Game of Thrones: Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich – Champions League Semi Final Match Preview

WINTER IS COMING! It’s the tussle for Europe’s throne in the Champions League 2013/14 season. The House of Bavarians who rule King’s Landing as title holders will go in a battle with The Madridistas, who dominated the European Football Kingdom for many years in the past and won so many battles but have fallen down in the last decade, and now are back on the pursuit of their lost glory in a try to defeat the reigning champions Bayern München.

History

Historically, Bayern have the edge over Real Madrid and that’s why the Madrid supporters refer to them as La Bestia Negra or “The Black Beast” because it has always been tough for them to beat the Bavarians. The two teams have met in Champions League 14 times with Bayern winning in 9 encounters and Madrid in 4, while a draw separated them in one occasion only.

However it wasn’t always a bed of roses for the Bavarians. In 1999/2000 for an example, Bayern and Madrid have met in group stage with the Die Roten winning in both legs 4-2 away and 4-1 at home, they met each other later on in the semi finals but this time Real Madrid won 2-0 at home and lost 1-2 away then advanced into the final on aggregate (3-2 for Madrid). In that year, Real Madrid marched on to win the Champions League trophy beating FC Valencia in the final. In 2001/02 Real Madrid once again managed to knock Bayern out of the competition’s quarter finals after repeating the same aggregate result of the 2000 semi final clash, and ended up winning their 9th Champions League title in the final against Bayer Leverkusen in that year.

Bayern on the other hand have met Madrid in the semi finals of the 2000/01 season and knocked them out with an aggregate 3-1 score winning in both legs 0-1 away and 2-1 at home. In that season in exact Bayern managed to beat Manchester United in the quarter finals, then Real Madrid in the semis and won the title in the final against Valencia.

The latest encounter between the two giants though was in the 2011/12 semi final where Jupp Heynckes’s men won the first leg 2-1 at home thanks to a last-minute winner from Mario Gomez, then traveled to the Spanish capital where the match reached full-time with a 2-1 win for Madrid (3-3 aggregate) forcing extra time and then going to penalties, where Bayern had their say against Jose Mourinho’s men and reached the final with Manuel Neuer saving 2 penalties and Madrid missing one. Bayern then lost the final to Chelsea at Munich in a horrible ending of a trophy-less season for the German giants.

Preview

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munchen
Champions League Semi Final 1st Leg
18:45 GMT – Wed, April 23, 2014 Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

This encounter holds big importance for many reasons, both teams are two heavyweight names in the history of football and both are candidates to win the title, they are arguably considered as the best two teams in the world today.

Real Madrid have reached their top form in this current season lately, in addition to their huge morale boost after winning the Copa del Rey title by defeating their bitter rivals FC Barcelona to put them on a pursuit of a historic a treble as they are second in La Liga, three point away from Atletico Madrid.

Bayern have clinched the Bundesliga crown the earliest in the history of the competition, breaking too many records domestically and in Europe. They have reached the DFB Pokal final that will be against Borussia Dortmund meaning they can achieve an unprecedented consecutive treble.

Even so, they have lately had a slight drop in the ferocious form that they have shown since the start of the season which caused some worry and discomfort for the supporters and club officials.

A multi-dimensional tactical combat is expected in this match! Whether it will be Ancelotti vs Guardiola, Casillas against Neuer, Cristiano vs Robben, defense vs attack and so on.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have met at the semi finals in five occasions with Bayern being triumphant in four of those occasions. This season, new history will be written and anything is possible in a two-legged clash between the two giants.

These kinds of encounters will be decided by small details and small errors. Reflecting tactical organization, discipline and team play.  It will be a classic encounter that all football lovers will be waiting to witness.

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich

Tactical Analysis

Real Madrid  : In order to beat Bayern, Carlo Ancelotti will have to make a number of guidelines for his team. first of all, they will have to press Bayern in their areas, making them uncomfortable in order to force errors and not allow them to control the match’s tempo with their usual possession dominant passing style. The Madrid defenses should stay focused all match long, Sergio Ramos and Pepe must contain their temper and avoid bookings.

The Madridistas can also pull a defensive strategy, by sitting deep at the back of their areas, closing down all areas and spaces on Bayern and with that they can handicap  Bayern’s attacking force and minimize gaps in defense, then surprise their opponents on the counters which will frustrate the Bayern players and put them in doubt affecting their performance and causing them to lose their focus and confidence. however, the Madrid supporters would not like to see such a display from their team at the Santiago Bernabeu and therefore the match will be expected to be more open from both sides.

The magical passing from Luka Modric followed by the massive speed and pace from Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Cristiano and Gareth Bale will be very crucial in breaking the Bayern defenses.

If Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be fit to start in the match, Gareth Bale will be the main man for Madrid, and all the pressure will be on him and Di Maria. Marcelo will also be important as he will be marking the flying Dutchman Arjen Robben who has been Bayern’s source of danger. Karim Benzema has been very effective this season, he plays a big role in the build up as he has set up his teammates with many assists. There will be no room for wasted chances from Benzema and Bale in a such a match, and for that reason they should stay focused all match long.

Bayern Munich: Fast build-up is the key!

Real Madrid have been shaky at the back line in many occasions this season, specially in their 2 legged tie against Borussia Dortmund where BVB played with a line-up from the team’s second row and yet caused a lot of problems for Madrid’s defenses in the quarter finals. Bayern have suffered when they had slow build up even against weaker defenses, example is very clear in their quarter-finals clash with Manchester United.

Many spectators have criticized Pep Guardiola for his possession minded approach, however the problem isn’t in controlling possession but it’s in negative possession at times, and slow speed in build up. Accordingly, if Bayern mix it up with fast attacks, possession control and a mix of center midfield and flanks build up, it will keep Madrid’s defense in total chaos.

Captain Philipp Lahm will be expected to return to the right back. Some others might prefer to see Javi Martinez starting in the CDM position but it’s unlikely specially that he didn’t play much in that position this season and might be lacking the consistency and composure that he showed in the previous year. Therefore, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos will most likely take on the center of midfield, with Robbery on the wings, and Thomas Müller as an attacking midfielder supporting Mario Mandzukic up front, while switching roles with Robben and Ribery. Lahm can still play in midfield with Rafinha as a right back as well.

Holding a high defensive line can work for or against Bayern as it may hurt them in fast counters or it might help them keep their grip on the game and lead with attacking just like they did against Manchester United and Arsenal.

Key Players

Angel Di Maria: This season has been Di Maria’s best with Madrid, after Carlo Ancelotti found him a new role that’s more central in midfield that re-explored himself.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Needless to say, one of the best players in the world if not the best. Ronaldo remains Madrid’s biggest strength and main source of danger. If Cristiano will miss the game, Bale will have to take responsibility.

Luka Modric: Since Mesut Özil left, Modric filled the gap that he left in midfield. Modric is the midfield maestro for Real Madrid as he connects defense with attack with more defensive contribution than Ozil used to.


Arjen Robben:
Bayern’s match decider, Arjen has been enjoying his best season with Bayern since joining them in 2009. He’s either the top performer or one of the best in almost every match. 4 goals and 6 assists (counting 2 penalties earned as assists) in UCL so far.

Bastian Schweinsteiger: Since he returned from injury after a successful surgery in his ankle, Schweinsteiger has been involved in the goal creation or scoring for Bayern. Basti is both brains & leadership.

Mario Mandzukic: The Croatian striker forced Guardiola to reconsider his false-nine preference in formation and showed him how a central forward can actually contribute to his team even in Pep’s style of play.

Probable lineups:

Neuer – Lahm (C), Boateng, Dante, Alaba – Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Robben, Ribery, Müller – Mandzukic

 Casillas – Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos (C), Coentrao – Alonso, Di Maria, Modric, Bale, Ronaldo – Benzema

Result prediction:

    2:2 

Interesting facts:

  • Real Madrid versus Bayern is the match that has historically been played most often in the Champions League with 14 matches and the European Cup with 19 matches.
  • Fastest goal in Champions League history was scored by Bayern’s Dutch striker Roy Makaay in the last 16 round against Real Madrid in just 10 seconds of time in 2007.
  • If Madrid win the Champions League title this year they would extend their record to 10  aka ‘La Décima’.
  • If Bayern win the Champions League they would be the first team to successfully defend their title since the tournament changed its system back in 1992.
  • Real Madrid have won 5 European Cup titles (1956-1957-1958-1959-1960) in a row while Bayern have won 3 (1973-1974-1975) consecutive trophies in the old system of the competition.
  • Bayern and Real have never met in the final of a Champions League or European Cup.
  • Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola both have 2 Champions League titles as coaches, and if they win the title this year they would join the legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley who remains as the only manager with 3 European Cup titles in his resume.
  • Real Madrid have been in 24 European Cup semi finals with this one being their 25th, a record. They have won in 9 out of 12 finals they reached, a record as well.
  • Two German teams (Bayern 2012, Dortmund 2013) have knocked Real Madrid out from the semi finals the past 2 consecutive years, will it be a third in a row?
  • Real Madrid have knocked out two German teams on their way to the semi finals, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund. Could they do it to yet another German opponent in the semis?
  • Real Madrid have won their last Champions League title 12 years ago!
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