Four genuine European heavyweights remain in the Champions League, a quartet steeped in history and silverware.
Between Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Juventus, the big-eared trophy has been lifted 21 times.
Any of those clubs would be deserving finalists in the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6.
But for tension, intrigue, and the potential for high drama, the match-up that most appeals has to be Real Madrid versus Barcelona.
Javier Hernandez’s late winner against Atletico Madrid sent Real Madrid into the Champions League semis
Neymar scored both goals in the second leg as Barcelona beat Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 on aggregate
Transporting El Clasico to east Germany would bring a defining chapter to a myriad narratives, raising Europe’s grandest derby to a level not seen amid years of ebb and flow between the two Spanish behemoths.
We have seen plenty of tangles in recent years, notably the Champions League semi-final of 2011, and some may insist the unseemly battles when the pair faced off 12 times in 19 months a couple of years ago became too much.
But never have they duelled in the continent’s largest match. That would crystalise their competition. It would be a fascinating game.
Cristiano Ronaldo is looking for his third Champions League trophy and second in a row with Real
Barcelona’s formidable front three of Luis Suarez (left), Neymar (centre) and Lionel Messi (right)
They have only met twice this season, both times in La Liga. Real Madrid won 3-1 at the Bernabeu before Christmas before Barcelona’s 2-1 win at the Nou Camp last month, so the appetite is not sated this campaign. A deciding third bout at Europe’s main event would draw global crowds not witnessed before.
Just think: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, the pre-eminent practitioners of this era, head-to-head for the biggest club prize of all.
The Preener v the Peruser, Portugal’s athletic might against Argentina’s diminutive delight, the current Ballon d’Or holder against the man who won four consecutively.
Barcelona won 3-1 on aggregate when the sides met in the semi-finals of the 2011 Champions League
Gareth Bale scored the winner when Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the 2014 Spanish Cup final
Bale celebrates at the Mestalla after scoring a wonder goal that won the Spanish Cup for Barcelona
Pep Guardiola could come up against his former team Barcelona after guiding Bayern into the last four
Then there’s the undercard fights for supremacy: Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive signing on paper, vying with Neymar, the game’s costliest player when all told; Karim Benzema, that deadly Frenchman, versus Luis Suarez, the indefatigable Uruguayan (both tied on six Champions League goals this season, by the way).
Both teams have a trident attack to strike fear into their opponents. Whose will triumph on the biggest stage? It is an intriguing question to pose.
Then we have Carlo Ancelotti trying to save his job by going for his fourth European Cup as a manager, against Luis Enrique, who has weathered a storm in his debut season to break the record for number of club wins (42) in a head coach’s first 50 games. As a player he won La Liga with both Real and Barca but never the Champions League.
Messi and Ronaldo have had many duels, and could have another one this season in the Champions League
Pepe heads home during Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Barcelona in the Clasico at the Bernabeu in October
Suarez scored what proved to be the winner when Barcelona won the La Liga meeting in March
Pep Guardiola facing his old club, the place he delivered dream football and two European Cups, would be tantalising – be we can have that in the semi-final. He needs to visit the Nou Camp as an opposition manager.
That would leave Real vs Juventus in the other last-four match. Two teams with plenty of shared history, not least the 1998 Champions League final when the Italian side’s Zinedine Zidane, now a Real coach, was denied by Predrag Mijatovic’s goal.
Yes, Real vs Barca on a June evening in Berlin would capture imaginations and invite the world to watch.
REAL MADRID vs BARCELONA – HEAD TO HEAD
Mar 22, 2015 – La Liga, Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Oct 25, 2014 – La Liga, Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona
Apr 16, 2014 – Spanish Cup, Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Mar 23, 2014 – La Liga, Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona
Oct 26, 2013 – La Liga, Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid
Mar 2, 2013 – La Liga, Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
Feb 26, 2013 – Spanish Cup, Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid
Jan 30, 2013 – Spanish Cup, Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Oct 7, 2012 – La Liga, Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
Aug 29, 2012 – Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
Aug 23, 2012 – Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
Apr 21, 2012 – La Liga, Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid
Jan 25, 2012 – Spanish Cup, Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid
Jan 18, 2012 – Spanish Cup, Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
Dec 10, 2011 – La Liga, Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona
Aug 17, 2011 – Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid
Aug 14, 2011 – Spanish Super Cup, Real Madrid 2-2 Barcelona
May 3, 2011 – Champions League, Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
Apr 27, 2011 – Champions League, Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
Apr 20, 2011 – Spanish Cup, Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid
Apr 16, 2011 – La Liga, Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Nov 29, 2010 – La Liga, Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid