by Israel Igiri
Bayern Munich take on Spanish giants Real Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final tie at the Allianz Arena tonight, in a repeat of last season’s quarter-final clash.
Real Madrid are no strangers on the Champions League Stage, and will battle again with a place in the final on the line in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.
The Bavarians booked their place in the semis with a narrow 2-1 victory over Sevilla in the quarters, while the Los Blancos saw off Juventus in a tense encounter that was decided by a controversial last minute penalty which Cristiano Ronaldo converted to secure a 4-3 aggregate win.
While Jupp Heynckes’ men are chasing their sixth European Cup, hoping to repeat their 2013 treble-winning season, Zinedine Zidane’s men are aiming to become the first side to win the competition three years in succession in this era.
The Die Rotens will be without Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman who are all injured. Goalkeeper Neuer last played in September because of a foot problem, Chile international Vidal is set to miss the rest of the season following knee surgery, and France winger Coman has been sidelined since February with an ankle injury.
The Los Merengues have no fresh injury concerns after a weekend off from La Liga duty. Skipper Sergio Ramos who missed the second leg of the quarter-final tie due to suspension is back, while Nacho has returned to training.
Revenge will certainly be on the minds of Robert Lewandowski and co. going into this tie after they lost 6-3 on aggregate in last season’s controversial quarter-final clash. They will certainly want to take their own pound of flesh and become the first side since 2015 to knockout the competition’s reigning champions.
With the Champions League being their only realistic chance of winning a title this season, Madrid who have been impressive away from home in the knockout stages this season, will once again be counting on the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been in spectacular form in the competition this season netting 15 times, to inspire another victory for the away side and also break the hearts of Bavarians tonight.
* Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will meet for the 25th time in the European Cup/Champions League- it is already a record for the most common fixture in the tournament. Each side has won 11 of their meetings.
* This will be the third time since 2011/2012 season that both teams have faced each other in the Champions League semi-final, with the Germans progressing in 2011/2012 and the Spaniards progressing in 2013/2014.
* Bayern Munich have lost each of their last five games against Real Madrid in the Champions League, with all five of those coming in the knockout rounds (three in the semi-finals and two in the quarter-finals).
* Bayern’s run of five consecutive Champions League defeat against the Los Blancos is their worst losing run against any opponent in the competition’s history.