Can Bayern München halt Madrid from a chance at claiming 'La Decima'?
‘La Decima’ is the phrase on the lips of every Real fan. For Bayern fans, the dream of a possible home final is still alive.
Real Madrid has won the Spanish Classico. They have beaten Barca at the Nou Camp prior to the European Classico against Bayern on Wednesday. Real has virtually claimed the league title. While Jose Mourinho will not be winning a treble this season, he can still win a double. This time Mourinho has to do something different; he has to come from behind to beat Bayern.
A 2-1 deficit is nothing to be worried about. However, FC Bayern learnt from that match that even with an average display from their attackers and with a consistent display from their defence, they can bring Real down. Many experts came out and labeled the performance as a ‘poor’ one from Real.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Oezil combined to score the away goal for Real Madrid. Philipp Lahm and David Alaba however shut the duo down for most of the night. Karim Benzema proved to be the most dangerous player on the night for Real as he really forced Manuel Neuer to work. Neuer admitted to being surprised by how little he had to do in the second half following the match.
While Franck Ribery was on-song, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez did not have great nights. Robben easily went past Fabio Coentrao time and time again but he wasn’t on the ball too often. Gomez missed three chances before finally netting the winner with his knee! Gomez’s miss from about a yard when Ramos had kicked the ball to him was the one which he definitely should have converted.
Bayern had a few penalty claims brushed away by Howard Webb. This isn’t the first time Webb has done so; he denied Bayern a clear penalty in the Champions League final in 2010. The most shocking decision from Webb came in injury time when Marcelo was rewarded with nothing more than a yellow for a lunge out of frustration at the young Thomas Mueller.
Bayern returns to the ground which holds some bitter memories for them from 2010. It is the same ground where Bayern, with many members of the current squad, lost to Inter in the Champions League final. A top heavy Bayern that day failed to compensate properly for the loss due to suspension of Franck Ribery.
Speaking of suspensions, seven Bayern players, including the entirety of the back four is a booking away from suspension. For Real, there are four players who are a booking away from being suspended from a possible final including Sergio Ramos, Coentrao, Gonzalo Higuain and Xabi Alonso.
Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber, Arjen Robben and Thomas Mueller of the current squad started the final. Mario Gomez was introduced as a late substitute to find a goal. Both Diego Contento and David Alaba were also part of the squad.
Lahm felt after the first leg that Bayern could afford to sit back a little in the second due to the lead. Oezil told the reporters that he will see them again during the final. Mourinho felt that his side didn’t deserve to concede the late goal. Some blamed Mourinho for the loss due to the late substitutions he made in bringing on Esteban Granero and Marcelo.
A 1-0 win would see Real through to the final. Bayern has lost two away games 1-0 this season (against Dortmund and Basel.) Bayern’s away record this season in the Champions League isn’t the most convincing. They recorded wins against Zurich in the qualifiers and against Villarreal in the group stages. The meeting with Napoli ended in a draw.
The loss against City on the final day can be overlooked considering that Bayern had already qualified at the top of the group and Jupp Heynckes thus fielded a reserve side. The loss to Basel came at a time when Bayern hit their low in terms of form. The return leg showed what Bayern was capable of doing to Basel as Xherdan Shaqiri’s side was squatted away 7-0.
Last round’s win over Marseille was a professional display in France. Bayern effectively ended the tie in the first leg. Real meanwhile has a flawless home record. They hadn’t lost in this season’s Champions League prior to the defeat against Bayern. Real has had a much easier campaign compared to Bayern. This might actually work in Bayern’s favour as they had to work hard to win almost all their matches.
Both teams are vulnerable once they concede the first goal. Bayern has only come from behind three times in all competitions this season to win. One of those times was during this weekend when Dortmund was crowned German Champions. Bayern beat Bremen 1-2 after falling behind to a Naldo goal. Mueller produced a good display while Ribery came off the bench to score the winner.
Ribery and Robben had a dressing room fight after the first leg. The French man was fined 50,000 Euros for hitting the Dutch man. He celebrated with the former Madrid man on Saturday to banish all rumours of dressing room unrest. Heynckes will be happy that he has harmony in the dressing room prior to the most important game of Bayern’s season.
Madrid has exacted revenge from each team that has beaten them this season. Levante and Barca had achieved that feat but were beaten by Madrid in reverse fixtures. Madrid has drawn games this season at the Bernabeu, such as against Malaga and Valencia. Bayern does not have to win to advance. All they need is a draw.
The battle in midfield will be vital. Toni Kroos is a true gem in Bayern’s ranks considering what he does tactically. Kroos connects the midfield and the attack thus allowing Bastian Schweinsteiger to sit back alongside Luiz Gustavo rather than rush forward. Will Xabi Alonso be able to prevent Bayern from attacking through the middle of the park?
The last meeting in Madrid between these two sides ended 3-2 in Madrid’s favour. The only surviving member of that fixture is Iker Casillas. Bayern went on to win the tie in 2006-07. ‘Die Rekordmeister’ will win the tie if that score-line is repeated this time around. In the past four semi-final meetings, Bayern lost one and won three. They lost when they played the first leg at home. Every time they won, they won the home leg 2-1.
Madrid is best when they counter-attack. Both teams are brilliant on the counter. Madrid will have to come at Bayern on Wednesday. On Saturday against Barcelona, they could afford to sit back and hit Barca on the counter. Don’t be surprised though if Mourinho does alter his game plan and makes his side sit back and wait to land a killer blow.
While Madrid’s record this season at home would point to a thumping victory, this game is difficult to predict. The only competitor Madrid has played who is at Bayern’s level or is better than Bayern is Barcelona. Real failed to record any home wins against the Catalans.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Bayern