BAYERN MUNICH HOST Real Madrid at Allianz Arena in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tonight.
The German giants will be hoping to bounce back from a couple of disappointing domestic results in the tie, with a 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund and a 0-0 stalemate with Mainz seeing them drop eight points behind leaders Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
But with quality across every line, it would be a brave man who would bet against Jupp Heynckes’ side. Players such as Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will keep Real’s defence on their toes, while Bastian Schweinsteiger is approaching full fitness again after a long lay-off with a shoulder injury.
Jerome Boateng adds class at the back and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is one of the world’s best, but Heynckes will be disappointed to see influential midfielder David Alaba miss the match after he picked up a booking in their quarter-final second leg against Marseille. The Germans will have to be at their absolute peak to overcome a Real Madrid side that is unbeaten since a January 18 loss against Barcelona — a run of 20 matches in all competitions. Jose Mourinho’s side’s strength is their attack, with Cristiano Ronaldo sure to be a headache for the Germans after scoring 53 goals in all competitions this season.
On Saturday, Real equalled the all-time La Liga scoring record of 107 goals in a single season — held by John Toshack’s Real squad of 1989/90 — in their 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon. Ronaldo has been well supported by Frenchman Karim Benzema (29 goals, 14 assists) and Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain is another who has been instrumental in Real’s resurgence this season.
Brazilian playmaker Kaka has enjoyed a sensational return to top form, and Mourinho’s squad will be boosted for the trip to Germany by the return of midfielder Xabi Alonso from suspension. The match will create some mixed emotions for Heynckes, who steered Real to the 1997/98 Champions League trophy by beating Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam.