Paul Smith

What: 2009/10 Champions League semi-final
Who: Bayern Munich (Germany) vs. Lyon (France)
When: Wednesday 21st April, 2010 at 20:45 CET
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany

Surprise Package

As Volcanic ash continues to cause havoc with Europe’s transport infrastructure, Lyon will make a 700km seven hour coach journey to Munich following UEFA’s announcement that the Champions League semi-finals will go ahead. Although far from ideal preparation for a game of such magnitude, it must be remembered clubs across the continent make similar journeys on a weekly basis. The match itself is a semi-final few would have predicted at the turn of the year. When Lyon were drawn against Real Madrid in the last 16 stage their exit at the hands of the Spanish giants seemed inevitable. Unfortunately for Los Blancos the Ligue 1 outfit hadn’t read the script with Miralem Pjanic’s strike in the Bernabeu proving a fatal blow for Manuel Pellegrini’s men.

Lyon enter their first ever Champions League semi-final on the back of a heated 2-2 draw with French champions Bordeaux, a match which saw three players sent off. Lyon have also been caught up in controversy surrounding the postponement of a Ligue 1 fixture which has angered their German opponents. The French footballing authorities have agreed Les Gones’ match with Monaco, originally scheduled for 24th April can be postponed until May to give them the best opportunity of advancing to the Champions League final. This gives the Stade Gerland side six clear days between legs. Bayern Munich are still scheduled to play Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga on 24th April.

Bavarians turning up the heat

Like Lyon, it also appeared that Bayern’s exit from the competition would come sooner rather than later after they were drawn against Manchester United in the quarter-finals. Following an extraordinary 180 minutes of football when the momentum switched from one side to the other, Arjen Robben’s fabulous volley was enough to send the Germans through on the away goals rule.

A comprehensive 7-0 thrashing of Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga is ideal preparation for a Champions League semi-final. If the Bavarians wanted to make a point to their Gallic guests and domestic rivals they succeeded. Louis van Gaal has made his anger known over Lyon’s rescheduled Ligue 1 fixture but is resigned to the fact that nothing can be done with UEFA stating it is purely a matter for the French league. The Dutchman must now turn his attention to matters on the pitch and he will be hoping his team can pick up where they left off against Hannover.

Recent form

Bayern Munich:
Bayern Munich 7-0 Hannover 96 (17/04; Bundesliga)
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Bayern Munich (10/04; Bundesliga)
Manchester United 3-2 Bayern Munich (07/04; Champions League)

Bordeaux 2-2 Lyon (17/04; Ligue 1)
Lyon 1-1 Lille (11/04; Ligue 1)
Bordeaux 1-0 Lyon (07/04; Champions League)

Key absences

Bayern Munich – None

Lyon – Mathieu Bodmer (doubt), Jean-Alain Boumsong (doubt), Jean Makoun (doubt)

Players to watch

Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben: The Dutch winger has gained the official title of Bayern’s Champions League match winner. Two sensational strikes in Florence and Manchester were enough to secure the Bavarians’ passage on away goals. Robben’s ability to take on defenders, cutting in from the right on his left foot has also played a pivotal role in Bayern’s Champions League success thus far.

Lyon – Hugo Lloris: One of Europe’s most coveted goalkeeping talents, the Lyon shot stopper has been in terrific form for Les Gones this season, including a string of man of the match performances. If Bayern are to secure a date at the Bernabeu they will need to find a way past the French international.

Match prediction

Bayern will take supreme confidence from their 7-0 demolition of Hannover in the Bundesliga at the weekend, and their players also don’t face a lengthy journey by coach to get to the game. Lyon have been to the Bernabeu this season and handled the occasion expertly to obtain the result they required so they shouldn’t be fazed by a boisterous Allianz Arena. Expect Louis van Gaal to set his team up to attack from the kick-off with a view to taking a comfortable lead to the Stade Gerland for the second leg. Claude Puel will want his team to defend deep and as a unit, eager not to allow Robben and Franck Ribery any space, then look to play on the counter through the likes of Lisandro Lopez with the aim of scoring a priceless away goal. A final score of 2-1 to Bayern looks possible.

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