The Champions League semifinal draw has concluded in Nyon, Switzerland. Putting aside the initial elation of no longer having to listen to Gianni Infantino waste time ahead of the draw, the final four teams left in Europe's top football competition now know the final opponent they need to overcome in order to reach the final in Milan next month. For Atlético Madrid, that opponent will be FC Bayern München. Bayern Munich are Atlético's fifth different rival in five European Cup/Champions League semifinals.
Now, talk about a tie. I wanted to see this tie in each of the past two seasons, so I'm pretty excited. Two of Europe's best defenses and arguably Europe's two best coaches will go toe-to-toe. At any rate, it's better than what I was expecting: two more iterations of the Madrid Derby and two editions of the Pep Guardiola Derby.
Anywho, this tie has a lot going for it. These are the two best teams left in the competition, and Diego Simeone's watertight defense will be challenged by the likes of Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. A fit Franck Ribéry can still cause problems going forward as well, and again, Guardiola has great defensive talent in David Alaba, Jérôme Boateng, Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer - one of the world's best.
Bayern will be seeking a fourth Champions League final appearance this decade; after losses in 2010 and 2012 the German champions rolled to the crown in 2013. Guardiola's side have been eliminated at the semifinal stage the past two seasons, and Spanish opposition served as the culprit both times: Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona last year. Both teams went on to win the final. In fact, in every year but one (2011) this decade, the team that eliminated Bayern from the Champions League went on to win the competition.
This tie is a big challenge for Atlético, no doubt. With the first leg at home, Atleti will need to be at its sharpest in 12 days' time. Bayern have won only two of its five away games in Champions League this season; both victories came in the group stage (against Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb). But Guardiola's side are unassailable at Allianz Arena, with five wins from five and a +16 goal difference in this competition. However, Atleti may have a fully fit team in less than two weeks - extremely rare at this point in a season - as José Giménez and Tiago have upped their training regimens with the rest of the group.
Finally, this tie brings an added historical component: the 1974 European Cup Final. Luis Aragonés and that wonderful Atlético side were mere seconds from becoming European champions, but Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck had other ideas. His long-range strike at the end of extra time forced a replay at Heysel, which Bayern Munich won easily, 4-0. Atleti did have the consolation of later winning the Intercontinental Cup after Bayern declined the invitation, but this historical context makes an already-intriguing tie all the more fascinating.
Bring it on.