All or nothing for Real in UCL semifinal
Real Madrid faces the first of possibly three matches which will define whether its season is a historic success or an abject failure when it travels to the Allianz Arena in Germany to play Bayern Munich today.
Zinedine Zidane’s side knows that everything hinges on winning a third successive UEFA Champions League title after a domestic campaign which sees it 15 points behind likely champion Barcelona in La Liga and failure in the Copa del Rey.
However, all of that will be forgotten if Real is able to lift the UCL trophy for a third consecutive year; something no team has ever been able to do.
Real’s season was close to ruin when Juventus was 3-0 up at the Bernabeu in the quarterfinals, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s controversial injury-time penalty saw the hosts squeeze into the last four and perhaps learn the dangers of overconfidence.
The only injury doubt for Zidane is defender Nacho Fernandez, who has been out of action since the end of March. Sergio Ramos will play after missing the return leg against Juventus through suspension.
The question for Real is who will partner Ronaldo in attack with Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema all providing different possibilities.
Bayern will view the tie as a chance to avenge last season’s controversial exit to Real in the quarterfinals when it had players (Javi Martinez and Arturo Vidal) sent off in both legs as Real ran out a 4-2 aggregate winner after extra time in Madrid.
The German side has already won a seventh consecutive Bundesliga title and has not forgotten the performance of referee Viktor Kassaa in last year’s quarterfinals in which he sent off Vidal and committed several other errors.
“Last year the referee knocked us out,” commented Bayern right back Joshua Kimmich on the club’s TV station on Sunday.
Apart from the return leg against Juventus, Real has been excellent in the knockout stages of the UCL this season, playing exceptionally well to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain and winning 3-0 in Turin.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes knows what it is like to coach Real and he will be hoping his side can keep Ronaldo at bay.