Back Bayern Munich to get the better of old rivals Real Madrid
German giants can land first blow
Champions League semi-final first leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday
Bayern Munich against Real Madrid is the single most common fixture in European competition history and there has been little to choose between these superpowers down the years.
This is the 25th showdown between them and they each have 11 wins to their name.
Most recently, of course, Real came out on top, winning 2-1 at Bayern in last season’s quarter-finals before squeezing through in extra time on their way to a third title in four years.
But there were mitigating circumstances behind the German champions' home-leg loss. Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski were critical absentees, while makeshift centre-back Javi Martinez was sent off with the score at 1-1.
Mistakes made, lessons learned, squad improved, Bayern are a far sterner test under Heynckes than they were under the bumbling Carlo Ancelotti and they look well-equipped to land odds of 21-20.
Heynckes, who coached Real Madrid to the Champions League in 1997-98, has transformed the Bavarians, who have just been crowned Bundesliga champions for a sixth straight year.
He’s got decisions to make in midfield and out wide depending on how adventurous he wants to be, but Heynckes knows he has the tools to steal an edge going to the Bernabeu.
Lewandowski, scorer of 38 goals this season, and Hummels are cornerstones of the German set-up, Real loanee James Rodriguez has added new craft off the front three and stand-in keeper Sven Ulreich has looked more than up to the task at this level.
The atmosphere at the club is unrecognisable from under Ancelotti and the style of play has mirrored that. Their home record this season is played 21, won 18, drawn three, while Hertha and Sevilla are the only sides who have stopped mighty Munich from scoring. Even against Sevilla they had 20 shots to the Spanish side’s five, plus nine corners.
They’ll want a lead and have the tools to get it even against a Real side who defied the odds by winning at Paris Saint Germain in the first knockout round and then turned on the style away at a Juventus side who made it easy for them.
Real concede goals and just four clean sheets in their last 24 explains both why their Champions League joyride has been such a roller-coaster and also why they’ve failed to land a blow in the La Liga title race. Right-back Daniel Carvajal is not having the greatest of campaigns.
What we also know about Zinedine Zidane’s men is they are a potent force going forward with Ronaldo, in particular, in the form of his career.
The Portuguese superstar is 11-10 to score at any time and you can hardly say that’s too skinny given that he’s found the net in all ten Real ties so far. He has also scored in each of his last 12 club appearances and has bagged nine goals in six appearances against Bayern.
Lewandowski is odds-on to score while, inevitably, it’s short odds about both teams scoring and that there are three goals or more. Each of Real’s last seven European outings has produced at least three goals while matches at the Allianz Arena this season average 3.7 goals per game.
Bayern alone have scored five or more in five of their last eight home matches.
2pts 21-20 Betfair
Arturo Vidal is out for the season following knee surgery. Kingsley Coman is also crocked. Manuel Neuer and Corentin Tolisso are training after layoffs but David Alaba (thigh) is a doubt.
Sergio Ramos returns from a ban. Nacho has travelled with the 24-man squad but isn’t fit.
Real Madrid have kept only four clean sheets in their last 24 games in all competitions.
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