Real, Bayern clash with spot in Champions League final on the line – Sport

MADRID: Real Madrid have their sights set on a La Liga and Champions League double, but to lift the latter they must find a way past Bayern Munich, their “bestia negra” — “black beast”.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side travel to Bavaria for the semi-final first leg clash on Tuesday, in a fixture dubbed the ‘European Clasico’, the most repeated in the competition’s history.

Despite Real’s forbidding nickname for Bayern, they have shaded the Bundesliga side across their 26 encounters, with 12 wins to Bayern’s 11.

In the last decade Real clearly have the edge on the German giants.

The record 14-time winners knocked out Bayern in each of their three most recent tangles, in the semi-finals in 2014 and 2018, and the quarter-finals in 2017. Real went on to win the Champions League every time.

Ancelotti was on the receiving end in 2017, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick knocked his Bayern side out in extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu. A few months later Bayern sacked the Italian, with Real’s return to the Allianz Arena a chance for the competition’s most decorated coach to prove a point to his former employers.

With Bayern losing their grip on the Bundesliga title to upstarts Bayer Leverkusen this season, the relative quality of Ancelotti’s all-too-brief era is missed.

Back then, Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso was a key part of Bayern’s spine — how times change. Ancelotti argued the refereeing was bad on that night, with Bayern midfielder Arturo Vidal harshly dismissed, and one of Ronaldo’s goals offside.

It was another example of Real somehow finding a way to win in Europe from tricky situations.

Bayern, six-time Champions League winners, have only lifted the trophy once since their 2013 triumph over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

MUNICH: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti (third L) and Eder Militao interact during a training session at the Allianz Arena on Monday.—AFP

By contrast, Los Blancos have won it five times in that period. They showed steel to overcome champions Manchester City on penalties in the quarter-finals; qualities that Ancelotti will encourage his team to show in Munich on Tuesday.

“It’s a clash between two big clubs,” Bayern midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who scored the only goal in the quarter-final second leg at home to help Bayern beat Premier League side Arsenal 3-2 on aggregate, told reporters on Monday.

“We know that Real have a lot of experience and quality in their team. They believe in themselves and know their strengths — that’s what makes them dangerous.

“Real’s self-confidence and belief allows them to win games even when they’re not at all the best team. It’s definitely not just luck. Nevertheless, we’re heading into the game with plenty of confidence ourselves. We put in two good performances against Arsenal and have no reason to hide.”

Real should arrive well rested after La Liga moved their game at Real Sociedad to Friday, which they won 1-0.

With Real set to win Spain’s domestic title, coach Ancelotti kept Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Antonio Rudiger and goalkeeper Andriy Lunin on the bench at the start of the game in San Sebastian. Forward Rodrygo did not travel with the team because of flu.

All started against City in the second leg of the quarter-finals and are expected to be back in the starting lineup against Bayern.

Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel is leaving at the end of the season, and the Champions League offers him the chance to go out on a high. He urged the home fans to create a special atmosphere.

“We need the atmosphere to be incredible. We also need the fans to support us, even in moments when it’s more difficult. Together with the fans, we need to create an atmosphere that gives us an advantage,” Tuchel told reporters on Monday.

“When you’re playing against Real Madrid, you’re also up against the aura, the legend that surrounds them. Our focus will be fully on the game. We’re all looking forward to a great match.”

The coach, who won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021 having taken Paris St Germain to the final the previous season, said Real were not the only team with experience in the competition.

“Not only me but the team has experience. Right now we have a good mix between anticipation and tension.”

Eight members of Bayern’s current squad were on the opposite side to Tuchel’s PSG when Bayern won the 2020 Champions League final. Captain Manuel Neuer and veteran forward Thomas Mueller also won the title at Wembley in 2013.

“You need luck, momentum, freedom, the whole package to overcome Real Madrid in the semi-finals,” Tuchel, whose side’s main threat is England striker Harry Kane, added.

“If it only came down to experience, then I wouldn’t have a chance,” Tuchel said in reference to opposite number Ancelotti, who has won a record four Champions League titles as a coach.

Real goalkeeper Lunin was the hero in the shoot-out win over City as he saved two penalties, but will feel the pressure of Thibaut Courtois breathing down his neck as he prepares to keep Kane at bay.

Ancelotti said the Belgian is fit again and will play next weekend in La Liga, meaning Lunin may face a fight for his place for the second leg or potential final.

The Ukrainian made a mistake in the Clasico on April 21 against Barcelona to hand the Catalans a goal but his side won 3-2 to take a dominant lead in La Liga.

Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich’s horrendous mistake the last time the teams met may play on his mind.

Deputising for the injured Neuer, Ulreich went to collect a backpass before realising he could not handle the ball.

The reserve goalkeeper let it slide past him, to the delight of Karim Benzema who pounced, sending Real through to the final.

Bellingham has stepped into Benzema’s shoes as Real’s top-scorer, and he has delivered on the big occasion this season, with three goals in three games against Barcelona.

The England international was injured and did not play on the final day last season as Dortmund lost out to Bayern in the German title race and Bellingham would love to get one over his former rivals in the ‘European Clasico’.

“Jude is extraordinary… He was fantastic here in the Bundesliga, how he progressed shows the level of personality he has, it’s only possible with a huge personality,” Tuchel said.

“Everyone who plays for Real plays with the pressure of the shirt. He plays with the pressure to play with this club and all the expectations. He handles it like he’s never done anything else. But we are well aware of it and will try and find solutions tomorrow.”

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2024

Leave a Comment