If football neutrals could pick the teams to contest this year’s Champions League final, most would probably go for the Spanish giants.
A Real Madrid versus Barcelona showdown is certainly on the cards. But whilst Barcelona should have too much for Chelsea in their semi-final, Bayern Munich are a far stiffer challenge for Los Merengues as they strive for La Decima, their tenth European title.
Bayern have their own additional incentive ahead of this game, given that this year’s final will be held in Munich. And punters looking to back the Germans will have plenty of statistical evidence to call upon. These teams have met four times in European semi-finals, with Bayern triumphant in three and more starkly, Real have lost 15 out of 16 games they have played on German soil.
One thing we can expect from this tie is goals. Bayern and Real boast club football’s two most exciting forward line-ups outside Catalonia and neither are all that great defensively. Madrid depend hugely on Sergio Ramos to give them composure at the back and they will be desperately hoping he is fit for this tie, whilst Bayern’s defence has looked shaky against better teams.
With the onus on the home side to carry the game to their opponents, we can expect Bayern to have the bulk of possession on Tuesday night. Their biggest threat comes from their star wide players Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery and they should get plenty of space to do their thing given that Real’s full-backs like to push on at every opportunity and get little cover from the men in front of them.
But Madrid may have more joy in stifling Bayern’s other attacking threats. A lot of Bayern’s play comes through Thomas Muller, linking up with Mario Gomez. But Muller can blow hot and cold and Mourinho will be certain to try to close him down. And though Gomez is an incredible talent, there is the suspicion that he goes missing in the big games, as he did in a crucial game against Dortmund last week.
By contrast, I can’t see Bayern being able to stifle Madrid’s creativity. They are a far more fluid team than the Germans, with the world’s second best footballer, Ronaldo given a free rein. As with Messi and Barcelona, the problem for opposing teams is that if they try to stop one man playing, that just leaves space for his talented team-mates, space that Ozil, Kaka and di Maria will exploit to the maximum.
So with two teams committed to attack in order to compensate for defensive frailties, we could be in for an end-to-end thriller at the Allianz Arena. Madrid have the edge when it comes to creating and scoring goals and you can be sure that Jose Mourinho will have them perfectly prepared for this contest. Back Real to take a crucial first leg victory back to the Bernabeu at 17/10.