Marco Asensio and James Rodriguez are the key men as Real Madrid host Bayern Munich

Alex Rea 30/04/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio joke around in Real Madrid training

Real Madrid host Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu on Tuesday with one foot in the Champions League final as they look to protect a 2-1 advantage.

Both sides were hit by injuries in last week’s clash at Allianz Arena. Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng will both miss the second leg for Bayern, while Dani Carvajal and Isco are absent for the hosts.

With enforced changes to both starting XI’s, new protagonists could rise to the stage, so we take a look and compare players in positions we think will be crucial.

MARCO ASENSIO V JAMES RODRIGUEZ

30 04 key battles 1

James Rodriguez can expect a warm reception as he returns to Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since his summer departure.

If he produces a performance akin to his showing in the Allianz last Wednesday, however, the home fans will turn decidedly bitter.

The Colombia playmaker was Bayern’s stand-out star in the first-leg defeat, buzzing around the pitch with vigor and verve.

On the backfoot, he was positionally mature, diving into to make a Munich joint-high of four tackles while in attack his four key passes was the most in the game.

The 26-year-old has little to prove having enjoyed a career renaissance on loan at Bayern, but there will no doubt be extra zip in his step.

Another key performer in Munich was substitute Asensio. The Spain international forms part of the reason why James was allowed to leave Madrid on loan, with his emergence handing Zidane another lethal weapon.

He could well mirror James and operate as a No10 in behind a Real front two and as he showed in delicately delivering the winner last week, his left-foot is capable of inflicting damage.

Beyond his finishing ability, Asensio’s pace, particularly as Madrid will sit back and counter, is a vital asset.

The 22-year-old gives Real much-more cutting edge and remarkably since the start of last he has scored against Barcelona (two), Bayern (two), Juventus (one), Sevilla (two) and Valencia (two).

He’s a big-game player and they don’t come much bigger than this.

LUCAS VAZQUEZ V JOSHUA KIMMICH

30 04 key battles 2

Cover in defence has been an issue all season for Madrid.

Casemiro has dropped in at centre-back, Nacho’s operated in practically every backline position while teenager Achraf Hakimi has endured a baptism of fire in his first senior season.

So when right-back Dani Carvajal was forced off last week, it was a case of not again for Zinedine Zidane.

Vazquez dutifully dropped in to fill the void and is likely to continue in the position at the Bernabeu.

The 26-year-old (no, he is not a promising young star as commentators frequently blinded by his boyish looks note) will have his hands full as the 35-year-old Franck Ribery was a real danger in Munich.

Much of Bayern’s attacks are likely to be focused on Real’s right as they aim to exploit the perceived weakness, but Vazquez has been a trusted servant for Zidane this season.

But while right-back could be a frailty for Real, the opposite is true for the German giants.

Kimmich blasted in the opener last week and with Madrid left-back Marcelo’s slack nature from a defensive perspective, he would be afforded more opportunities in the Spanish capital.

He’s already plundered three times and added a further three assists in the Champions League this term – absurd numbers for a full-back – and if the Philip-Lahm reincarnate can break free to take advantage of the space again, Bayern will be right in the tie.

CRISTIANO RONALDO V ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

30 04 key battles 3

Ronaldo and Lewandowski are the two figureheads of their respective sides but both were equally poor in the first leg.

The Poland striker has been lethal this season, scoring 39 goals, but he missed a couple of opportunities last week he would usually gobble up with ease.

He spurned a clear chance with a tame header straight at Keylor Navas and was largely anonymous throughout.

If this was his big audition to earn a summer switch to Real, he bombed it. The 29-year-old will be desperate to make amends, and having scored six times against Madrid in the Champions League – the top scorer against Los Blancos in the competition – history is on his side.

Talking of history, Ronaldo is creating plenty of it this season.

His 152nd Champions League game on Tuesday will see him set a record for the most appearances by an outfield player in the competition – only Iker Casillas (167) has played more.

The Portuguese is also the tournament’s highest scorer with 117 goals plundered and ever the ultimate competitor, he’ll want to make amends for last week’s no-show.

A victim of Zidane’s 4-1-4-1 starting shape in Munich, the 33-year-old was left painfully isolated and registered the same number of touches as half-time sub Asensio.

He can expect significantly more support with Gareth Bale rumoured to be starting on Tuesday.

Most popular

Real Madrid star Isco in line to make shock return from injury against Bayern Munich

David Cooper 30/04/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Isco injured his shoulder in the first leg against Bayern.

Real Madrid could surprise Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night by naming Isco in the starting XI, according to Marca.

The playmaker, who injured his shoulder during the first leg victory at the Allianz Arena last week, was initially set to be ruled out for up to three weeks but has miraculously proven his fitness to Zinedine Zidane and his coaching staff.

Whilst his upper upper sprain has not fully healed, Los Blancos might be prepared to take a gamble on the midfielder for such a big match after he came through a light training session on Monday.

The German giants would have been preparing to face a Whites team without the 26-year-old.

Most popular

Zinedine Zidane says he is no Bob Paisley as third consecutive Champions League title beckons for Real Madrid

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Zinedine Zidane may have won two consecutive Champions League titles but he refuses to admit a third would brand this his very own era at Real Madrid.

Real stand on the brink of a trio of finals ahead of their second leg against Bayern Munich in the last four on Tuesday, when they will carry a 2-1 lead, and two away goals, to the Santiago Bernabeu.

It makes them favourites to go through and, for many, heavy favourites to win the tournament after already beating Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in the knock-out stages.

For Zidane, a third European crown as coach is now in sight, which would put him level with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley in the pantheon of successful managers.

Only the three triumphs of Paisley, however, came at one club, Liverpool, and over a single era, in 1977, 1978 and 1981. Ancelotti’s treble stretched across 11 years, with two clubs, Real and AC Milan.

Bob Paisley won the European Cup three times with Liverpool in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

Bob Paisley won the European Cup three times with Liverpool in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

“We cannot talk about this,” Zidane said on Friday. “Coaches like this were given a lot of time, they did a lot of things.

“I am comfortable, we have done well, it is two and a half years that have been good but the rest, ‘Zidane’s Real Madrid’, let’s wait a bit.”

Even Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have lifted Europe’s biggest prize only twice, all with more years in management under their belts.

But Zidane’s merits as a coach and tactician continue to be downplayed, at least in part because the Frenchman owns arguably the most talented squad in the world and, in Cristiano Ronaldo, the Champions League’s greatest ever player.

Zidane’s brave call

Ronaldo’s 15 goals in this year’s competition have certainly been key, but it was Zidane who made the brave call to leave out Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema at the Allianz Arena against Bayern.

The preferred but less established duo of Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio combined brilliantly for the winning goal, with the former also switched to right-back late on, where he held off the threat of Franck Ribery.

Bale, harshly treated in recent weeks, may not agree but the majority of Real’s first team are now regularly hailing Zidane’s man-management, his preparation and his tactics.

“When Zizou has to gamble, he does, because he is the boss,” captain Sergio Ramos said. “We are very happy that he is steering the boat.”

There is certainly work still to be done to overcome Bayern, who dominated large parts of the first match and perhaps deserved to emerge with a more flattering result.

“We earned a lot of extra credit for winning the match,” Zidane said. “But we cannot make the same mistakes again and I think on Tuesday we’ll have to go into the match with more determination than we’ve ever had before.”

Zidane wants to keep Gareth Bale involved

Zidane wants to keep Gareth Bale involved

Real are likely to be without Isco and Dani Carvajal, who sustained shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively during the first leg.

“We are always damaged losing two players but at the same time we cannot do anything about it,” Zidane said.

While Ronaldo was among a number of first-team players rested for Saturday’s win over Leganes, Bale started, a sign the Welshman is set for another snub in midweek.

Bale did not play a single minute against Bayern in Germany and, along with Benzema, has now lost his place in the side for Real’s crunch games in Europe.

“We need everyone,” Zidane said. “I will do everything possible to convince them they are important.

“The important thing is also the key message — for Gareth and Karim, for everyone — that we stay connected. We have a month and we have to give it all we’ve got.”

Most popular