Robert Lewandowski is eager to put Atletico Madrid’s formidable defensive record to the test when Bayern Munich visit in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
Diego Simeone’s side defeated holders Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate to reach the last four after a disciplined 2-0 win at the Vicente Calderon in the second leg, with Barca failing to score in a Champions League game for the first time since a 1-0 loss to Atleti in April 2014.
Atletico have kept a clean sheet in 13 of their last 15 home Champions League games, while goalkeeper Jan Oblak recently surpassed Thibaut Courtois’ club record of league shut-outs in a single campaign, with the Slovenian now on 23.
Lewandowski has been in fearsome form for Bayern this season and has eight Champions League goals so far, but the Poland international has struggled on the road in Europe, having failed to score in seven of his last eight away from the Allianz Arena.
Rather than feel daunted at the prospect of facing Atleti’s defence, however, Lewandowski is relishing the prospect of finding a crucial away goal to silence the vociferous Vicente Calderon crowd.
“They have the best defence in the Spanish Liga. I think they’re a team that play on the break. We need to be careful,” he told UEFA.com.
“As a striker, it’s a challenge to face a side that concede so few, but I’m happy to be playing against them. We know it will be tough, but we are Bayern.
“We’ve heard the atmosphere there is among the top three in Europe when it comes to how the fans support their team. I like playing in front of crowds like that. Regardless whether you’re at home or away, those are always great matches for any player. Even though the crowd might be against you, it motivates you and your adrenalin goes to the limit.”
Bayern, who have scored more goals (28) than any other semi-finalist this season, have reached this stage of the tournament six times in seven years and have won their last three domestic matches without conceding a goal.
Pep Guardiola’s side could also face an Atleti defence shorn of its leader, with Diego Godin battling to recover from a hamstring problem in time for the match.
Jose Gimenez returned to action in the 1-0 win over Malaga at the weekend, however, and the Uruguayan is fully prepared for the same kind of test which his side experienced against Barca in the quarter-finals.
“The game against Bayern will be as difficult or even more so than the one against Barcelona,” he said. “They have different weapons but play similar football.
“We hope it won’t be their night and that we can get a good result.”
Tiago (broken leg) remains out but Atleti have an otherwise strong squad to choose from, with Fernando Torres available after a ban, while Bayern have a number of concerns for the trip to the Spanish capital.
Jerome Boateng is unlikely to be fully fit despite returning to training following a long-term groin injury, while Holger Badstuber (ankle) is out and Arjen Robben (groin) is expected to be unavailable. Sebastian Rode, meanwhile, is battling illness.
Key Opta Stats:
– Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich’s only previous competitive encounter was in the 1974 European Cup final. Bayern were victorious 4-0 in a replay after the teams played out a 1-1 draw (after extra-time) in the initial final.
– Diego Simeone’s side have won 12 of their 16 Champions League games at the Vicente Calderon, but only one of their last six in the knockout stages (drawing three, losing two) – their last outing against Barcelona (2-0).
– Bayern Munich are winless in their last seven away games in the Champions League knockout stages (drawing four, losing three).
– Pep Guardiola has reached the semi-finals in each of his seven seasons as manager in the Champions League but has been knocked out at this stage in each of the last three campaigns. The last time he made it to the final was in 2010-11 with Barcelona (3-1 v Manchester United).
– Thomas Muller has scored 15 goals in his last 17 Champions League starts.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!