GGFN previews this UEFA Champions League quarter-final blockbuster first-leg between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday evening.
This is arguably the draw of the round as two giant clubs come head to head. Both Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti will have their eyes firmly set on the final in Cardiff as both feel the pressure of the importance to win the UCL, with the latter especially looking to get one up on his former club. Both teams have endured a fine season and sit top of their leagues respectively as they look to coup the league title along with as many domestic cup competitions as possible.
Bayern Munich progressed to the quarter-final with complete ease and control after annihilating Arsenal 10-2 on aggregate in the last 16, sending out a message of intent after suffering an abnormal difficult opening to the season. Die Bayern have suffered just one loss in the last 25 games as they go clear 10 points of the Bundesliga and look set to once again win the league title after years of dominance. Ancelotti will be in desperation to win the prestigious trophy after Pep Guardiola’s failing to do so in his three-year spell with the Germans.
Real Madrid have also been in great form domestically and seem to get their hands of the La Liga title for the first time since the 2011/12 season. Los Blancos had a slight setback to their title surge on Saturday after drawing 1-1 with fierce rivals Atletico Madrid, but after Malaga’s industrious win against second-place Barcelona, they remain three points ahead of second place with a game in hand too.
Team news and tactics
Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been dealt with numerous injury blow’s with the likes of Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller unlikely to play whilst losing summer signing Mats Hummels for the first-leg. The German has been Bayern’s best defender this season and it gives them a massive headache in central defence. Jerome Boateng, despite being regarded as one of the best in the world has looked shakey at LCB when relied upon despite an impressive performance against Borussia Dortmund.
Despite suffering an injury plague prior to the big match; Munich are blessed and have a plethora of talent in their ranks. I expect them to lineup in their 4-2-3-1 formation which has seen them blitz numerous teams this season. Ulreich will remain in the sticks with Neuer’s injury while Lahm-Martinez-Boateng-Alaba complete the back four.
The two in front of the defence will be Madrid’s ex-midfielder Alonso and Bayern’s machine Vidal; this midfield pairing has been supreme all season and will look to dominate again tomorrow night.
The three behind the striker will likely be Robben-Thiago-Ribery. Incredible. Beautiful. Powerful. That three is truly majestic. Thiago playing that false 10 role roaming around, building play and recycling possession with the Munich veterans Robben-Ribery doing their usual business. Despite the injury concern, I expect Lewandowski to play CF tomorrow. He’s a complete CF in Europe and is in hot form after scoring a brace vs BVB on Saturday.
Real Madrid only has one real injury concern ahead of this tie. Pepe has been ruled out after picking up an injury vs Atletico; which could have been his last game for the Spanish giants.
With that in mind, I expect Madrid to continue with their consistent 4-3-3 formation which has seen them flourish thus far this season with Navas continuing in between the sticks and Carvajal-Nacho-Ramos-Marcelo completing the back four. Casemiro will anchor the midfield and veil the back four with Kroos-Modric playing the industrious interior role. As ever; Bale-Benzema-Ronaldo (BBC) will lead the attacking line as they look to showcase once again why they’re amongst the best attacking trio on the planet.
Arjen Robben (Bayern) – Despite Thiago being the best CM in Europe this season, and Lewandowski leading their line, I feel the Dutchman is the real danger man ahead of this tie. He will be relishing the chance to get one over his former club and has been in superlative form this season. He can create/score/build and link play and at 33-years-old he remains in the top 3 1v1 RW. His trademark cut in and shoot with his left is very obvious, everybody knows he can do it, but can anyone stop him? His duel vs Marcelo is going to be crucial in the final result.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Madrid) – Who else? He remains one of the worlds finest and will cause Bayern numerous problems on Wednesday evening. His desire remains the same, he wants to win, he has that ‘elite’ mentality. Bayern must be wary of what he possesses, or he will punish them like he has done to nearly every club that has crossed his path.
This is tough to call, two of the best clubs in the world coming up against each other with so much at stake. Anything could happen, Real Madrid has become one of the most clutch teams in Europe whilst Bayern can blitz anyway on their home turf. Although the away side is capable of winning, I fancy the Germans to win, and in style.
Thiago will have a field day between the lines especially if Madrid do not compact midfield like they failed to do vs Atletico whilst Robben/Lewandowski are in fine form. I expect Madrid to grab an away goal though; which sets up the return leg beautifully.
Prediction: Bayern 3-1 Madrid.