The glamour tie of the quarterfinals throws up not just a salivating 2-legged contest between two of Europe’s most decorated clubs, but also ensures that for the first time since 2011, one of these sides will not contest a Champions League semifinal.
Below we preview the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
How They’re Doing Currently:
Bayern Munich continue to enjoy an immensely dominant season. A comfortable lead at the top of the Bundesliga, and glamour knockout matches vs Dortmund (DFB Pokal) and Real Madrid (Champions League) still appear as cause for excitement and intrigue for coach Carlo Ancelotti and his deep and talented squad. The Italian also has a tremendous chance to expand his record of European trophies to 4 (as a manager), and even though the Los Merengues are a formidable opponent, Bayern look well placed to exact revenge on Ancelotti’s past employers.
Real Madrid’s run at the summit of La Liga doesn’t appear to have distracted much from their European intentions. They’ve scored at least once in 51 consecutive matches. They’re unbeaten in European matches this season. They’ve not been eliminated at the quarterfinal stage since defeat to Monaco in 2003/04. They’ve won their last 5 ties against German opposition. Zinedine Zidane may lack the experience and broader track record of his more travelled opposite number, but there’s little dispute that the French boss has his side delivering some great football this season.
Players to Watch:
To beat Real Madrid, Bayern will likely need to run the midfield, but there’s no better candidate for that than Thiago. The Spaniard has produced displays of midfield leadership, game control and passing masterclasses that arguably make him an outside bet for a Ballon d’Or shortlisting. Equally important has been the box-to-box energy and vitality of Arturo Vidal, who managed to regain much of the form that has always established him as one of the best in his craft. Robert Lewandowski hasn’t lost any goalscoring pace either since the demolition job executed on Arsenal, and he’s well on course to add to the 5 goals he’s scored against Real in his career thus far.
While the class of Luka Modric can’t be understated, it’s likely to be the combative Toni Kroos whose battle in midfield to manage Thiago and contain Vidal that will be the most telling in the extent to which Real are free to express their abilities. Sergio Ramos remains both a goal threat and a valuable member of the team’s resilience to opposing centre forwards; his battle with Lewandowski should be potentially combustible. As for Cristiano Ronaldo, his output record remains superlative, and he’s even found a greater capacity to create assists for his teammates in recent fixtures too.
It’s extremely hard to divide these sides; they’re both littered with exceptionally good or industrious players who are capable of producing magical moments from nothing, to resilient and reliable displays of solid defence and responsible positioning.
Neither side will want to lose; both sides have well balanced defence, highly effective midfield and prolific attack. If there is a difference to be exploited, it is where Real Madrid are concerned. By comparison to the German champions, only Ramos can really stand as the most consistent performer out of the likes of Pepe, Carvajal, Nacho, Marcelo and Varane. It’s also quite hard to see past the sublime level of performances that Thiago and Vidal have displayed in recent weeks.
But perhaps the most important factor is on the touchline. Ancelotti not only has a point to prove to Real Madrid for his sacking… but his personal incentive of becoming the most successful European manager in history by Champions League title wins only gathers pace by eliminating the current holders.
That experience should prove decisive. Just.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest Football Betting Odds
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*League placings correct at time of publishing.