Real Madrid's problems at right-back could help Bayern Munich's revenge mission

Andy West 30/04/2018
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Franck Ribery is set to cause Real problems at right-back.

Real Madrid will attempt to maintain their Champions League title defence with Tuesday night’s second leg clash against Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu.

The Spanish team are huge favourites to advance after gaining a 2-1 first leg victory in Munich last week, but that scoreline heavily flattered Zinedine Zidane’s men and a similar pattern to the game would give Bayern every chance of turning the tie around.

Both teams have injury problems with Bayern lacking Jerome Boateng and Arjen Robben, while the home team are likely to be without Isco, who trained on Monday, plus defensive duo Dani Carvajal and Nacho.

Here are the main talking points ahead of a titanic tussle between two of European football’s greatest superpowers.

Right-back problems for Zidane

Carvajal has been one of the most important players for Madrid over the last couple of years, providing determined defence at one end of the pitch and a non-stop supply of attacking pressure at the other, and his absence through injury is a big blow for Zidane.

That’s especially the case as his natural deputy, experienced utility man Nacho, has been out of action for a month with a hamstring injury and remains a big doubt despite being named in the squad after completing training on Monday.

In such a key position, defending against Bayern dangerman Franck Ribery, Zidane will surely do everything possible to get Nacho fit. But if he misses out, the other options for the coach are repositioning winger Lucas Vazquez to a more defensive role, or placing his trust in young and inexperienced Moroccan Achraf Hakimi, who has only made two Champions League appearances.

Either way, it’s a real potential area of weakness for the hosts, especially with Bayern’s excellent left-back David Alaba returning to fitness after missing the first leg, And with Marcelo’s attacking instincts always liable to provide space for opponents on the other flank, attacking down the wings could be a fruitful avenue for Bayern to focus on.

Real Madrid's French coach Zinedine Zidane holds a press conference at the Valdebebas training ground in Madrid on April 30, 2018 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second-leg football match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Decisions to make for Zinedine Zidane.

Who partners Cristiano?

At least moving Vazquez to the right-back slot would simplify Zidane’s decision-making process further up the pitch, with the French coach having to decide who will partner Cristiano Ronaldo – the only guaranteed attacking starter – up front.

With Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric set to form a midfield trio, it seems likely that two places are available. Isco is all but out of the equation after failing to overcome injury, leaving Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio – and Vazquez if he doesn’t play in defence – contesting the remaining spots.

Bale is probably the least likely to start after falling drastically out of favour in the last few weeks, and Asensio presents a very strong case after helping turn the tie in his team’s favour with a very well taken goal in the first leg.

But Zidane could also opt to bolster his midfield, knowing that Bayern need to score at least twice, with the selection of energetic midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who has been preferred for a number of big games over recent months.

Gareth Bale is unlikely to start.

Bayern out for revenge

Bayern might be trailing and facing a mountain to climb, but Monday’s pre-game press conference made it clear that the German giants are determined to rectify a sense of injustice following last season’s controversial tie between the teams.

Forward Thomas Muller lamented that his team were sent out of the competition by two offside goals, also claiming that referees can easily become intimidated by the Bernabeu atmosphere. And manager Jupp Heynckes piled further pressure on the officials by expressing his wish that players, not refereeing decisions, determine the outcome.

As shown by Juventus in the last round, Madrid are far from unbeatable and Bayern – who are without the injured Arjen Robben – will have to decide how to measure their approach: go all out for an early goal or play the long game with a greater degree of patience?

However they decide to set about the task, one thing is for certain: the German champions have not given up yet, and if Bayern manage to score first the tie would be blown wide open once again.

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 30: Head coach Jump Heynckes of Bayern Muenchen attends a press conference held ahead of the UEFA Champions League semifinal second league match between Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern Munchen at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 30, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Jupp Heynckes is hoping the officials don’t decide the contest.

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Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo closing in on incredible Champions League records

David Cooper 30/04/2018
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Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid 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.

Here, we look at some of the key match facts and stats.

– Bayern Munich have won two of their 12 competitive away fixtures against Real Madrid (W2-D1-L9), a 4-2 victory on 29 February 2000 in the second group stage and a 1-0 triumph on 1 May 2001 in the semifinal first leg.

–  Real Madrid have won 306 matches in all European competitions, a joint-record with Barcelona.

– Real Madrid could reach the Champions League final for an outright record seventh time. They are currently level with AC Milan and Juventus on six. Real have already reached a record 19 finals in all European cup competitions (excl. European Super Cup).

– This is the eighth consecutive season Real have been in the Champions League semifinal, a competition record. They have progressed to the final from three of those seven semifinals, going on to win the trophy in each of those three campaigns (2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17).

– Real Madrid will become the first club to play 250 Champions League matches (Barcelona next 236). In the first leg of this semifinal tie, they became the first team to win 150 CL matches.

– Cristiano Ronaldo is level with Xavi (both 151) in joint-second of the list of players with the most Champions League appearances. Only Iker Casillas (167) has played more CL matches.

– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored nine Champions League goals against Bayern Munich. The CL record for most goals by a player versus a single opponent is held by Cristiano Ronaldo – 10 against Juventus.

– Karim Benzema has scored in only one of his last 18 Champions League knockout appearances (including none of the last 10), netting in a 3-1 home win against Napoli in the Last 16 first leg on 15 February 2017.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema

– Bayern Munich failed to progress on all three previous occasions they recorded a 2-1 home defeat in the first leg of a European two-legged knockout tie.

– Only two clubs have ever advanced after losing the first leg at home in a Champions League knockout tie – Ajax in the 1995/96 semifinal against Panathinaikos and Internazionale in the 2010/11 Last 16 versus Bayern Munich. Both teams lost their home match 1-0.

– Robert Lewandowski (6) is the leading Champions League goalscorer against Real Madrid. Only one of those six goals came as a Bayern Munich player (five for Borussia Dortmund).

–  Thomas Muller is level with Philipp Lahm (both 65) as the players to win the most Champions League matches for Bayern Munich.

Provided by Gracenote

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Two Italian men charged with assault of Liverpool fan before Champions League clash with Roma

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Crowd trouble marred the build-up to Liverpool's tie with Roma.

Two Italian men were charged on Thursday in connection with an assault which left a 53-year-old Liverpool fan in a critical condition before Tuesday’s Champions League clash with AS Roma.

Filippo Lombardi, 20, has been charged with violent disorder and wounding and inflicting grievous bodily harm, Merseyside Police said in a statement.

Daniele Sciusco, 29, was also charged with violent disorder.

The two men were to appear in court on Thursday.

Sean Cox, 53, who had travelled over from Ireland for the match, suffered a serious head injury after being attacked outside Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium.

Cox, described as a “cornerstone of his local community” by Irish media, is being treated for his injuries at a neurological centre, where his condition remains critical, Merseyside Police said.

Family members of the father of three, who have flown over from Ireland to maintain a bedside vigil at the hospital, released a statement.

“We want the world to know that Sean is the most amazing and wonderful husband, dad, friend, son, uncle, and brother and he has brought us all nothing but joy.

“He is a truly decent man who adores Liverpool FC and just came over from his home in County Meath, Ireland, to watch his beloved team.

“We are completely devastated by what has happened to our lovely, caring, Sean and all we want is for him to come home to his loving wife and three children.”

Over €30,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe page to cover his medical expenses and costs incurred by his family to help them to stay by his side.

Sporadic trouble broke out in Liverpool city centre before the match as more than 50,000 fans made their way to Anfield, including around 5,000 Roma fans.

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