The Champions League quarter-final draw really has treated football fans by putting together some tasty ties, and in terms of club stature and history, the one between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid stands out as the most exciting. As Bayern CEO Karl Heinz-Rummenigge has said, this game would have made for “a beautiful final”, and it is sure to be an absolute cracker over two legs.
The last time these two sides met was in 2014, when Los Blancos destroyed the Germans 5-0 on aggregate on their way to La Decima in Lisbon. This time around, it should be tighter, with both sides top of their respective League tables and perhaps slightly warier of what each team are capable of, especially considering Carlo Ancelotti knows a lot about the way in which his former players like to play.
In terms of form, Madrid have not been playing particularly brilliantly – they always seem to win games in a low gear, waiting for a moment of magic from one of their star players or a Segio Ramos header to save the day. That cost them in Saturday’s Madrid derby as Antoine Griezmann scored a late equaliser, but it was obvious that they had one eye on this game, and the fact that this side can be so successful without hitting the heights they are capable of should be a frightening prospect.
As for Bayern, the same could not be said of the way they played in their grudge match at the weekend as they beat fellow quarter-finalists Borussia Dortmund 4-1 at the Allianz Arena. It is usually around this time of the season when they lose some of their intensity due to such a gap between the teams below them in the Bundesliga, but that does not seem to have occurred yet under Ancelotti, maybe owing to the fact that they were not so convincing earlier in the campaign.
Die Roten were certainly convincing in the last round as they humiliated Arsenal 10-2 over two legs, while Los Meringues overcame a tricky Napoli side thanks to yet more Ramos heroics.
One thing that Zinedine Zidane will be hoping for is that Bayern top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski is not fully fit. The Polish striker will be available according to his Coach, but he reportedly missed some of his team’s final training session before the game. If he is absent, along with the injured Mats Hummels, he will be a huge miss, but Manuel Neuer should return in goal.
Madrid, meanwhile, are having problems in defence, with both Pepe and Raphael Varane out injured, meaning Nacho Fernandez should be Ramos’ partner. There are no other notable absentees though, which is a big bonus.
So where will the tie be won? Madrid’s defensive vulnerabilities could be the deciding factor if Bayern can exploit them and if Lewandowski is fit and firing. Madrid always score goals with their BBC forward line, but Zidane will not want to simply try and outscore their opponents. The Frenchman will want to return to the Santiago Bernabeu with an away goal at least to put his side in the best possible position, where they have not lost in Europe for two years.