Real Madrid could have Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo back in tandem to provide a devastating threat on the break to a Bayern Munich side needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Despite Ronaldo not being fully fit and Bale only starting on the bench due to illness, Madrid still punished Bayern on the counter-attack at the Bernabeu a week ago. A 1-0 victory leaves Bayern needing to chase the game back at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, all the while having to ward against an away goal that would leave the holders needing to score three times.
Ronaldo scored two spectacular goals in a 4-0 win over Osasuna at the weekend to suggest he was back to his best after a spell on the sidelines, while Bale has now fully recovered from his ailment. Yet, with Carlo Ancelotti’s compact 4-4-2 formation so successful in thwarting Bayern’s passing game in the Spanish capital, the Italian now faces a significant selection dilemma, both in terms of formation and their approach to the game.
“I have the whole squad in good physical and mental condition,” Ancelotti said in response to whether Bale would come in for Isco, according to Spanish publication AS. “It isn’t easy to choose the eleven and I won’t give the line-up.
“I’m happy with him,” he said of Bale. “He had some small problems at the beginning but we think he’s going to improve.”
“It isn’t impossible to go through without scoring, but we’ll set out to score. That’s the quality we have -- we’ve scored a lot of goals in the Champions League and La Liga, so our intention is to score goals.”
Ancelotti’s counterpart, Pep Guardiola, has been flexible and experimental with both personnel and tactics throughout the season. It is arguably one of the reasons why he has been able to continue the phenomenal success overseen by predecessor Jupp Heynckes. Now as the former Barcelona coach approaches his biggest game in charge of Bayern, he is faced with having to get his lineup right.
One of his most successful experiments has been in converting Philipp Lahm into a midfielder. Keeping him in that position in the first leg arguably backfired, however, with Madrid creating their goal and several other chances from the right-back berth that Lahm would normally have been occupying. Guardiola refused to give anything away about where Lahm would start on Tuesday, although his options in midfield are again hampered by the absence of Thiago Alcantara.
“I’ve often said he can play in 10 positions; the only place I can’t play him is in goal,” Guardioa said of Lahm, according to AS. “He always pays attention to the details, wherever he plays, tomorrow included. But the most important thing is that, wherever he plays, he always plays well.”
Bayern’s attacking threat was hampered in the first leg by a disappointing showing from the man voted the world’s third best player, Franck Ribery. But after an improved showing on Saturday when scoring in the 5-2 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday, Guardiola is counting on the France international being at his best for the crucial second leg.
“It’s not necessary for the coach to say how important he is for the team and his teammates,” he explained. “It made me happy to see him playing with energy, confidence and above all anger against Bremen. That’s what he needs, to get angry.
“But it doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow, he’ll be there for us and he’ll do what he can for the team. He always fights for the team, that’s why people love him and why he’s one of the greatest in Bayern’s history. We need him.”
D: Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba
M: Schweinsteiger, Kroos
Robben, Muller, Ribery
D: Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo
M: Modric, Alonso, Di Maria
F: Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Where to watch: The second 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.