Event: UEFA Champions League – Quarter final, 1st Leg
Date: Wednesday, 12th April 2017
KICK OFF: 7:45pm (Nigerian time)
Venue: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
The German side welcome their Spanish counterparts for the first leg this week before the return fixture at the Bernabeu on April 18.
A blockbuster of a clash highly anticipated here, irrespective of the injury/fitness concerns leading to depletion in both squads. Bayern Munich’s gaffer Carlo Ancelotti has admitted that star striker Robert Lewandowski remains a major doubt for this clash. Lewandowski suffered a shoulder injury during last weekend’s Bundesliga win over Borussia Dortmund and lasted only 20 minutes of a training session this week as he races against time to be fit.
Ancelotti did tell a press conference: “He has been training, just 20 minutes because he has problems with his shoulder, but we had a good feeling beforehand.
“We will finally decide whether he can play on Wednesday – if he is in pain, he won’t play.
“I don’t know if he will feel better (on Wednesday) but that will not change our idea or our strategy, nor our self-confidence. We know how important Lewandowski is, but we can be strong without him.”
The Italian expects to be able to welcome back goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after his recent foot injury and minor operation done ten days ago but defender Mats Hummels is definitely out after damaging ankle ligaments on Sunday. Thomas Mueller could return fit from an ankle injury as well, still doubtful though. Ancelotti is relishing the chance to face his former club for the first time since he left the Bernabeu in 2015, and linking up once again with his former assistant – Zinedine Zidane – now the permanent manager.
Ancelotti won the Champions League at Real in 2014, before Zidane claimed the trophy last season for the 11-time winners, while Bayern Munich are Europe’s joint third most successful team having been crowned champions on five occasions.
He added: “I like him very much and I am very happy with how he is working and of course had a fantastic quality as a player.
“In my time at Real, he was an excellent assistant coach who could help with the charisma and experience, and when I got to know him I changed some of my ideas about football.”
Zidane himself does not believe their familiarity is of much consequence ahead of the tussle.
He told the club’s official website: “We know each other very well, but that doesn’t mean anything: it’s not an advantage or a disadvantage. It’s two good teams coming up against each other and that’s all there is to it.
“We’re not lining up against Carlo. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Despite his side sitting on top of the La Liga table, Zidane will go into the game under some pressure with talk that some of his superstars are not happy with his squad rotation policy.
Cristiano Ronaldo has not been performing to his usual heights this season while Gareth Bale has struggled for form since returning from injury with some reports in Spain suggesting he could be dropped for the clash.
Zidane also has a shortage of options in defence with Pepe and Raphael Varane ruled out for both legs, Pepe having suffered a double rib fracture in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with city rivals Atletico.
Zidane added of Real’s opponents: “I don’t fear Bayern, I’m more bothered about what we do.
“We’ll come up against a Bayern side that’ll start strongly, they always do and all the more so at home. They know how to dominate a game and they always try to play with greater intensity than their opponents.
“We face fine opposition, but ultimately what I’m bothered about is what we do. We’re a strong and well-balanced side.”
But the last time the Bundesliga winners played Real at the Allianz Arena, they suffered their biggest ever European home defeat when they were beaten 4-0 in April 2014, which was also the last time they lost on their own turf in the Champions League.
Both sides are missing key defenders for the clash. Mats Hummels was ruled out after damaging ankle ligaments on Sunday, so Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez are expected to form the centre-back partnership. On the hand, Real have defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane ruled out of both legs. The former suffered a double rib fracture in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, while the latter is out for a month with a hamstring injury. Right-back Daniel Carvajal trained on his own on Monday and is struggling with a knock.
KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY
-Bayern Munich have averaged 70% possession, the highest ratio in this season’s Champions League. The Bavarian side have dominated that ranking every season since 2013/14.
-This is the 20th consecutive season in which Real Madrid have made it to the Champions League knockout stages, a record in the competition – they have reached the semis in each of the last 6 seasons.
-Bayern Munich have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the sixth consecutive season. In fact, in each of the five previous campaigns, they’ve systematically made it to the semis.
-This is the 23rd European Cup/Champions League fixture between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid – the 17th under the Champions League era – a record in the history of the tournament.
-Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are perfectly level in their European Cup/Champions League knockout encounters, progressing five times each.
-Real Madrid, alongside Juventus, are the only unbeaten team in this season’s Champions League. They have also only lost one of their last 10 knockout games (W6 D3), it was against Wolfsburg in April 2016 (0-2).
-Real Madrid have lost nine of their 11 away games against Bayern Munich in European competition (W1 D1) but they won on their last trip to the Allianz Arena, inflicting on the Bavarians their biggest European home defeat (4-0).
-Bayern Munich have won their last 16 home Champions League games (58 goals scored, 9 conceded), the longest winning run in the history of the competition. The last team to beat them at the Allianz Arena was … Real Madrid, in April 2014 (0-4).
-None of Bayern Munich’s last 10 Champions League games has ended in a draw (W7 L3). The last one was against Benfica in April 2016 (2-2).
-Bayern Munich have scored 24 goals in this season’s Champions League, including 10 on their last two outings (against Arsenal). However, they have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven games.
-Robert Lewandowski has scored in each of his last three Champions League games – he’s never done four in a row in the competition.
-Sergio Ramos’ last six goals in the Champions League have all been scored in the knockout stages of the competition, including his headed brace against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in April 2014. If he plays, it will be his 99th game in the competition.
FORM GUIDE (all competitions, most recent first)
Bayern Munich: WLWWWW
Real Madrid: DWWWWW
VERDICT: Zinedine Zidane has managed to pick Real Madrid up despite Cristiano Ronaldo not really doing it at the same level this season, with Sergio Ramos all too often having to save them.
The Bundesliga champions made a slow start to the UEFA Champions League but, settled under Carlo Ancelotti, exploded into life in the last 16 by demolishing Arsenal. The German champions never really got out of second gear in the group stage, advancing with two games to spare despite a 1-0 loss at Atlético. A shock 3-2 defeat by Rostov had fans of bigger rivals sensing weakness, but a thumping 10-2 aggregate victory against Arsenal in the last 16 summarily banished such thoughts.
There is a reason why Bayern, for all their problems on their travels, have reached the semi-finals three seasons running: in Munich they are formidable.
It is three years since they last failed to win a home game in the UEFA Champions League, a competition record run of 16 triumphs. That, allied with improved away form, means they will be hard to beat.
The Bavarians are coming on the back of an intimidating home form. They scored 29 goals in the last six at the Allianz Arena, the most recent a 4-1 win against Borussia Dortmund. Robert Lewandowski’s double against his former club means he has now scored in seven straight home Bundesliga games for a total of 14 goals as Bayern maintained their ten-point lead over RB Leipzig with only six matches to go. So, it certainly looks like the German title is remaining in Munich.
For just the second time in eight seasons Real Madrid had to settle for second in their group – and as in 2012/13, it was Dortmund who finished above them. The German team profited from late equalisers in both encounters, though Madrid were grateful for one of their own at Legia and twice against Sporting CP. The holders blew away the cobwebs in the last 16, though, overpowering an impressive Napoli side 6-2 on aggregate.
The same pervasive self-belief that got Madrid through the 2014 and 2016 finals against a redoubtable Atlético side makes it impossible to write off Zinédine Zidane’s men. If they can overcome Bayern, then the portents will be especially good considering the Munich club were defeated along the way to Madrid becoming European champions in 2014 (semi-finals), 2002 (quarters) and 2000 (semis).
Real Madrid are coming on the back of a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid, which stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 9 matches. Pepe’s header from a Toni Kroos free-kick ensured Madrid’s run of scoring in consecutive games stretched to 52 games, but Antoine Griezmann’s equaliser could have enabled Barcelona to wipe out the Merengues’ two-point lead at the top; instead, they are now three points ahead with a game in hand.
Bayern’s home record against Real is strong: the German record champions have won nine out of eleven matches against the men from the Spanish capital. However, the last tie between the two sides was also the biggest result in the history of this meeting. Real Madrid, who had a 1-0 lead from the home match, sealed their place in the final in Lisbon thanks to the win at the Allianz Arena. Braces from Ramos and Cristiano set up a magical night for Real Madrid before going on to win la Décima (0-4).
Afterall said and done, I think it is hard to shy away from a victory for the Germans in this one even if not a comfortable scoreline/victory, at least a decent one. Madrid look good to score though.
RECOMMENDED BET: 1 or 1 & GG