Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid preview: Bavarians have to chase from the start

Mike Hewitt

Pep Guardiola is in a hole and Carlo Ancelotti knows how to defend 1-0 leads. But does either team have the personnel to stop the other from scoring?

Bayern Munich have gotten the better of Spanish football's giants in recent Champions League ties. Last season, they won a semifinal tie 7-0 on aggregate over Barcelona, the team their current manager turned into an unstoppable juggernaut. The season behind that, they beat Real Madrid on penalties on the back of a brilliant performance at the Bernabeu in which no one could get the ball off Toni Kroos.

The Jupp Heynckes era is over and Pep Guardiola is attempting to merge his style and Bayern's old philosophy into one. It's going fairly well -- the Bavarians made it this far in Champions League, won the Bundesliga and are in the DFB-Pokal final -- but last week's first leg was a tiny black mark on Pep's resume. Bayern were tactically naive and could have conceded more than one goal to Madrid, who were playing without Gareth Bale and with Cristiano Ronaldo at less than full fitness.

This has put Bayern in a spot where they must win at home, either 1-0 or by multiple goals. It's a tougher test than they faced after a fairly poor first-leg performance against Manchester United in the last round, but Madrid are a much better team than the Red Devils. Yes, losing away to them is not embarrassing, but coming back against them without an away goal is going to be very hard.

No matter what happens on Tuesday, Pep is going to have another season to try and win a European Cup with Bayern. Perhaps three or four more, actually. But if a Bayern team that lost no key players fails to get by one of Spain's big two, supporters of the Bavarians will certainly start wondering whether or not Pep is the genius that he was advertised as upon his arrival.

When we last met

Real Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich. Given the somewhat weakened nature of Real Madrid's attack, this wasn't a very good look for Bayern.

Team news

Bayern Munich have no new fitness issues, though their major ones from the last couple of games still linger. Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri are unavailable, as is backup goalkeeper Tom Starke. No one is suspended for the Bavarians.

Madridistas were probably happy to see Cristiano Ronaldo start, then get substituted while still healthy in their win over the weekend. He should be ready to play all 90 minutes -- or 120, if necessary -- on Tuesday. Gareth Bale is also expected to be available after recovering from a virus. Pepe and Karim Benzema were also rested with minor fitness concerns, but Carlo Ancelotti says that they are fit to start. Sami Khedira is closing in on a return to action, but still unlikely to play, while Alvaro Arbeloa and Jese Rodriguez miss out.

Projected lineups (left to right)

Real Madrid (4-3-3)Iker Casillas; Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Dani Carvajal; Ángel di María, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modrić; Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale.

Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1): Manuel Neuer; David Alaba, Dante, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm; Javi Martínez; Franck Ribéry, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben; Mario Mandžukić.

football formations

Key Matchups

Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Bayern's right-back, again - Surely Pep Guardiola has learned his lesson? He started Rafinha at right back and Philipp Lahm in the center of midfield in the first leg, which was a disaster. Javi Martinez had a minor fitness concern, but he's fully fit for this match, so Pep has no excuses if he decides to stick with the same team. A Madrid team with a half-speed Ronaldo and no Bale scored in the first leg, so they'll probably score again if Rafinha gets the start.

Xabi Alonso vs. Bayern's most advanced midfielder - In a sane world, Toni Kroos will be the Bayern Munich midfielder highest up the pitch on Tuesday. But it could actually be Bastian Schweinsteiger or Thomas Müller, because reasons. In any event, they're all very good players and they'll all see a lot of Xabi Alonso, a brilliant distributor but average defensive midfielder. If Alonso's in the right position all the time and actually wins a few tackles, it could make all the difference for his team.

Prediction

Bayern Munich are very good at home and are going to make this interesting. But Madrid have Bale and Ronaldo healthy now, and they're going to score if Bayern are too aggressive. And they might score even if Bayern are a bit conservative. Both teams are going to score. Let's say 2-2 draw, and Madrid progress.

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