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Big hearts and passion

Stage set for ‘meeting between equals’

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Matches in the city of Madrid feature large in Bayern’s long and illustrious history. After a turbulent 1–1 draw in 1976, Gerd Müller was laid out by a fist-throwing fan. Jean-Marie Pfaff turned in the performance of his life here in 1987, and FCB memorably triumphed 4–2 in the year 2000, Real Madrid’s heaviest home defeat in European competition. And most recently in 2012 the Reds famously triumphed 3–1 on penalties. Germany’s biggest club have already visited Real Madrid five times in the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition – and have progressed to the final on four occasions.

Real Madrid’s bogey team are back, for yet another last four encounter. The first leg takes place at the legendary Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday evening (Live in English from 8.45 pm CET on Twitter and Web Radio). Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is expecting “a tough but terrific game. This is one of the classics. It’s something for every fan to enjoy, not just in Germany, but all over Europe and maybe the whole of the footballing world,” declared the Bayern chairman prior to the squad departure for the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

The overriding emotions at Bayern are “respect and keen anticipation. We need a serviceable result,” as Rummenigge chose to put it: “And part of that is scoring at least once.” That would give the Reds “every chance” in next week’s return, the chairman thinks. Going for a goalless draw would not do the Bundesliga champions any favours, said Philipp Lahm: “We’re FC Bayern, we’re the holders, we’re a powerful attacking team. We’ve come to Madrid aiming to win.“

Pep calls for ‘outstanding’ display

However, FCB are aware that will be no easy task. “We face one of the best teams in the world,” warned Pep Guardiola at the international press conference in front of some 150 reporters and 50 camera crews. “We’ll need an outstanding performance,” continued the coach. Former Real man Arjen Robben made a similar appeal: “The most important thing is that we give the kind of performance we’ve so often given in the Champions League. We need a top performance, and we can do it, we have it in us!”

The conundrum, according to Rummenigge, will be to stifle Real’s prolific strike force and at the same time put the home defence under pressure. “Real counter-attack at pace,” warned Javi Martínez. The Los Blancos forward line spearheaded by World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 33 goals in his last 26 European matches, and €100 million man Gareth Bale are comfortably the top scorers in this season’s competition with 32 goals.

Arjen: We must be wide awake

The star duo have recovered from injury and illness respectively and are expected to feature on Wednesday. Robben is a Ronaldo admirer: “He brings an extra touch of class. I’m certain he’ll play,” said the Dutchman. The Portugal star and Bale both completed their club’s final pre-match training session without any problems. FCB will have to be “wide awake,” continued Robben: “If we’re not there mentally for even a quarter of an hour, we could concede two or three goals and it would be over.“

As if FCB had not received enough of a warning, the men from Madrid will be determined to avenge their semi-final exit in 2012. Fortunately, Manuel Neuer (tight calf) and David Alaba (flu) have resumed training after brief lay-offs, although Daniel van Buyten has been obliged to withdraw from the squad at short notice.

But the final line-ups will not be the decisive factor on Wednesday, Lahm believes. “Big hearts and passion are often decisive in games like these. That’s what we need tomorrow if we’re to prevail,” declared the Bayern captain. Rummenigge is expecting “a meeting between equals. We need both humility and passion tomorrow. And I do believe Real Madrid have great respect for Bayern Munich.“ The stage is set for another potentially historic evening in the magnificent surroundings of Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.