Monday, June 18, 2018

Champions League preview: Real Madrid v Bayern Munich

Real Madrid must overturn a one-goal deficit against Bayern Munich if they are to book their place in the UEFA Champions League final.

Jose Mourinho’s Real went down 2-1 in the semi-final first leg at Bayern’s Allianz Arena last Tuesday.

The hosts took the lead through France forward Franck Ribery in the 17th minute of the match.

The visitors from Spain had more than their fair share of chances, and registered a deserved away goal through Germany midfielder Mezut Oezil eight minutes into the second half.

It looked like the teams would be locked at 1-1 going into the return fixture in the Spanish capital, until Mario Gomez struck an injury-time winner for Bayern.

The German outfit carry a slender advantage with them to Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, but Real’s away goal renders Bayern’s position precarious at best.

Domestic considerations could also have an impact on the outcome of Wednesday’s clash.

Bayern have nothing left to play for in Germany after seeing Borussia Dortmund retain their Bundesliga title with a 2-0 win over Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.

Given Dortmund’s imminent triumph, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes could afford to change all of his team’s starting 11 for their match away to Werder Bremen on the same day.

Only goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luiz Gustavo were retained from the side which started against Real.

It was a very different story for the La Liga leaders, who contested the defining match of their domestic season, away to defending champions Barcelona.

The visitors emerged with a 2-1 win from their visit to Camp Nou, thanks to goals from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Reflecting on the importance of the clash, which has effectively secured the La Liga title for Real, Mourinho retained exactly the same starting line-up from the team which played in Munich.

The question now is how many of those first-choice players can recover in time to begin their third crucial game in the space of nine days?

The likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka, Marcelo and Raul Albiol could all be in contention to start in Madrid if one or more of their team-mates pull up sore.

Real will be bidding to reach their first Champions League final since winning the competition at Hampden Park in 2002.

Bayern, who lost the 2010 final to Inter Milan on their last visit to the Santiago Bernabeu, are aiming to reach the showpiece decider at their own Allianz Arena home.

The winner of Wednesday’s match will face either holders Barca or English Premier League outsiders Chelsea in the final, to be held in Munich on May 19.


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