Champions League in Focus: Semi–Final Second Leg

Four teams stand 90 (maybe 120 plus penalty kicks) minutes away from reaching the 2016 Champions League Final in Milan. The great news for football fans is that it’s too close to call as the semi-final ties enter their second phase.

BAYERN MUNICH HOPING ITS THIRD TIME LUCKY AGAINST ATLETICO

For the third season in succession, Bayern Munich has been drawn against Spanish opposition in the semi-finals of the Champions League. What coach Pep Guardiola will be hoping is that for the third time in succession, they don’t exit the competition to a team from the Iberian Peninsula. Having been eliminated by Real Madrid in 2014 and Barcelona last season, the German giants have a point to prove at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday but they have to come from behind, after Saul Niguez’s splendid strike in the first-leg gave the Spaniards the upper hand in the tie.

GUARDIOLA STILL CONFIDENT HE CAN GIVE BAYERN THE PERFECT PARTING GIFT

Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Bavarian club is almost at an end and he will not want to bow out without delivering European club football’s biggest prize. To have a chance however, he will have to overcome Europe’s tightest defence and he will have to see a marked improvement from his strike force, after a disappointing first-leg in the Spanish capital. He surprised everyone last week by leaving Thomas Muller on the bench; it seems inconceivable that he will do the same in the return leg on Tuesday. Since losing to Real Madrid in 2014, Bayern have won all their 11 home Champions League games, the problem for Guardiola and company is that win number 12 may still not be enough to reach the final in Milan.

 

ATLETICO MADRID AIMING FOR QUICK RETURN TO THE FINAL

Atletico Madrid are in their fifth Champions League semi-final. Their current record is won 2, lost 2 but coach Diego Simeone will be confident his side can eliminate Bayern and head to their second final in three years. Atleti are on a hot streak at the moment, having won their last seven matches in all competitions and their larger than life manager should be fully refreshed for Tuesday’s challenge, having been forced to watch Saturday’s 1-0 win against Rayo Vallecano from the stands due to a three-match touchline ban in La Liga. In French striker Antoine Griezemann, they also have one of the most in-form strikers in Europe and his goal in Saturday’s home league win, just 40 seconds after coming on to the field, was his 30th in all competitions. He’s currently priced at *7.00 on the best sports betting sites to open the scoring in Munich.

 

ALLIANZ ARENA TEAM NEWS

French midfielder Franck Ribery remains doubtful for Tuesday’s clash, after missing Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach with a back problem. Central defender Jerome Boateng made his first start since January playing 68 minutes of last weekend’s game. Holger Badstuber and Arjen Robben remain long-term absentees.

Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin, who has missed the last three matches with a hamstring injury, has been passed fit to play in Munich along with striker Yannick Carrasco. Midfielder Tiago however, remains sidelined.

PROBABLE STARTING XI’S

Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1) Neuer; Bernat, Alaba, Boateng, Lahm; Vidal; Ribery, Thiago, Muller, Costa; Lewandowski

Atletico Madrid (4-4-2) Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Jimenez, Juanfran; Koke, Fernandez, Gabi, Saul; Griezemann, Torres

*MATCH BETTING

Bayern Munich 1.57 Draw 3.90 Atletico Madrid 6.00

REAL MADRID IN NERVOUS WAIT FOR RONALDO NEWS

Real Madrid’s preparation for Wednesday’s return leg against Manchester City in the second semi-final has been dominated by one subject; will Cristiano Ronaldo be fit enough to make the game. The Portuguese superstar missed last week’s first-leg due to a thigh injury and has been undergoing stem-cell treatment in an attempt to get him ready for the Bernabeu showdown. The good news for fans of Los Blancos is that he has resumed training with the squad, and the smart money is on him to be in the starting XI come kick-off on Wednesday. In his absence, Gareth Bale has carried the fight domestically to title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, scoring his side’s only goal in a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad on Saturday. The Welsh wizard is currently priced at *2.37 on the best football betting sites, to be an anytime scorer on Wednesday. The side from the capital have lost only one of their last 30 home games in the competition and with Ronaldo back to inspire the troops, will be confident of making the final on May 28

 

MANCHESTER CITY PUT FAITH IN THEIR HART-BREAKER FOR THE BERNABEU SHOWDOWN

Sunday’s 4-2 defeat to Southampton was Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Harts’s 300th league game for the club. The England number one has been in outstanding form in the Champions League and his heroic display in last week’s first-leg at the Etihad, is the reason we go into Wednesday’s second-leg tie all square at 0-0. Coach Manuel Pellegrini rested several of his top stars at the weekend as he made no secret of where his priorities lay. Hart has already described this week’s match as the “Rumble in the Bernabeu” but his side has fond memories of their last visit to Spain earlier in the competition, when they brushed aside Sevilla 3-1. The Citizens have won three of their five away games in this season’s competition, but their record away to Spanish clubs is not great; having only won two of their last eight.

 

BERNABEU TEAM NEWS

Karim Benzema, who had to be withdrawn at half-time in Manchester, missed the weekend trip to Sociedad as he tries to recover from a hamstring strain. Coach Zinedine Zidane will make a final decision on his fitness on Wednesday. Ronaldo should be ready to start after a week of intense therapy on his injured thigh.

Manchester City have lost David Silva for the rest of the season, after he too picked up a hamstring injury in last week’s first-leg. Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure is still doubtful after the leg injury he suffered in the 4-0 win against Stoke City on April 23.

PROBABLE STARTING XI’S

Real Madrid (4-3-3) Navas; Marcelo, Ramos, Pepe, Carvajal; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Benzema, Bale, Ronaldo

Manchester City (4-2-3-1) Hart; Clichy, Otamendi, Kompany, Sagna; Iheanacho, De Bruyne, Navas; Aguero

*MATCH BETTING

Real Madrid 1.53 Draw 4.33 Manchester City 6.00

*odds courtesy of Paddy Power

Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)

 

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