What: Champions League Semi-Final – First Leg
Who: Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich
When: Wednesday 23rd April, 2014, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

La Bestia Negra

It is a showcase that many predicted to be fitting of this Champions League edition’s final, but the draw has prevented Real Madrid and Bayern Munich – largely believed to be Europe’s best two sides this term – from playing for the trophy next month at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. Now football fans will have the chance to witness these two super sides battle it out for the right to face either Atletico Madrid or Chelsea in the final. For Real Madrid, it will be the chance to avenge their exit at the same stage by the same rivals two years ago.

Bayern Munich can be considered as Real Madrid’s black beast in Europe, as they have knocked them out four times out of the five occasions that they met in this competition at this stage: Bayern Munich have progressed in the years 1976, 1987 and 2001, while Real Madrid eliminated them in 2000, on their way to their eighth Champions League accolade.

Unbeaten in 17 home games in the Champions League, Real Madrid have also won the last four meetings that pitted them against die Roten at home. They may be buoyed by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo from injury, though coach Carlo Ancelotti has said he will not risk the Portuguese if there is any doubt over his fitness.

Two in a Row

Having wrapped up their 24th league title this season, Bayern Munich will be hoping to be the first team to claim back-to-back Champions Leagues since the introduction of the tournament’s new edition. Having made the final in the last two years, they will want to make it three seasons in a row as they attempt to usurp Los Blancos after 180 minutes of football. With their adversaries almost perfect at the Santiago Bernabeu, an away goal or two will be very important for Josep Guardiola and his side in order to progress.

Scoring away from home will exactly be what Bayern Munich must aim for, according to CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “We need to score at least one goal. That’s what we learned from [Borussia] Dortmund’s meetings with Real Madrid. We’re known as la bestia negra [the black beast] down there. We need to show them la bestia negra is back”, commented the former striker.

With defence their weakest link, Guardiola will be hoping to have Manuel Neuer back, as Germany’s number one shot-stopper has been out of action ever since the 3-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund around ten days ago. With an overall away record to La Liga sides being six wins, five draws and ten losses, Guardiola will want his side very focused for this one.

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Recent form

Real Madrid:
Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Real Madrid (08/04; Champions League)
Real Madrid 4-0 Almeria (12/04; La Liga)
Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid (16/04; Copa del Rey)

Bayern Munich:
Bayern Munich 0-3 Borussia Dortmund (12/04; Bundesliga)
Bayern Munich 5-1 Kaiserslautern (16/04; DFB Pokal)
Braunschweig 0-2 Bayern Munich (19/04; Bundesliga)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Alvaro Arbeloa; Sami Khedira; Marcelo (doubt); Jese Rodriguez; Cristiano Ronaldo (doubt)

Bayern Munich: David Alaba; Tom Starke; Xherdan Shaqiri; Thiago Alcantara; Holger Badstuber; Manuel Neuer (doubt)

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Iker Casillas: The goalkeeper continues to receive the chance to impress in the Champions League and will surely be keen to help his side stop Bayern Munich scoring a precious away goal. With Casillas wanting as much playing time as possible before the World Cup, he will be desperate to clock up a Champions League final appearance ahead of Brazil.

Bayern Munich – Arjen Robben: The Dutch winger is now an established man in Bayern Munich history, but it seems as if it was only yesterday that he exited the Santiago Bernabeu under a cloud of mystery. Eager to show that he is still amongst the best attackers in the game, he will have extra motivation when going against Florentino Perez’s team.

Match Prediction

A lot of Real Madrid’s hopes of making the final rely on this upcoming match, as Bayern Munich will make their life in Germany a living hell, as German teams often do. The home side will be hoping that Ronaldo will be fit. Borussia Dortmund – a team similar in play to Real Madrid – recently showed Los Blancos that beating die Roten is more than possible – even at the Allianz Arena – and Carlo Ancelotti will undoubtedly have taken notes from Jurgen Klopp’s side. Confident after their win over rivals Barcelona, the team are expected to come out winners at the Santiago Bernabeu, before playing for everything the following week. Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich.

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