Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
April 25, 2012 – 1845 GMT
By the time this preview is put up, we already know one of the finalists of the Champions League. Chelsea pulled off the ultimate survivor act. They survived everything that Barcelona could throw at them from the now customary blatant dives by the Catalans, to the shots hitting the post to full backs playing as centre-backs and strikers playing as full backs.
Yet ironically, this will have a much bigger bearing on the current match than anyone can ever imagine. This was truly a pyrrhic victory for Chelsea and the winner of this contest knows that a much weakened Chelsea sides awaits them in the final.
Undoubtedly this will make this already fierce match much fiercer.
Football is a game of momentum and there is no better example than the four teams in Champions League semi finals. Barcelona went on a bad run and are in a real danger of finishing empty handed this season. Ever since Di Matteo took over the reins at Chelsea, they have generated a juggernaut like momentum. Madrid too looked in Real danger of imploding before Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed the team by the scruff of their neck and guided them to victories over Osasuna and Atletico. Bayern have been stumbling of late and the 2-1 scoreline in the first leg was a slightly flattering scoreline in a match where draw would have been the fairest result.
A buoyant Real Madrid side will be facing a hurting Bayern Munich. Bayern have lost Bundesliga for a second successive year and have the spectre of a trophy-less season looming large over them. Real on the other hand have more or less wrapped up the La Liga and will want to add the much desired “La Decima” to their trophy cabinet.
All in all, this match promises to be a cracking match with plenty of flared nostrils and tough tackles. However, this will not entirely be without the attacking flair either. Both the sides boast one of the best attacks in world and it is expected to be an open match.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Jose Mourinho took a brave decision last week and played the exact same 11 against Barca that he had fielded against Bayern Munich. Even the much maligned Coentrao was started in the most crucial game of the season. This shows the growing faith of Mourinho in the attacking abilities of his players and their ability to hold their own against any odds.
Slowly but surely Sergio Ramos is becoming a calm headed colossus in the centre of defence. Jose has all the players available to him and he is at full liberty to choose his favoured formation. There are four players walking a Champions League tightrope as they are just one booking away from being suspended. All of the four are key players namely – Higuain, Ramos, Coentrao and Alonso. However Mourinho sent a very public message of the team being greater than any individual and it is unlikely that any player will give less than 100% on the pitch in order to escape bookings.
In the squad announced for the upcoming match, there were no surprise omissions. Diarra has fallen down in the pecking order, while Carvalho and Sahin have not seen much game time and thus have been omitted.
It will be high tempo game and will require plenty of legs. Di Maria is slowly coming back into form and could play a pivotal role where both the teams will rely heavily on wingers. In such a game where there will be a heavy emphasis on attack, Marcelo has a big possibility of starting ahead of Coentrao. The other players should remain unchanged from the last two matches.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1) Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Khedira, Alonso, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema
Bayern right now look like a divided house, but as Chelsea has shown that nothing unites like adversity. The most interesting piece of news came from the Bayern team was the fact that Robben and Ribery almost came to blows over a free-kick in the Madrid match. Of course a very public handshake followed, but it remains to be seen how much of the bad blood has been washed away.
Specially when the stakes are so high, unity eventually follows. Especially with Ribery and Robben holding a grudge against Madrid for their transfer dealings, it might well be a case of “The enemy of my enemy, is my friend”; an inconvenient alliance but an alliance nevertheless.
As far discipline tightropes go, Bayern are virtually walking on a minefield. Seven of their first team players are poised for a suspension – Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo, Toni Kroos, and Thomas Muller. However, the good news is that Schweinsteiger has played a full match and went a long way towards getting his match fitness back.
Bayern will not hold back from the tackling as they know they will face a very depleted Chelsea squad in the final, if they go through.
Bayern were able to rest all of their first team players for the match against Werder Bremen and Die Bayern will be completely fresh and raring to go.
However, concerns remain over their central defence and in reality Bayern should have put in a much more coherent performance against a shockingly inept Real Madrid in Allianz Arena. While a 2-1 advantage is not a bad one to take, in reality it should have been much higher.
Bayern will start with Schweinsteiger in the lone holding midfielder role with the responsibility of protecting the backline as well as making runs as a box-to-box midfielder. Biggest threat will come from the wings as Bayern will look to exploit the perceived weakness of Real Madrid fullbacks. Gomez is a good threat in the air but Pepe and Ramos should be able to deal with him, if they can remain focused.
Probable Starting Lineup(4-1-4-1): Manuel Neuer; Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Philipp Lahm; Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben ;Mario Gomez, Thomas Müller
TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)
While it is an easy job to pick up any “galactico” from the Real Madrid team, the German warhorse will be the one who will be required to play a crucial role. There remains no doubt that both the Real fullbacks will be exposed. Combine that with the tendency of Ramos to surge forward, Khedira will have to cover a lot of ground in order make up for his more glamourous counterparts.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Bayern pulled off an unexpected win in Allianz Arena against a decidedly poor Real Madrid side. However, at their own home ground Real Madrid have scored a scary number of goals. Unless Real play very poorly, there is a high degree of possibility that Real will bombard the German goal. Neuer will have to repay every cent off his transfer fee, if his side are to progress to the final
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Bayern Munich (Regulation time)
It is unlikely that this match will be decided in regulation time. Plenty of attacks will be there, but so will be heroic performances. Bayern will definitely score as will Real. Either Real will win in extra time or the match will go to the penalties , where it can go either way.
Real Madrid 3 -1 Bayern Munich (After extra time)
While penalties are a possibility, it is unlikely that Real will not score atleast once in extra-time. A 3-1 victory for Los Blancos after the final whistle.
TheHardTackle’s The Blast From The Past