Tonight's big Champions League semi-final clash pits two European heavyweights against each other.
Bayern Munich versus Real Madrid will be the first time that Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti square up against each other, adding further spice to an already intriguing encounter.
With Bayern Munich looking to be the first team to retain the Champions League and Real Madrid desperate to win their first trophy since 2003 this is set to be a classic.
Gareth Bale, Madrid’s Copa Del Rey hero, is back in training having been absent on Monday with flu and should start alongside World Player of The Year Cristiano Ronaldo, who is fit again having missed Madrid’s last few games with an injury. Marcelo should also be fit having trained with Real Madrid this week.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez will return from suspension although Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri remain absent for the holders. Aside from this, Pep Guardiola has a full strength squad.
Do Bayern have what it takes to tame Cristiano Ronaldo?
Cristiano Ronaldo has been Real Madrid's best player in the Champions League this season. Ronaldo missed Madrid's defeat to Borussia Dortmund on the last match day through injury, but was a key figure in their 3-0 win against Dortmund that was ultimately enough to see them through to the next round. Ronaldo was in fine form in the first leg scoring a goal, to take his tally in the tournament to 14 in just eight games, and generally being in typically great form.
As we can see below Ronaldo spent a lot of the game in the opposition penalty area, despite starting the game from the left side of the attack:
Ronaldo is always a menacing presence from the left because he looks to get into the central attacking areas and interchange with Karim Benzema. It is from the left that Patrice Evra scored the opener in the Allianz Arena and Bayern Munich generally look weak at defending their own flanks (as they also did in the two legs versus Arsenal). Ronaldo will be the one to watch for Madrid as he looks to cut in from the left and get into central attacking areas. When getting inside Ronaldo averages 6.9 shots per game in Europe and we can be sure that he will not be shy to have a go at goal tomorrow versus Munich.
Can Bayern make the most of their possession?
Bayern Munich have averaged over 69% possession in Europe this season to the 56% possession enjoyed by Real Madrid. Pep Guardiola's sides opt for slow build up play, looking to pass and move (over and over again). Whilst they will enjoy most of the possession at the Santiago Bernabeu they will have to make it count or risk being stung on the counter attack by a player such as Ronaldo or Gareth Bale.
Bayern struggled in the first leg away at Manchester United where they had over 70% of the ball but managed to only muster three shots on target. In the second leg they also had a huge amount of the ball and won the fixture 3-1, but even then they only struck five of their efforts on target. Real Madrid are a much stronger outfit than Manchester United and thus Guardiola's side must make their possession count by consistently testing Madrid's goalkeeper. Mario Mandzukic started the second leg and scored a goal and thus it might be worth starting with him, a natural striker, for this critical game at the Bernabeu this evening. Opting with a natural forward such as Mandzukic gives the side a direct target for crosses and a more obvious outlet than a false nine, if the side are being frustrated in possession. With regards to possession, Bayern Munich might find that it is quality, not quantity that matters.
Pep Guardiola has faced Real Madrid 15 times in his career as a manager and beaten them a total of nine times, a very impressive record. These two fixtures will be the most important of his Bayern Munich career as he looks to make Bayern Munich the first side ever to retain the Champions League. Madrid though are incredibly hungry for success having failed to win the tournament since 2003, despite being the most successful club in European history with a total of nine Champions League/European Cup successes.