We look at what should be expected from the UCL semi-final second leg clash between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Five-time champions Bayern Munich will take on the twelve-time UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid, in the second leg of the semifinal. It is going to be a very tightly contested match for sure, with both teams looking good enough to book a spot in the final.
The first leg fixture, which was played less than a week ago, was exhilarating and had a very nervy ending. Joshua Kimmich’s opener for Bayern was cancelled out by Marcelo’s goal just before half-time. Wonder-kid Marco Asensio capitalized on Rafinha’s mistake to score a decider in the 57th minute.
With a 2-1 lead over their rivals, Real Madrid happen to be the favourites for the tie. Juventus exploited the loopholes in their defence to stage a fightback. Could Bayern also do the same?
Here are the five things one should look out for in the high-octane clash.
#1 The threat of Cristiano Ronaldo
In Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid have the world’s best striker right now. His capability of scoring decisive goals that almost always propel Real past the finishing line, makes Ronaldo an indispensable member of the squad.
He has scored 42 goals this season for his club and looks hungry to add to his tally after his record run of scoring in 11 consecutive Champions League games abruptly ended against Bayern, courtesy of a handball.
He has been defying his age with his performances and goal-scoring frequency. He has been slotted into the central striker role by manager Zinedine Zidane, ahead of first-choice striker Benzema to intensify his impact on the game. Could he be the key player for Real tomorrow?
#2 The injury issues for both the teams
Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben was subbed off after eight minutes into the first-leg match at the Allianz Arena in Munich. He suffers from a lower leg injury and has not been included in the squad that’ll face Real at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Jerome Boateng suffered a season-ending injury during the match, which has now left his World Cup chances hanging by a thread. Javi Martinez, who also picked up a knock during the match, could feature in the second leg along with David Alaba, who has been included in the squad after a fortnight of inactivity.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, will be missing the services of right-back Daniel Carvajal. They have Nacho back after a month of absence and Isco also misses out.
#3 The young talents on display
The focus and responsibility of salvaging a win out of the match for Real Madrid was on Cristiano Ronaldo. He cut a sorry figure and was excellently marshalled by the Bayern defence.
It was the young wonder-kid Marco Asensio who stepped up and scored the winner. He could play a very vital role in the second leg, with Isco injured and the left-winger position seemingly empty.
Another youngster who shone in the first leg was Bayern Munich’s young right-back Joshua Kimmich who scored the only goal for the hosts. When Philipp Lahm retired, no one expected Kimmich to fill the void so easily and he has cemented his place in the German side as well as the Bayern lineup. He could prove to be decisive in tomorrow’s match.
Other youngsters who could be key to their team’s chances of progressing into the final are Lucas Vazquez of Real Madrid and Niklas Sule of Bayern Munich.
It is going to be a fantastic occasion for the youngsters to steal the limelight.
#4 The tactical battle: Zidane vs Heynckes
Zinedine Zidane has proved himself as a genius with tactics, just like the way he was with the ball at his feet. He has landed every single major trophy with Real Madrid, with the exception of the Copa del Rey.
Zidane focuses a lot on pressing high up the pitch and attacking on the counter. He has been blessed with an immensely talented pool of players, who can score goals and contain opponent attacks with ease. Scoring from crosses with the opposition in their own half is precisely why Zizou’s game is a delight to watch.
Jupp Heynckes was the manager of Bayern in 2013, when they won the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal. When Carlo Ancelotti left, he left behind a team of demotivated but good players. Heynckes has done an excellent work by transforming the lethargic team into a well-oiled unit that functions very efficiently.
Heynckes’s game is more about his teams changing formations to adjust to the requirements of the game. Using counter-pressing to subdue opponents and pacy wingers/wingbacks to exploit the loopholes in the opposition defence makes his teams very difficult to deal with.
#5 The rock-solid defences
Real Madrid have one of the best defences on the planet, led by captain Sergio Ramos who snuffs out attacks and scores goals whenever the team requires. Partnering him the middle of the defence is the young Raphael Varane, who looks set to inherit Ramos’s mantle of being Real’s best defender.
The Brazilian, Marcelo is undoubtedly the best left-back right now and Lucas Vazquez is able enough to perform well in the absence of Carvajal in the right-back position. Nacho is also back in contention for the starting lineup.
Bayern Munich have the services of Mats Hummels in the centre of defence, who is often considered as one among the top-five defenders in the world. He should be partnered by Niklas Sule to fill the vacant spot left by Boateng’s absence.
David Alaba will return to the starting XI most probably or Rafinha will play in the left-back position. Kimmich will command the right-back position.
It is going to be the battle of the European heavyweights. A spectacle of a football match is on the cards.