Preview of the Champions League semi-finals
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich – Wednesday, 7:45pm (Irish time)
Just twenty-four hours after the first semi-final is held in Madrid, the Santiago Bernabeu hosts the second semi-final in the city between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have some injury worries ahead of this tie. Cristiano Ronaldo remains a doubt, still recovering from his recent injury. Other doubtful starters are Sami Khedira and Marcelo, while Arvalo Arbeloa and Jese are definitely unavailable. Real do not have anyone missing due to suspension.
Iker Casillas and Illarimendi are the only players to have started every CL game for Ancelotti so far. Ronaldo is already tied for the season record of fourteen CL goals but he missed the second-leg of the quarter-finals in Dortmund. Ronaldo remains doubtful for this game on Wednesday. He may get some game-time but is unlikely to manage the full ninety minutes.
Gareth Bale has scored five goals in his debut CL season with Real with French International Karim Benzema contributing another four.
Real won their group easily with sixteen points, ahead of Galatasaray on seven, Juventus with six points and FC Copenhagen last with four points. They averaged over three goals per game with twenty goals in their six group games.
In the second round Real demolished FC Schalke 6-1 in Germany before completing the job with a 3-1 win in the return leg.
They faced German opposition again in the quarter-finals. Borussia Dortmund had knocked Real out at the semi-finals stage last season and their CL form this season had once again been impressive. Real took complete control of the first-leg in Madrid though and won 3-0. Jurgen Klopp almost led his team to a remarkable comeback in the return leg in Germany against the Ronaldo-less Madrid. Dortmund won 2-0 and really looked like they were going to turn it around on aggregate for long periods of that game. Real made it through in the end and have been drawn against German opposition for the third consecutive round.
Josep Guardiola hopes to emulate his predecessor Jupp Heynckes by winning the Champions League with this Bayern Munich squad. ‘Pep’ stepped into an extremely high-pressure role at Bayern where the expectation is that they will win every competition they partake in. Guardiola and his troops have managed this pressure very well, having already secured the Bundesliga title while advancing steadily in the CL.
Five players have managed to start every CL game so far for Bayern in this campaign – Toni Kroos, David Alaba, Thomas Muller, Philip Lahm and Manuel Neuer. Lahm, the club captain, has settled into a deep-lying central midfield role under Guardiola and seems to just get better and better as his career progresses.
Muller is Bayern’s top CL scorer with five goals so far this season followed by Robben who has four and Ribery, Gotze, Schweinsteiger and Mandzukic who have all scored three so far.
Bayern won five of their six group games and finished ahead of Manchester City on goal difference. FC Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow were third and fourth respectively, both on three points.
An impressive 2-0 victory at the Emirates helped them to overcome Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate in the second round.
In the quarter-finals Bayern beat Manchester United 4-2 on aggregate. They drew 1-1 at Old Trafford and suffered a short-lived scare in the return game when a Patrice Evra cracker put United ahead in the tie. Luckily for Bayern, Mandzukic headed in the equaliser within a minute of going behind and Bayern stepped it up a gear from there.
Prediction: Guardiola to oversee another Bayern triumph.
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