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Champions League PREVIEW | Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich

Real Madrid take a 2-1 lead heading into the second-leg, but they know the return of Robert Lewandowski could well dent their Champions League hopes as the Spanish club look to retain their European crown.

The Poland international was of course missing in the first-leg, which was clearly evident in Carlo Ancelotti’s gameplan, whilst the welcome return gives the Bundesliga leaders a focal point going forward.

Bayern Munich need to score at least two goals to proceed to the semi-finals whilst they must remain tight at the back – no team has been able to stop Real Madrid from scoring this season, who are averaging almost three goals per game – a tally any European giant can be proud of.

Ancelotti’s side come into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen, whilst they fielded the a strong XI, which included Thiago and Arturo Vidal. Madrid on the other hand rested a number of key players in their 3-2 win over Sporting Gijon – whilst they host Barcelona in the El Clasico on Saturday, which could go a long way in deciding where La Liga title ends up.

Team News

Zinedine Zidane will be without Gareth Bale who picked up a calf strain in the first-leg, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo will be given a starting birth alongside Karim Benzema. With the omission of the Welshman, expect Zidane to field Isco – who has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabéu in recent weeks.

The hosts will also be without Raphael Varane and Pepe, both of whom are key components in the Madrid defence. Expect to see Nacho start alongside Sergio Ramos at the heart of the defence. The three midfielders that started in the Allianz are likely to remain in the return fixture; Casemiro, Toni Kroos & Luka Modric.

What gives Bayern Munich hope in this tie is the return of Lewandowski, who has found the net 15 times in his last 11 games for the Bavarian club. As well as confirming the Pole will feature on Tuesday night, Mats Hummels will return to the squad – starting alongside Jerome Boateng. Javi Martinez is of course suspended after been shown a red card at the Allianz.

Thomas Müller’s poor season isn’t likely to warrant him a starting place, which could see Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben start on the flanks, with Thiago through the middle.

What they said

Zinedine Zidane“Bayern is a very good team in all the lines. We know they can harm the rival but they have also flaws, like all the teams. We’ll try to play our game and prepare well the game, like the first leg. This result is not definitive, so we need to play another great game. Bayern will play a great game, we know that. It’s going to be decided in small details and we have to be ready.”

Carlo Ancelotti: “Small details decided the first leg and we have to focus on those. We cannot afford to let Cristiano alone.

“We have a smaller chance than in the first leg, but we can definitely win this. The first 60 minutes in the first leg were quite good, but we made too many mistakes after that. Lewandowski is a great player and his return is very helpful.

“He has trained with the squad without any problems. It is a big confidence boost for us, but we will not change our strategy. It is important for Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels to train this evening and then we will see how things look on Tuesday.”

Danger Men

Real Madrid – Cristian Ronaldo: 40 goals in 50 games in all competitions speaks for itself. Once again it will be a busy night for Philipp Lahm & Co. to keep the Portugal international quiet. The 32-year-old can often go missing in games, but that’s when he’s most dangerous.

Bayern Munich – Thiago: All signs may point to Robert Lewandowski being the key player for Bayern Munich on Tuesday night – but at the minute, Thiago is the best midfielder in Europe. A product of Barcelona, the 26-year-old has been influential in Bayern’s season, picking out passes that many midfielders could only dream of.

A relatively injury free season for the Spaniard, Thiago has played 48 games in all competitions for Ancelotti this season, scoring seven and assisting eight. Zidane will be keeping close tabs on Thiago and expect to see Casemiro keeping a watchful eye over the magician.

Prediction

With the potential of being named fixture of the round, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says that they mustn’t be impatiant. Lewandowski & Co. must pick their attacks carefully as Real Madrid on the break can be devastating. Expect the German club to dominate the possession whilst Real Madrid sit back on their 2-1 lead.

To advance, Bayern must score at least two goals, and with Lewandowski, Robben and Thiago in the side – they can certainly do that. With Ronaldo and Benzema in the squad, a goal is always a likely outcome – but with Hummels and Boateng at the heart of the Bayern defence, you have one of the best partnerships.

Real Madrid 1-2 Bayern Munich (Bayern to win on penalties).

By Daniel Pinder.

 

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