpool won, with that season also marking the last occasion Roma advanced to the semifinals.

Roma completely shut down Lionel Messi in the second leg Tuesday and their task now will be to foil Salah, another diminutive left-footer who can dribble and finish with aplomb.

Apart from leading the Premier League in scoring, Salah is tied for second in the Champions League this term -- behind Ronaldo of course -- alongside hard-working teammate Roberto Firmino on eight goals and Sevilla's Wissam Ben Yedder.

Salah a fan favorite in Rome

Salah was a firm fan favorite in Rome but according to Football Italia, facing financial difficulties and dealing with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations, Roma were essentially forced to sell the Egyptian striker.

READ: Salah on special Liverpool

He turned out to be a bargain buy, purchased by Liverpool for -38 million ($54 million) a month before Brazil's Neymar went for 222 million euros ($273 million) to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona.

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Salah and Firmino were on target as Liverpool upset runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City 5-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals. The Reds are England's most successful team in the European Cup or Champions League -- matching Bayern's five titles -- but last appeared in the semifinals in 2008.

The first legs of the semifinals take place April 24 and 25 with the return legs on May 1 and 2.

The final is scheduled for May 26 in Kiev, where Klitschko is now the mayor.

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