Bank on Bayern to deliver real blow to holders in Munich
Champions League quarter-final first leg
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday
Bayern Munich are awesome at the Allianz Arena and they should use home advantage to build a crucial first-leg advantage over Real Madrid in the clash of Europe's elite in the Champions League quarter-final.
The stage is set for a humdinger in this 23rd meeting between the clubs which is the most frequent fixture in a Uefa competition and throws together two teams who are regulars in the latter stages of Europe's top tournament.
This is Bayern's sixth consecutive Champions League quarter-final appearance while for Real Madrid it's a seventh straight outing in the last eight, statistics that only highlight the might of the superpowers.
There is not a huge amount between them but Bayern have greater balance and their pedigree at the Allianz Arena is difficult to knock. They have won their last 16 home Champions League matches.
Bayern initially struggled at the start of the campaign as the players adjusted to life after Pep Guardiola, but replacement Carlo Ancelotti has slowly found the right blend.
Former Real Madrid boss Ancelotti is the only manager to have won the Champions League three times and generally gets his sides to peak in the important spring months, just as a high-quality National Hunt horse is ready for the run of its life at Cheltenham.
Ancelotti plots the campaign around Europe and Bayern are now hitting Gold Cup-like standards at home with seven wins in a row by an aggregate margin of 30-2.
Borussia Dortmund suffered a massacre in Der Klassiker on Saturday, losing 4-1, and it could have been more as Bayern were absolutely rampant.
Arjen Robben showed trademark polish, cutting in from the right to score with his left foot, while hitman Robert Lewandowski helped himself to a double, taking his tally to 46 in 45 for club and country this season.
Visiting centre-backs Pepe and Raphael Varane are both injured and Lewandowski should take advantage if he passes a fitness test. If not Thomas Muller is a more than able deputy.
Real Madrid were given a tough time against Dortmund - both group-stage matches finished 2-2 as the Champions League holders had to settle for second spot - and they could struggle now upped in class.
There can be no doubt Real Madrid have a brilliant front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo which helps to explain how Zinedine Zidane's side have scored in their last 52 matches in all competitions.
However, the lack of defensive nous is evident and Real have conceded three at home to Las Palmas and twice at Leganes since the start of March. They have not kept an away clean sheet since November 19.
1pt 17-20 Betfair
Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller have returned from injury but Mats Hummels is out. Robert Lewandowski's shoulder problem needs to be assessed.
Pepe and Raphael Varane are injured so Nacho is set to partner Sergio Ramos at the heart of Real Madrid's defence.
Real Madrid have kept one clean sheet in their last 19 away matches.
Another early exit in store for Ribery
Franck Ribery got a kiss from manager Carlo Ancelotti when he was substituted during Saturday’s 4-1 success over Borussia Dortmund and the experienced French winger may be getting close up to the Bayern Munich gaffer against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Ribery, 34 earlier this month, has started only eight games since the start of December and he has been substituted in seven of those so selling his minutes played at 78 with Sporting Index could be the best spread betting investment on a tricky evening.
Ancelotti wants to use Ribery in shorter bursts and said of his left winger earlier this season: “I’ve told Franck you are like a Ferrari – and you can’t drive a Ferrari every day.”
Bayern’s bench includes ideal replacements in Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, while a change of shape may see Thomas Muller introduced in a game where the hosts would love to get Sergio Ramos booked and therefore suspended for the second leg.
Real Madrid are struggling at centre-back with Pepe and Raphael Varane injured so the fiery Ramos must stay out of trouble. His card minutes are trading at 23-27.
Atletico Madrid are strong favourites against Leicester but Diego Simeone’s side are grinders so they may not thrash the Foxes at the Vicente Calderon.
Sell F Ribery minutes played
at 78 Sporting Index