With the semi final first legs over, what chances does each team have of reaching the Big Showdown in Kiev and which players will prove crucial for their respective sides?
It is fair to say that Real were lucky in Munchen, coming away with a 2:1 win. Nonetheless the White Ballet are now in the driving seat ahead of the return game.
That said, last season the result from the first game in Germany was the same and Real risked elimination in the second leg after losing 1:2 in 90 minutes. The match was only decided in Real’s favour in extra time, but not before a scandalous decision from the officials saw Vidal sent off for Bayern.
The fact that Zidane left both Benzema and Bale on the bench in the first leg shows how unsatisfied he is with their form and Real continue to rely heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese found it very difficult to influence the game in Germany with no shots on target and just 28 touches of the ball. A second such poor display seems unlikely, but in the event it does transpire, Real could struggle. The fact is that the Ronaldo has been carrying the team all season. Look no further than Real’s Champions League goal scorers this season for proof of that!
1) Cristiano Ronaldo - 15 goals
2) Marcelo - 3 goals
3) Karim Benzema - 2 goals
4) Gareth Bale - 1 goal
The defending champions should be concerned about their full-backs. In Munchen, Carvajal had major problems with Ribery all match. He is injured now and if his natural replacement Nacho plays he won’t be fully fit. Down the other flank, Marcelo was also found wanting and this vulnerability down the flanks has been present all season. Real have just 3 clean sheets in their last 22 official matches, two of which were against La Liga minions Las Palmas and Alaves.
The only clean sheet Real have kept at home in the Champions League this campaign was at the start of the group stage against APOEL.
Bayern know they blew a great chance to overcome Real in the first leg. They have left themselves the task of scoring two goals in Madrid.
Given the amount of chances created in Munchen, Bayern should feel a certain confidence going into the second leg. There is no question they have the firepower and the height to cause Real problems. The Bavarians won 71.4% of aerial duels in leg 1 and Real ‘looked all at sea defending crosses’.
The good thing for Bayern is that they can rely on an attacking threat coming from a variety of positions. The Bavarians are the only side in the Champions League this season to have 5 different players with 3 goals or more in the competition.
Ribery was a handful for the Real defence in the first leg and if left-back Alaba returns from injury as expected, Bayern will focus the majority of their forward moves down that side of the pitch.
Robben is expected to play despite an injury picked up within 9 minutes of leg 1 and Bayern remain undefeated in any competition this season when ‘The Flying Dutchman’ spends at least 45 minutes on the pitch.
The giant centre forward Wagner could prove to be a secret weapon as he has scored 6 goals in his last 6 appearances in the Bundesliga and on average he wins an aerial duel every 12 minutes he spends on the pitch.
Roma rode their luck in previous rounds, eliminating both Shakhtar and Barcelona on the away-goal rule. Their underwhelming performance at Anfield last week leaves the Wolves in need of another miracle in order to progress.
Roma are the only team in the Champions League yet to concede a goal at home. It must be said that against both Shakhtar and Barca the gods were certainly on their side in preserving that record. Against the best attacking team in this year’s competition, they will need such divine intervention once more!
Yes, Roma beat Chelsea and Barca with the same 3:0 scoreline at home and they need similar result to reach the final, but the Wolves are yet to score more than three goals in a game in the Champions League! The overreliance on Dzeko up front is also clear, with the Bosnian already scoring 7 goals in the competition. To counter that threat Liverpool have Van Dijk who can match him physically and it was no coincidence that Dzeko was kept very quiet in the first leg.
One Liverpool weakness Roma could hope to exploit must be set pieces, with Manolas and Fazio capable of causing problems in the air. The only way we can see the Wolves howling with joy come the end of the second leg is if they take the ball high in the air and look to outgun the visitors with their physicality!!!
Liverpool are the only undefeated team left in the Champions League this season, plus they have the best scoring record (3.5 goals per game). Finding the back of the net has been something the Reds have found incredible straightforward.
The threat from ‘The Fab Three’ is well known - Firmino and Salah 11 goals, plus Mane 8 - but last week it was Milner who stole the headlines after breaking the Champions League assists record with his 9thof the competition. With so much firepower it is not surprising that Liverpool have scored 18 goals in their 5 Champions League away matches and on their travels in the competition so far the Reds take on average 14.8 shots per match.
The one worry for Liverpool ahead of this trip must be injury problems in the middle of the park where Can and Oxlade-Chamberlain are side lined. In addition, captain Henderson is nursing a knock and even if used he won’t be 100% fit. This suggests that Liverpool will try to be aggressive as they won’t be comfortable sitting back without proper protection for their back line.
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