Champions League Preview: Bayern Munich And Leicester Are Both In Trouble
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich: Mission impossible for Carlo Ancelotti’s men
Club form over last 5 games:
Madrid: W W D W W
Bayern: D L W L W
Carlo Ancelotti and Xabi Alonso return to the Santiago Bernabeu, where they won the Champions League title together back in 2014. However, this will probably not be a happy homecoming for the pair as Real Madrid have a huge advantage over the German giants.
The first leg was a tale of two halves. Although Madrid did have a few chances in the opening 45, Bayern completely dominated the first half and could’ve been 3-0 up if not for Arturo Vidal’s two vital misses. The penalty miss in first half stoppage time by the Chilean proved to be extremely decisive as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace during the second half to get an all important away win for his side.
The good news for Bayern is that their star striker Robert Lewandowski is finally fit to start. The Polish striker, who missed the first leg through a shoulder injury, has an impressive 38 goals in 40 appearances so far this season. However, the World Cup winning centeral pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng is still doubtful to take part in the game as both players are struggling for match fitness.
Ancelotti revealed that both have “good chances” to play but will have to wait until the morning to make a decision.
Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane confirmed that Gareth Bale is out for the match with a calf injury he picked up in the first leg. However, Isco has been in fine form lately and is a popular candidate to replace the Welshman in the starting line-up. The rest of the squad is healthy except for Pepe and Raphael Varane, meaning Nacho Fernandez should get another start next to Sergio Ramos.
Nacho was at fault for Bayern’s goal in the Allianz Arena, and the 27-year-old could be the weak link for Los Blancos again.
Losing at home made things extremely difficult for the Bavarians, and giving up two away goals just made matters worse. The team’s form has also dipped at the most crucial of times, as Bayern have won just two of their last five matches. They will need to go all out at Bernabeu to score at least twice, which will just make it easier for the hosts to do what they do best: counterattack.
Madrid are capable of scoring goals from any given situation thanks for a wide variety of talented players and will likely at least strike once in their own backyard. Even a 1-0 loss can see Los Blancos through, and with the experience of their key players, the home side should be able to advance.
Madrid (4-3-3) Navas; Marcelo, Ramos, Nacho, Carvajal; Casemiro, Modric, Kroos; Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo.
Bayern (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Alaba, Boateng, Hummels, Lahm; Alonso, Vidal; Ribery, Thiago, Robben; Lewandowski.
Prediction: Real Madrid 1-1 Bayern Munich
Leicester City vs Atletico Madrid: The end of Leicester’s fairytale?
Club form over last 5 games
Leicester: D L L W W
Atletico: W W D W W
In their first ever season playing Champions League football, Leicester City have punched well above their weight. They topped the group containing Portuguese giants Porto and have surprisingly knocked out Sevilla in the round of 16. Since taking over the reigns after Claudio Ranieri got the sack, Craig Shakespeare has turned the Foxes’ season around, winning his first six games in charge.
However, the team’s form has noticeably dipped in last couple of weeks, as they failed to win any of their last three matches.
The first leg was also an uninspiring one from the Premier League side. They failed to register any shots on target as they were pinned back by the hosts all game long. Although they did concede a non-existent penalty that led to the only goal in the match, they did not offer any threat going forward and gave Atletico a comfortable win.
Diego Simeone has Los Rojiblancos performing at the right time. After struggling in the first few months of the season, Atleti are now undefeated in their last 10 games — victorious in seven of them. Stefan Savic has been an absolute rock at the back together with Diego Godin, while Antoine Griezmann has found his scoring boots after a mini goal drought at the end of 2016.
Leicester will be given a huge blow as the experienced center back Robert Huth will be suspended for this game, while the captain Wes Morgan status’ is still not clear enough to be given a start. The Jamaican international will be evaluated until the last minute, as the Foxes can’t afford to play without both of their starting center backs in a crucial Champions League match.
To make matters even worse, back up center back Yohan Benalouane limped off during the draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday.
On the other hand, Atletico welcome back Kevin Gameiro, who missed the first leg through an adductor injury. He has formed a great partnership with his compatriot Griezmann since coming over from Sevilla, and, although not the most skillful or lethal in front of goal, his pace and tactical awareness will cause enough of a headache to Leicester's depleted defense.
Like Bayern, Leicester will have to score at least twice to go through — which will likely fall into the hands of Atletico’s counterattack. Simone’s men play a very different type of football from the Sevilla side who crumbled at the King Power Stadium, so Leicester will need to approach the game differently.
It’s very difficult to imagine this Atletico side conceding goals to Leicester; they seem to be too smart and experienced for the hosts. Atletico will be content to play out a 0-0 match but they might even get a goal from a counter to end Leicester’s fairy tale for good.
Leicester (4-4-2) Schmeichel; Fuchs, Morgan, Benalouane, Simpson; Albrighton, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Mahrez; Okazaki, Vardy.
Atletico (4-4-2) Oblak; Filipe Luis, Godin, Savic, Juanfran; Saul, Gabi, Koke, Carrasco; Griezmann, Gameiro.
Prediction: Leicester 0-1 Atleti