Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich Is An Epic Final-Worthy Champions League Semifinal (GIFs)

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal celebrates after scoring during a semi final second leg Champions League soccer
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal celebrates after scoring during a semi final second leg Champions League soccer match against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, in Madrid, Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The best isn't always saved for last.

In a clash of European titans, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich were paired in an epic Champions League semifinal when the matchups were revealed at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on Friday. The scintillating semifinal matches the reigning champions with the club which has won the competition more than any other.

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Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 and Atletico Madrid sat atop La Liga standings when the semifinal draw took place but the pairing of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid was undeniably the glamor matchup.

Madrid and Munich faced off in the 2012 semifinals in a thrilling series that needed penalty kicks to determine which team advanced to the final. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals for Real Madrid in the second leg but had his shot during the penalty shootout stopped by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer as Bayern Munich prevailed.

"A fantastic draw – I'm really looking forward to it, Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, who has plenty of experience battling Madrid during his days in Barcelona, said after the draw. "They have quick players in their attack and quick players at the back, including a great keeper. I know them very well and I know how difficult it's going to be. Madrid have it all: a fantastic stadium, great fans, outstanding players and a manager with a lot of experience. It's going to be a big test for us against one of the best teams in the world."

Provided he fully recovers from a hamstring injury, Ronaldo will lead a star-studded Real Madrid side in its quest to dispatch the reigning kings of Europe.

Fans in the Spanish capital will hope Ronaldo can do something like this to the Bayern defense:


The 29-year-old Portuguese superstar will have plenty of help, including from attacking midfielder Gareth Bale. The 24-year-old Welshman joined Madrid on a record-setting transfer at the start of the season.

Since joining los Blancos, he has done things like this:

(GIF via @DesaiDevang)

Like Madrid, Bayern Munich will have no shortage of stars in action as it attempts to become the first side ever to win the Champions League in consecutive years. Dutch striker Arjen Robben showed off his speed and skill with yet another scintillating left-footed strike against Manchester United as Munich sealed its spot in the last four.

(GIF via @danecarbaugh)

Robben will be joined in the Munich attack by French midfielder Franck Ribery, who joined Ronaldo as one of three finalists for the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2013. After Ronaldo edged Ribery and Lionel Messi to take home the prize awarded annually to the world's best footballer, the Frenchman did not hide his disappointment.

"I won everything, with the team and individually. Ronaldo won nothing," Ribery said in an interview with Munich's TZ newspaper, via The Guardian. "I feel I had earned this award. It's all politics."

Ribery should want nothing more than to do something like this to Ronaldo or any Madrid defender in his path:

(GIF via @bayernzone)

The first legs of the semifinal will be played on Wednesday, April 23 at Bernabeu in Madrid. The return game is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29 in Munich.