And so we meet again: Los Vikingos against La Bestia Negra, the European Clásico. After three years since their last encounter, Real Madrid will take on Bayern Munich today. Los Blancos reached the Champions League quarter-final toppling Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli in a convincing manner (6-2 on aggregate). Real Madrid look like a completely different team in the Champions League; they seem hungry and they are as ambitious as ever to win the Champions League in back-to-back years. However, the recent events of Varane and Pepe’s injuries sets us as the underdogs of the tie.
Bayern may be favored, but Real Madrid have several advantages coming into the match. Cristiano Ronaldo is improving massively just at the right time; we saw how much of a threat he was vs Napoli in both legs. His influence on matches has grown, and we constantly see him trying to get involved in plays. He has even started taking more responsibilities in defensive duty, tracking back more than usual and pressing. Secondly, the depth of this Real Madrid side is incredible, almost every player on the bench could come on and make an instant impact on the match. We’ve seen this with Isco, Kovacic, Morata, Vazquez etc. Moreover, the unity in the team has seen massive success in the capital: everyone knows their role, and every player knows their roles defensively and offensively. Casemiro has had his fair share of criticism from many of us, but he’ll surely be decisive in stopping the midfield trio of Alonso, Vidal and Thiago. Casemiro will also be vital in assisting Nacho with aerial duels vs Lewandowski.
Nonetheless, there are some causes for concern among the European Champions. BBC’s form has been shocking lately, especially Bale’s. Ever since he’s returned from injury, he has been completely invisible offensively. Cristiano and Benzema link up well and are able to work together amazingly, but Bale doesn’t seem to link up well with the two. Against Bayern, we’ll need to hit them hard with quick counter attacks, something which we’ve been pretty poor at this season. Furthermore, with the long-term injuries of Pepe and Varane, Nacho will be challenged, facing a world-class striker in Robert Lewandowski. Nacho has been amazing this season, but the only worry about him is his lack of experience in big European nights like these, and the fact that he may crack under pressure. Also, Marcelo will have to limit his defensive mistakes, as he is taking on a player that doesn’t forgive any mistakes, Arjen Robben.
First Leg: Real 1-1 Bayern
Second Leg: Real 2-1 Bayern
Photo credit: Sky Sports