Bayern Munich takes on Real Madrid on April 17 in Munich in the first leg of the 2012 UEFA Champions League semifinals. The second leg is on April 25 in Madrid.
With good defense and quick counterattacks, the Bavarians can deny Jose Mourinho’s potentially third final with a different team. (If Real won the trophy, “The Special One” would be the first coach to win the it with three different clubs.)
There really is nothing surprising about these two clubs reaching this stage of the tournament. Real Madrid have been expectedly playing great and made it to the semifinals. Bayern had a relatively easy draw despite a minor setback against Basel when they lost 1-0 in the first leg of the Round of 16 but then beat them 7-0 in Munich.
In reality, when it comes to the final stages of the most respected club competition in soccer, history doesn’t matter.
I will not stress how Bayern Munich had to go through the playoffs in order to qualify for this year’s tournament. I will not stress how the team survived the Group of Death, which also included Napoli, Manchester City and Villarreal, during the group stage.
I will stress, however, on the Bavarians’ destructive counterattack. Often led by midfielder Franck Ribery, it was helpful against Marseille.
Ribery, joined by midfielder Arjen Robben, make one of the best wingers in the league. They team up pretty well with forward Thomas Muller. The team’s progress depends on how the move and the form they’re in. Their strength in working together is that they can exchange positions. That confuses the opponent.
Muller, however, will be careful because he already has one yellow card. If he gets another booking, he will miss the next match, which could be the final.
Ribery has played nine games of the Bavarians in the Champions League scoring two goals. He has five assists. Robben has five games, three goals and two assists.
In addition to Bayern’s strong counterattack, Real Madrid's defense is wide, and therefore, easier to breach. Mourinho tried “the best defense is offense” approach against Barcelona in January 2012, but unsuccessfully.
Like Muller, on Real’s squad, defenders Sergio Ramos and Fabio Contrao need to watch their game because they already have a yellow card.
I would not underestimate the Bavarians defense. They have Philipp Lahm. He is a resourceful player and he can shoot and pass the ball efficiently with either foot.
Lahm and the rest of the Bavarians' defense needs to be in top form a week from today. Los Blancos’ forwards, especially Cristiano Ronaldo, have been proven to be extremely dangerous. Lahm vs. Ronaldo would be interesting to watch.
Last, but not least, if Bayern advances to the final round, they will have a chance to win the 2012 UEFA Champions League in front of home audience. The final is on May 19 at the Fußball Arena München.
This is a great honor, which should not be underestimated as motivation.