Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich – Tuesday, 1st May
— Real Madrid C.F. ⚽️ (@realmadrid) April 29, 2018
Following Real Madrid’s victory in the first leg in Germany last week, Bayern Munich have an uphill struggle ahead of them if they are to reach the Champions League final. Real Madrid have two valuable away goes and will be absolutely determined to hold on to their lead and reach their third straight final.
Bayern Munich will take inspiration from Juventus’ 3 – 1 win in Madrid in the quarterfinals, but they will still need to score at least twice. Bayern enjoyed a 4 – 1 win at home over Eintracht Frankfurt over the weekend during which key players were rested, such as James Rodriguez, Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez.
On Tuesday, left-back David Alaba is expected to return having missed the first leg and will most likely replace Rafinha, with Niklas Sule partnering Mats Hummels in the back four. It is not known yet if Arjen Robben will play after being forced off after eight minutes in the first leg. The players Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman are all definitely out.
Real Madrid also rested a number of players over the weekend when they defeated Leganes 2 – 1. Captain Sergio Ramos, defensive partner Raphael Varane and leading goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo were all absent. Also missing were Dani Carvajal and Isco after they picked up knocks against Bayern.
Speaking after the win on Saturday, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane called on fans to create the best possible atmosphere for Tuesday’s semi-final and praised his players’ attitude ahead of the ‘biggest game of the year’.
“I don’t know how significant the first-leg advantage will be in the Champions League. We know what happened against Juve and last year against Bayern as well,” he said.
“We need a huge performance; we must play better than we have done all year if we’re to qualify. We’re ready. We’re going to give it all we’ve got to make it to the final. They’ll come here with nothing to lose. We’ll have to put in a huge performance, and we’ll need the support of our fans, more so than ever, because they know what we’re playing for. The fans have always been behind the team, and we want them there more than ever before to help us make it to the final.”
Zidane also discussed the injuries to Isco and Dani Carvajal and he suggested that winger Lucas Vazquez was set to drop back to right-back given the lack of other options, “Lucas is an option, it could be,” he said. “Nacho has not trained yet with the team, so it seems difficult to have him for Tuesday. Achraf [Hakimi] is here, he is a very young player, his first year with the first team. We must go slowly with him, we will see what we do Tuesday, he played well today.”
In Germany reports emerged over the weekend that Robert Lewandowski may be benched in Madrid after being rebuked for unmotivated training. Boss Jupp Heynckes said that he had spoken with Lewandowski after his poor performance in the first leg of the match. At first it was thought that the conversation was about the chances he missed on the pitch, but it is now being reported that Lewandowski has been lazy at training and in the run-up to the match he made so little effort in training that even his teammates were angry with him.
Thomas Muller has said that the team need a “killer mentality” going into Madrid, but this was clearly lacking from Lewandowski in the first leg. Now it is thought that Heynckes is considering starting the far better motivated Sandro Wagner in Madrid rather than Lewandowski.
— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) April 30, 2018
If that is the case it would be a massive slap in the face for Lewandowski for the biggest game of the year. Since he scored four goals against Borussia Dortmund in 2013, Lewandowski has consistently disappointed in Champions League knockout games.
Heynckes is sure to do everything he can to make sure that the team come out fighting. Whatever happens it is sure to be a battle. Bayern Munich are certainly the underdogs, with odds of 21/10 compared to Real Madrid’s 11/10. However, anything can happen when the two high quality teams take to the pitch on Tuesday.
Roma vs Liverpool – Wednesday, 2nd May
For much of the first leg it looked like Liverpool would be going into this second leg with a massive five-goal lead. Jurgen Klopp’s players were in fantastic from but a couple of slip ups meant that Roma were able to pull two goals back leaving them needing three this Wednesday.
"Again, two massive games – what a season!"
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 30, 2018
This is a huge target, but one they managed just a couple of weeks ago against Barcelona and Liverpool will be all too aware of this. Liverpool will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. But Klopp expects Sadio Mane to return after missing Saturday’s draw against Stoke City at Anfield.
Roma has been upping the rhetoric ahead of the second leg and players, such as midfielder Radja Nainggolan, have said that they see no reason why they can’t score enough goals to reach the final. Speaking over the weekend Nainggolan said of the first leg, “We started the game well, but then we made too many mistakes and we gave our opponents too many chances. At 5-0 it was too much, but with the 5-2 we still have the hope of going through.”
Liverpool are an attacking side and if they score just one away goal it will make Roma’s job considerably harder. Considering the attacking talent that the Reds have, it seems highly unlikely that they won’t score at least one.
In fact, over the weekend Liverpool legend Ian Rush urged Mohamed Salah to break his goal scoring record in the Champions League final. Salah is approaching Rush’s club record haul of 47 goals and Rush is desperate to see it beaten. Salah’s double in the first leg took his tally to 43, just four short of the record.
Rush said: “I’m fine with losing my record. If he breaks my record by scoring a goal in the Champions League Final and we end up winning the trophy, I would be the happiest man in the world. Records are there to be broken. I broke Roger Hunt’s record and I know he was happy for me.”
Rush was also full of praise of Salah’s performance in the first leg, “I was made up for him on Tuesday night. The first goal could have only been scored by two other players on the planet, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Three goalkeepers placed together wouldn’t have stopped that! The execution was absolutely amazing. Also, during the game, not only did he score two goals, he made two as well. He’s not selfish. If someone is in a better position, he will pass to them.”
Roma have not conceded a single goal at home in the Champions League this season but Rush still believes that Liverpool will score.
— AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) April 29, 2018
Much of the attention in the last few days has been on the violent incidents that took place ahead of last week’s match. A Liverpool fan was seriously injured and two Italian men have been charged and remanded in custody by Merseyside Police.
Over the weekend Roma president James Pallotta spoke about the incident saying, “We have a long history at Roma and what’s going on when you have a few stupid people is that they destroy our history and they attack our legacy and I’m tired of it. “It’s not just an issue for Rome. It’s an issue for Italy and it’s an issue for the authorities and it’s an issue for all of us to band together and to finally wake up so that we don’t have a reputation, that’s not deserved around the rest of the world, that our fans are not good fans because our fans are the best fans in the world. It’s just a couple of f****** morons that take the rest of us down.”
Jurgen Klopp has called on travelling Liverpool fans to be careful in Rome this week, “Everybody knows, everybody knows, go there, open your eyes and hopefully all people are responsible. Common sense, please, and if you don’t feel safe, stay in the hotel, go home again and we do the job without the people, nobody should be afraid or whatever. I really can’t get that we talk constantly about this and hopefully police forces from all countries help together to make sure nothing happens. And Rome can show it’s only a rumour.”
Regardless of what happens off the pitch, on the field fans can expect a fiercely competitive match. There is very little difference in the odds on the two teams, Roma is at 7/5 to win while Liverpool is at 33/20, suggesting that this will be a very close battle.