In September 2011, the usual suspects — Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United — were dubbed as probable winners of the 2011-12 Champions League. As expected, Barcelona cruised through Group H, qualifying as the group’s top seed, while AC Milan placed second in the group.
Real Madrid bossed Group D, where they made light work of Dinamo Zagreb, Lyon and Ajax. The surprise of the group stages, however, was United’s early goodbye to the competition after a 2-1 loss to Basel.
In the last 16, Barcelona trounced Leverkusen, and Lionel Messi scored a memorable five goals in the second leg, becoming the first player ever to score five goals in a CL game. Real Madrid faced some opposition in the first leg against CSKA Moscow, but they annihilated their opponents in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The biggest surprise of the last 16 was FC Internazionale’s humiliation at the hands of Marseille. With some pretenders already out, Barcelona were touted to face AC Milan, while Real Madrid got lucky and had to face European Minnows Apoel Nicosia. Barcelona won the tie in controversial style, in 180 minutes, which is still being debated. However, Milan’s defensive masterpiece couldn’t stop the Blaugrana.
Madrid swept aside Apoel, Bayern Munich didn’t find any real opposition against Marseille, and Chelsea beat Benfica to reach the semis. At that point, with the matchups being Barcelona vs. Chelsea and Bayern vs. Real Madrid, everyone was looking forward to a mouthwatering El Clasico final. However, things didn’t go as expected for either of the Spanish giants, as Di Matteo’s catenaccio defensive masterpiece took care of Barca, aided by a late goal from the 50 million dollar transfer Fernando Torres.
Real Madrid and Bayern won a leg apiece with the score 2-1 to send the game to extra time and then penalties. Both goalkeepers, Manuel Neuer and Iker Casillas, were at their best and saved two penalties each. However, Sergio Ramos’ horrific miss decided the tie, and FC Hollywood qualified for the final in Allianz Arena, the club’s own stadium.
The final will take place May 19 at 2:45 p.m. EDT. Over 2 billion soccer fans worldwide are expected to watch what is expected to be an enthralling final.
Both teams go to the final with many absences, namely Luiz Gustavo, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber for Bayern and captain John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires Santos do Nascimento and Raul Meireles for Chelsea.
Both of these teams had amazing matches in this year’s CL, but who will leave Allianz Arena with the big-eared cup? Will it be Bayern’s fifth or Chelsea’s first? The Road to Munich is almost over; the final chapter will unfold soon.