MUNICH — Bayern face Real Madrid here Tuesday (live on FOX Sports 1, 2 p.m. ET) as they look to overcome a 1-0 deficit with a berth in the Champions League final on the line. Bayern are aiming to make the final for the third year running (and the fourth time in five years) but they first must shake off the punchless performance last week at the Bernabeu that has them chasing the Spanish giants.
The pressure in on here in Bavaria, with Pep Guardiola adamant today that Bayern would not change their style or approach despite harsh reviews for their showing in Madrid.
“We lost,” said Guardiola, “And they were right playing the way they played by the result. But we want to be effective in everything via ball possession and create goal-scoring chances. Yes, we weren’t successful in Madrid, but in other matches we have shown we can score goals [playing this way.] We need to be more clinical and more effective.
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“Of course I thought about changing tactics,” added Guardiola. “I want to be as dominant as we were in Madrid, but also be a little more aggressive – but there are times where when you are aggressive that you also control and we cannot do that against Real and their counters. So I will sleep on it.”
History is on the Germans’ side: they have never lost at home to Real Madrid and have prevailed in four of their five previous semi-final meetings. Overall, Bayern have lost just once at home to Spanish opposition, a fluke against Deportivo Coruna over a decade ago.
Bayern come into the match with their manager’s words ringing in their ears despite a 5-2 thrashing of Werder Bremen on Saturday. Guardiola delivered a tongue-lashing to his side after a listless first half performance and apologized to the fans after the game, to boot. That now seems calculated to counter some of the local criticism that Guardiola is taking in Munich, where the press has worried openly that since wrapping up the league title so early, Bayern have lost some of their sharpness.
“We’re not stupid enough to think that we’ve already won it,” said Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti. “It’s a very difficult task.”
Certainly, if anyone on either team was worried about the match tomorrow, they didn’t show it. Gareth Bale was bubbly while Arjen Robben was almost ebullient, joking with the Spanish press, projecting confidence and promising that his side would be on the front foot early.
“We will attack,” said Robben, who went on to mock the Spanish coverage of the Allianz as a “cauldron” by using the words of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, “and all the trees here will be burning and the stadium will also be on fire.
“We know it will not be easy against Real,” Robben continued in a more serious tone, “But we are at home. We scored three against Manchester United, four against Barcelona here, so they know what we are capable of. Yes, over the last two weeks, you could say there have not been some good results, but those don’t matter any more. I have a good gut feeling, and we must go out and confirm that tomorrow.”
Real warmed up for this game in high style, thrashing Osasuna 4-0 on Saturday to remain in the hunt for the La Liga title, albeit with the proviso that they need Atletico to slip up. Resting several regulars, including Gareth Bale (flu), Real powered past the minnows thanks to two long-range strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo.
But despite Real’s recent run of form, there are worries. Many observers felt that Madrid needed to run up a more substantial cushion at home given Bayern’s stunning home displays. And while Real could have put the match well out of sight in the first half last week, the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria both missed gilt-edged chances may come back to haunt them. Real also were penned back for substantial stretches during the game, and it was only a yeoman performance from Pepe that kept things from collapsing.
Ancelotti said, “I don’t think it will change much tactically compared to the first game. Bayern has one philosophy and I don’t think they will change it. Tactics are the most important part of a match — but the mental component is critical, and our players have to be focused on the final.”
The meaning was clear: Ancelotti wants his team to go out and grab another goal, but they will have problem with absorbing the pressure, either.
Then, there’s the off-the-field pressure, something Robben – who played for Real for two seasons before a controversial exit — alluded to. The quest for “la decima,” that fabled tenth European Cup, has become poisonous for Real, coloring nearly everything the club does.
“Everyone talks about it,” said Robben, “and they have been waiting for it. But if you look at the last four years, it’s been us, not them.”
Said his counterpart, Bale: “We all know it’s a massive game and there’s a lot at stake … I have nerves, but they are positive nerves, everyone enjoys playing in the big games against great teams, and we’re hoping to do that tomorrow.”