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Weblog: The football punter

Bayern Munich primed for a fast start at Real 

Champions League semi-final second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Tuesday

For the second time in 12 months, holders Real Madrid host Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu defending a 2-1 lead in the Champions League and, just like 12 months ago, don’t expect the Germans to go down without a fight.

At the quarter-final stage of last season’s competition Bayern, under the dispiriting Carlo Ancelotti, produced an even worse home effort against mighty Madrid than Jupp Heynckes’ men did last week.

A week later, however, they threw everything at Real and won 2-1 to send the tie into extra-time where Real’s man advantage courtesy of Arturo Vidal’s red card proved decisive.

They find themselves in another all-or-nothing situation with an identical scoreline to overturn and, given everything we know about how Bayern are set up and approach the game, don’t expect them to go down wondering what might have been.

Zinedine Zidane would love to be able to just manage his side over the line but given his team’s defensive liabilities that seems unlikely. Closing out ties hasn’t always been straightforward for Zidane.

After 50 minutes in each of their last four home European fixtures – against TottenhamDortmundPSG and Juventus – they have been either level or behind, going on to win two of those fixtures.

Bayern are notoriously fast starters in the Bundesliga and were out of the blocks quickly at the Allianz Arena a week ago, going in front through Joshua Kimmich’s 28th-minute goal. They have opened the scoring in nine of their 11 Champions League ties, so take a punt on them leading after 30 minutes at 16-5.

There should be a clarity of vision with Bayern who suffered massive disruption before and during the first leg. David Alaba, a colossal figure for the German club, couldn’t prove his fitness and Franck Ribery missed his left-flank partner.

An early injury to Arjen Robben was another setback and he was soon followed down the tunnel by Jerome Boateng, leaving Bayern threadbare at the back and in disarray. All Heynckes’ planning was out of the window after 34 minutes yet still they got their noses in front.

Boateng is out so Bayern remain vulnerable and Real can be expected to be tear down the visitors’ barricades at some point, though as we’ve seen against Spurs, Paris St-Germain and, most notably, Juventus, the breakthrough may not be instant.

Real concede goals. They have managed just one clean sheet in their last 14 home fixtures, often against sides without a fraction of the attacking sharpness Bayern can boast. Apoel are the only one of the five sides to visit in the Champions League who haven’t found the net. Both teams have scored in each of Real’s last six in all competitions.

This tie, the seventh European Cup semi-final between these two juggernauts, isn’t over.

Real weren’t that impressive themselves at the Allianz Arena in the first match with just seven efforts on goal and Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring spree ended at ten. That has to be all the more irritating for Bayern who, when finally given the kind of test they are rarely offered in the Bundesliga, came up short.

Recommendation
Bayern to be leading after 30 minutes

1pt 

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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.