Champions League: Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Bayern Munich are the only thing standing in the way of Real Madrid competing for an unprecedented third Champions League win in consecutive years.
19:45 BST, Wednesday 24th April, Allianz Arena (Munich, Germany), BT Sport
On Wednesday, Real Madrid make the first step in their bid to win three consecutive Champions League titles as they head to Munich to take on Bayern.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for these two elite clubs. Where Bayern have recently completed their record sixth Bundesliga title, Real Madrid find themselves third in the La Liga table, four points behind cross-city rivals Atletico albeit with a game in hand.
For both, though, the Champions League represents the Holy Grail. Bayern Munich, having won in 2013, have subsequently failed to win the coveted trophy even despite the fact that they went through an era of dominance under the tenure of Pep Guardiola. Their manager back in 2013? Jupp Heynckes, who returned to coach them this season after Carlo Ancelotti was fired.
As far as Real Madrid are concerned, though, the Champions League title has become an expectation. Even with a shaky domestic campaign this season, they remain the favourites: Cristiano Ronaldo having scored 15 goals with the impressive record of having scored in every game that Real Madrid have played in.
In many respects, then, this represents the game that many people had hoped would be the final itself.
Last Time Out
Hannover 0-3 Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
Having already won the league, Bayern Munich fielded a heavily-rotated side for the visit to Hannover at the weekend.
This did not hold them back, though, and they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners after three second-half goals from Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Sebastian Rudy.
With Arturo Vidal out for the remainder of the season, Jupp Heynckes experimented with Niklas Sule at CDM. It would be unlikely that he does the same on Wednesday.
Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Club (La Liga)
With the Copa del Rey final being played last weekend, Real Madrid’s last fixture was a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu against Athletic Club.
When Iñaki Williams put the away side ahead on the 14th minute, it looked like the season-long problems that had beset Los Blancos would continue to haunt them.
However, in the 87th minute, who else but Real’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo applied a finish to Luka Modric’s assist.
Zinedine Zidane will be hoping these old problems will be avoided a week later.
Bayern Munich Lineup
With Arturo Vidal out of action for the remainder of the season, he will join Manuel Neuer and Kingsley Coman – both out to long-term problems – on the bench.
Beyond this, Jupp Heynckes will have a full squad available to him.
Real Madrid Lineup
Nacho Hernandez is the only absentee for Real Madrid with Sergio Ramos coming back from his one-match suspension.
Key Battle: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) vs Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
The predictable battle: who can score more between these two grandees of European football.
Robert Lewandowski has been prolific in the Bundesliga this season, scoring 28 goals in 28 games, an impressive 14 goals more than Hoffenheim’s Mark Uth, the next highest scorer in the league.
Interestingly, the Pole’s function in the team is clearly as goal-scorer rather than goal-provider. His assist haul over the same period is a solitary assist picked up against Hoffenheim in January.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s season was squarely split in two. In the first half of the La Liga season, Ronaldo had only scored four goals. However, he made up for lost time in the second half of the season, scoring an incredible 20 goals.
In the Champions League, he has had no such worries. His 15 goals so far have come in 10 games with the Portuguese scoring at least once in every game he has played in this season.
At it’s most basic, football is about scoring more goals than the opposition. With these two on the pitch, we can be certain that there will be at least one goal.
Will James Rodriguez turn up against his parent club?
James Rodriguez has been a revelation for Bayern this season since arriving on loan from Real Madrid in the summer.
Where the Colombian had set himself up as a goal scorer in the early stages of his career, his function at Bayern Munich has been that of a creator, with the youngster picking up ten assists in 21 games with a further six goals on the side.
With the midfielder available to the German champions on a first option to buy after the season ends, this could be his chance to impress his current club and his former club.
Will Sergio Ramos make the difference?
When Real Madrid nearly capitulated from their 3-0 away win at the Allianz Stadium when they played in the return leg at the Bernabeu, the big difference between the two sides was Sergio Ramos, who was missing through suspension.
On Wednesday, the question will be: will the Spaniard make the clear difference that so many people claimed he made in the quarter-finals.
If it does prove to be the case that it was he who was the difference, Bayern Munich will have their work cut out. Without Ramos, Real Madrid looked very fragile indeed at the back.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 1-1 Real Madrid
Despite the good work Jupp Heynckes has done at the German club, Real Madrid remain the favourites here.
However badly they seem to perform in La Liga, Los Blancos just have a funny knack of coming out of Champions League fixtures on top.
Expect them to pick up a draw and the away goal on Wednesday.