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Bayern plot Champions League revenge against Real


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25/04/18   MUNICH - SPORTS: Champions League semi-final ties simply don’t come any bigger than this. It’s a titanic clash between two of world football’s genuine aristocrats.
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have hoisted this trophy a combined 17 times, reached the final on 25 occasions and know the winner of this encounter will be considered the favorite in the final, regardless of the opposition.
It is also the most played fixture in the history of the competition, with Wednesday’s first leg set to be their 25th meeting. It’s a genuinely thrilling prospect, particularly if last year’s epic quarter-final collision between the sides is anything to go by.
Going out in the latter stages of the Champions League is never a good feeling but last season’s exit rankled Bayern’s fans more than usual.
Two red cards and two goals from offside positions played their parts as Bayern were swept aside by a rampant Cristiano Ronaldo over two legs. Ever the pantomime villain, the Portuguese shrugged off protests as his second-leg hat-trick buried Carlo Ancelotti’s team. It was Real’s sixth successive victory against the Bavarians. Revenge is very much in demand the Allianz Arena.
An equally intriguing factor in this latest meeting is that neither side has been so dominant in this year’s competition as to suggest the outcome can be viewed in any way as a formality.
Real are aiming for a remarkable hat-trick of European titles but have struggled badly in La Liga, failed to shine in the group stages and appear dangerously over-reliant on Ronaldo.
The manner in which Zinedine Zidane’s men almost blew a 3-0 quarter-final first-leg lead against Juventus — eventually being spared extra-time by Ronaldo’s late penalty at the Bernabeu — was startling in the extreme.
Bayern, meanwhile, have progressed through the competition with typical authority (topping a group featuring PSG was no mean feat) but to no overwhelming critical fanfare.
Their gritty 2-1 aggregate success over Sevilla in the last eight was consistent with the largely unspoken but seemingly widely held view that they are an aging team who are unlikely to go all the way this year.
The Bavarians will certainly need to improve on their recent showings against Real if they are to reach a first final since 2013, having lost each of the past five meetings.
But Real’s huge wobble against Juve — particularly the way they struggled to deal with crosses — will provide plenty of encouragement to boss Jupp Heynckes as he plots his former side’s downfall.
Heynckes, of course, delivered the Champions League for Real in 1998, and was promptly sacked eight days later.
Far too much water has passed under the bridge for the wily 72-year-old to still have a major axe to grind with the club.
But he would surely love to remove arguably the largest remaining obstacle in his personal quest to join Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the only men to have won this competition three times as a manager.
“It’s a cracker — a gigantic meeting in a positive sense,” said Heynckes. “These are two teams with a great tradition in European football, who play and love attractive football. It’s a difficult draw for both sides.”
Heynckes, who led Bayern to the title in 2013 before his first retirement, came back in October to rescue Bayern after their faltering start to the season led to Ancelotti’s departure and has already said he will not be staying on beyond this season.
Heynckes led Bayern to a Champions League-Bundesliga-German Cup treble in 2013 and is attempting to do so again, having already won the league and reached the final of the cup.
Bayern have been eliminated by Spanish opposition every year since Heynckes first retired.
Real travel to Germany after a full week of rest and preparation since their last match, a 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao. They received the extra days off because their La Liga match against Sevilla, originally scheduled for this weekend, was moved to next month after Sevilla reached the Copa del Rey final played on Saturday.
Zidane should be able to count on all his first-choice players and must decide whether to start playmaker Francisco “Isco” Alarcon or winger Gareth Bale up front with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema on Wednesday.
Ronaldo will be seeking to continue his incredible scoring run after having scored in all 10 matches in the competition this campaign for a total of 15 goals.
“It’s impossible to completely stifle Ronaldo, we can only stop him as a team,” Bayern defender Jerome Boateng said on Monday. “An attacker can not be more complete than him — left foot, right foot, head, he controls everything and in front of the goal, he’s a machine”.


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