Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are set to undergo late fitness tests ahead of the first leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Ronaldo has not featured since the first leg of Madrid’s quarterfinal win over Borussia Dortmund three weeks ago having suffered knee and hamstring injuries. However he has trained as normal with the squad in the past few days and looks likely to feature. Bale, meanwhile, has been suffering with the flu and stomach problems. Although he trained with the squad as normal on Tuesday, he was then unable to head to the Bernabeu with the rest of the squad to train on the pitch in the afternoon, according to Madrid-based sports daily Marca. But Bale is thought to have joined up with his teammates on the morning of the game.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti will be desperate for both of his stars to be passed fit as he looks to give his team an advantage against the European champions ahead of the second leg in Munich next week. Yet the Italian is not prepared to take a chance on Ronaldo’s fitness.
"If he is well he'll play, but if there is a risk of a relapse he won't,” Ancelotti said, according to UEFA.com.
Ancelotti will definitely be without Jese Rodriguez, Alvaro Arbeloa and Sami Khedira. Marcelo has returned to fitness, but will only be given a place on the bench, with Fabio Coentrao set to continue at left-back.
Madrid have scored 32 goals in the competition to date, by far the most of any team in the competition. And, despite an imposing Bayern team presenting the latest hurdle to the club’s quest to win an unprecedented 10th European Cup, Ancelotti says he won’t alter the team’s core positive approach.
“We need to work hard, stay compact in defense and take control of the game in order to show our quality,” he explained. “We are in an important semifinal and we are more driven than anyone to win this competition, which is an advantage and a great motivation for us, not an obsession.
“We are not going to try and stop the opposition from playing; we will try and use our quality to win. Balance, as always, is fundamental and we have to be compact across the pitch.”
Unlike Madrid, who are chasing neighbors Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table, Bayern have long-since wrapped up their domestic championship. Since their Champions League quarterfinal win over Manchester United, Bayern have also moved into the final of the DFB-Pokal, beating Kaiserslautern 5-1. In the club’s quest to win back-to-back trebles, coach Pep Guardiola now heads to a city and a stadium he knows well from his time at Barcelona. Guardiola was unbeaten at Madrid’s home while in charge of the Catalans, but was quick to dismiss that record as having any relevance for Wednesday’s match.
“I'm always very happy to play a Champions League semifinal and come to Madrid with a team like Bayern. We need to play well and get a result,” he said.
“My stats at the Bernabeu were with another club at another time and in another situation. It has nothing to do with Bayern. If we win we will have to put on a very good performance. Madrid are always special, with this coach or another, with these players or with others. They are the toughest of opponents who are always lurking in the semi-finals. They have a great coaching staff.”
Bayern have received a major boost ahead the first leg of what is the sixth European Cup semifinal between the two clubs with the news that Manuel Neuer has recovered from a calf problem. Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri, Holger Badstuber and Tom Starke remain unavailable.
D: Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
M: Modric, Alonso, Di Maria
F: Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
D: Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba
M: Schweinsteiger, Martinez
Robben, Kroos, Ribery
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League semifinal will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.