Best teams in Spain, Germany meet in Champions League semifinals

Lionel Messi (left) and Barcelona will take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid meet in the other semifinal.

NYON, Switzerland — It’s a Spain vs. Germany double bill in the Champions League semifinals.


Barcelona will play Bayern Munich in a clash of runaway league leaders who are ranked by UEFA as the two best teams in Europe. Bayern play host to the first leg April 23.

Real Madrid faces an exciting Borussia Dortmund in a repeat of their 1998 semifinal, when the Spanish side dethroned the reigning champion. The first leg is on April 24 in Dortmund, where Madrid lost in the group stage last October.

“It’s the best match possible in this competition,” Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu told The Associated Press. “It’s difficult for us and for Bayern.”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern chairman, said he was “very happy” to play the “top favorite to win the Champions League.”

“I find it very thrilling to be playing against the best team in Europe,” Rummenigge said.

Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp was content to avoid a German rival which already took his team’s Bundesliga title this season.

“I don’t have to repeat that Real is a difficult opponent, but from the three possible opponents Real is the only one we’ve beaten this season,” Klopp said.

Friday’s draw featured four former European champions who have combined to win 18 titles in the competition’s 58-year history.

Return games are April 30 in Madrid and May 1 in Barcelona. The final is May 25 at Wembley Stadium, where Barcelona lifted the giant trophy two years ago.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE: Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan headline the National Women’s Soccer League, the third incarnation of a women’s professional soccer league in the United States.

The U.S. stars of the London Olympics will be joined by other national players in the eight-team league. The season kicks off tonight with FC Kansas City playing host to Morgan and the Portland Thorns FC in Overland Park, Kan.

Wambach, who will play for the Western Flash in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., travels Sunday to face Sky Blue FC in Piscataway, N.J.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo (Seattle) is sidelined after wrist surgery for most of the nearly four-month season and midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who is playing in France, says she’s “slated to go with the Seattle team” in mid-June.