Created on 24-04-2018 at 16:00 PM
The curtain rises for the highlight of the season to date. On Wednesday night, the Allianz Arena in Munich will stage the first Champions League semi-final between FC Bayern and Real Madrid (live ticker in English from 20.45 CEST). This will be the 19th meeting of the two teams in Europe's premier club competition – no other pairing has happened as often. And the objective for both teams is to set themselves up for the return leg in Madrid next Tuesday..
"Now come the big games and I'm looking forward to it. It's now or never in the final weeks we have together with Jupp Heynckes," said chairman of the board Karl-Heinz Rummenigge regarding the run-in. "On Wednesday we have to try to get a good result and, if possible, without conceding," was the demand of club president Uli Hoeneß ahead of the meeting of the German and Spanish record champions.
"A treat for all football fans"
"These are two teams with huge tradition in the European Cup and the Champions League," said coach Jupp Heynckes in anticipation of the two games against Real where he spoke of a "highlight" and "a treat for all football fans." Heynckes, who won the competition with Real in 1998 and with FCB in 2013, is expecting a "game full of passion, emotion, joy and perhaps with sadness too. These are games the players train, work and prepare for."
The FCB players can hardly wait for the re-run of last year's quarter-final. "We've got a lot of experience with Real," said Arjen Robben recalling encounters "always on equal terms" with the reigning European champions. "It won't be any different now. We are ready and we're in good shape. We've got to take that into the game," added Robben. "We are at home in front of our own fans. It will be a good game."
Get forward and score goals
"We know it's do or die," said FCB skipper Thomas Müller in assessing the significance of the two forthcoming matches and he sees the chances of FCB reaching the final in Kiev on 26 May as "very good"."We are going through a good phase and the games come at the right time. We'll see what the result brings. They won't be giving anything away. But I can sense something."
Last year, Bayern took the lead in the first leg but ended up losing 2-1. "The biggest mistake last year was primarily that we didn't perform in the home game and we were a bit nervous on the pitch. That can't happen on Wednesday," stressed Robben. And Müller added: "We know about Real's quality but we definitely need to get forward. We've got to want to score goals."
Alaba and Tolisso doubtful
On this mission, Heynckes will have to manage without the goalscorer in last year's quarter-final, Arturo Vidal, as well as Manuel Neuer and Kingsley Coman. There are still question marks over Corentin Tolisso (shin) and David Alaba (thigh). With those two players, "we’ll make a decision on Wednesday morning on their being in the squad or not," explained Heynckes who said he still had to go through "his final thoughts" in terms of team selection.
Heynckes does not recognise a favourite ahead of the two games between his team and the Spanish record holders. "Real Madrid have won the title twice in succession so they have a slight advantage. But we are in very good shape, we’re having an outstanding season and we want to round that off by going through to the Champions League final next Tuesday." Arjen Robben is of like mind: "Of course, we can beat anybody. And that goes for Madrid too."