FC Barcelona: Destined to meet in the final but by no means a done deal

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 25: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (L) shakes hands with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid prior to the Copa del Rey quarter final second leg match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou on January 25, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Champions League draw on Friday morning saw the two Spanish giants drawn away from each other and lead to many pundits debating who would win the inevitable Madrid-Barça final.

But it is far from inevitable, both sides face tough tests if they want to see the Allianz Arena light up in their colours. The Catalans were arguably drawn the harder quarter-final opponents as Barça face a rematch against Milan while Madrid face this year's surprise package in Apoel FC.

Neither side though are guaranteed a place in the semis after all you don't get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League without merit. Apoel progressed in their group by seeing off competition from Porto, Zenit and Shaktar Donetsk before a tight game won on penalties against Lyon in the previous stage. So it would appear the first Cypriot side to reach the quarter-finals of this completion are not afraid to ruffle the big boy's feathers.

Meanwhile in Italy, reigning champions Barcelona face Milan for the third time of the competition. The Milan-Barça tie is the pick of the draw and has already produced two high quality encounters this season. The first tie was an amazing night for the Italians, Alexandre Pato scored in the first minute before Pedro and Villa put the Catalans ahead, only for Thiago Silva to net in the 90th minute and earn a valuable draw at the Camp Nou.

There is a general prejudice of Spanish fans that the Italians don't play football the right way. They complain the mindset is wrong and is too focused on the defensive side of the game.

The one exception to that rule has always been Milan and that exception was solidified when Barça travelled to the San Siro. With Barça and Milan already qualified for the knockout stages a boring game looked on the cards but that was far from the truth. Each team scored glorious goals with Kevin Prince Boateng's being the best of the bunch. Barça were the eventual winners and it would seem the Rossoneri are determined for revenge.

Should both Barça and Real overcome their opponents they will again be hit with a tough round of fixtures. Madrid's draw means they will either be facing Bayern Munich or Marseille, of which neither side looks likely to be pushed over easily.

This year's competition is especially important for the German side. The final is to be played at the home ground of Bayern, the Allianz Arena. A source of motivation if one was needed in this competition. Bayern look very impressive this season sweeping aside Basel in a 7-1 aggregate win.

Munich do look more likely to progress but the 92-93 winners have already beaten Inter Milan and the French side are more than capable of taking out another one of the "big" teams. One of Marseille's greatest quality is the fitness and endurance of the squad highlighted by their late winner in the first leg tie against Inter.

Barcelona's path to silverware would appear to be slightly more easy in regards of the semi-final stage. The Catalans will face either Chelsea or Benifca as they look to retain their title.

Chelsea's season has never been far from controversy. Trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich fired André Villas-Boas after just eight months in charge and if it weren't for Stamford Bridge's veterans the West London side would have already exited the competition. But with the Blues chasing a top four spot in the league those old dogs may not have enough life in them to progress much further then the semis.

Standing in between Chelsea and the semi-finals is Benfica. The Portuguese club has experienced success in this competition twice in consecutive seasons of 60/61 and 61/62. Qualifying top of their group over last year's finalists Manchester United and seeing off Zenit in the round of 16 means they face Chelsea in their quarter final clash. The game should be a tight affair with the prospect of a clash with the reigning champions looming.

So it would seem there is a lot standing in the way of an all La Liga final but as the whole of Spain waits in expectation the sides must not become complacent and maybe then they will see the final they are dying to see.

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