Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, 2014 UEFA Champions League semifinals: Clash of the titans

Clive Rose

Two of the most decorated teams in the history of the Champions League meet in the semifinals.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are almost definitely the two best teams in the world right now, making their Champion League semifinal clash a mouthwatering prospect. They're also two of the most decorated side in the history of the European Cup, with Real Madrid having won the competition nine times, and Bayern five.

The Bavarians are, of course, the reigning Champions League winners, and so almost certainly head into this tie as favourites. But as their surprisingly close quarterfinal tie against a lousy Manchester United demonstrates, they're far from flawless.

The same is true of Real Madrid, whose defensive prowess doesn't quite match that of their attack. After thrashing Borussia Dortmund 3-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinal, they went down 2-0 in the return fixture, just about squeezing through into the semifinals of a tournament they criminally haven't won in over a decade.

Key players

Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo - Ronaldo isn't just Real Madrid's best player, he's the best player anywhere. The Portuguese attacker has been a devastating force down the left for the Merengues since arriving from Manchester United in 2009, and finally managed to wrestle the Ballon d'Or from Lionel Messi last year. He's been struggling with a muscular problem over recent days, and will miss Real's upcoming Copa del Rey final. However, he should be fit for when the semifinals come around, though making the first leg will be a bit tight.

Bayern Munich: Toni Kroos - Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos has shown himself to be an extraordinarily versatile talent, more than capable of playing both right behind the striker in an attacking midfield slot, or deeper in a central midfield pivot. His range of passing means he's able to orchestrate the game, while providing a physical industry which means he can both both break forward and cover defensively. It's hard to pick a standout player in such a team, but Kroos is right at the Bavarians' heart.

Key matchup

Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Bayern's right-back - With Bayern coach Pep Guardiola bizarrely transforming the world's best right-back, Philipp Lahm, into a solid but unspectacular central midfielder, Rafinha usually starts in defence for the Bavarians. If you had to name a weak link in the Bayern team, the Brazilian would probably be it. You'd expect Guardiola to push Lahm back to right-back to try to counter the threat posed by Ronaldo in the semis, though with the crazy Catalan in charge, you never quite know what to expect.

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