Reigning champions Real Madrid will look to defend their 2-1 lead as they welcome Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal on Tuesday. Zidane’s men got the better of Bayern on their own perch and now will look to cement their place in the Semifinals of the competition. Here we examine five key battles that could change the fate of this tie:
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Philipp Lahm
The Ballon d’Or winner asserted his authority on the big stage by delivering when it mattered the most in the first leg. Ronaldo scored two goals for Los Blancos including a late 77th minute which completed their comeback after a going a goal down. Ronaldo’s performance was next to perfect on that night in which he utilized his pace, strength and athleticism to its fullest.
Yet again, he will be up against one of the best players to grace the footballing stage – Philipp Lahm. The battle between these two men was turning out to be a stimulating one in the first leg until the red card changed the dynamics of the game. Both players were fully up to the challenge, but at the end of the day, it was Ronaldo who got one better of the 34-year-old. This time though, Lahm will have addressed where he went wrong and will look to stop Ronaldo in order to help his team at the back.
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 17, 2017
Robert Lewandowski vs Sergio Ramos
The Polish striker was absent in the first leg defeat at Allianz Arena and is expected to return in the second leg. His ruthlessness in front of goal was extremely missed as Bayern weren’t able to make most of the opportunities in the final third. Having already scored a mammoth 26 goals in Bundesliga and 7 goals in the Champions League, Lewandowski is one of the most prolific centre-forwards in the continent.
The star forward will be up against Real Madrid’s captain on the night – Sergio Ramos. With Pepe and Varane set to miss the second leg, it will be down to the experience of the Spanish centre-back to handle the agility and pace of Lewandowski. Ramos has all the abilities he needs to tackle Lewandowski considering his lightning quickness and reading of the game. It remains to be seen whether Ramos can cope up with Lewandowski since the latter was absent in the first leg, but this one is set to be an interesting battle!
Arjen Robben vs Marcelo
Arjen Robben will hope that this time he is able to utilize his dribbling abilities to get an end product for his team. Robben was average in the first leg but he won most of his dribbling battles with Marcelo. His ability to cut inside and create room for a shot has frightened many defences in the past. And even at the age of 34, he was able to match the speed of Marcelo but he needs to deliver in the final third in order to help his team advance to the semi-final.
It was a rough outing for Marcelo in the first leg, but nevertheless, his side were able to win that game. He was able to go neck to neck with the Dutch dribbler but showed signs of nervousness at times. This is a vital match for the Brazilian and he should be up for the challenge in the second leg to just stop Bayern’s attack through the right in the form of Robben.
Thiago Alcantara vs Casemiro
Thiago Alcantara has become a vital element in Bayern’s natural attacking flow in the game. The Spanish playmaker’s agility and touches on the ball brings flair to Bayern’s game. He is very inventive on the ball and is enjoying his best season at Bayern. He grabbed an assist in the first leg and had a decent outing.
Most of Bayern’s attack in the second depends on Madrid’s defensive midfielder Casemiro’s hold of the game. Casemiro has become an integral part in Zidane’s set up and his contribution offensively as well as defensively has proved to be imperative to Madrid. The key to stopping Bayern will rely on the midfield battle as Casemiro will look to stop Alcantara. The battles in midfield are usually very exciting in football and it will be entertaining to see who finishes on top!
— Thiago Alcantara (@Thiago6) April 17, 2017
Benzema vs Boateng
Another exciting combat will be between French Striker Benzema and German defender Jerome Boateng. Benzema is an excellent finisher and has good pace so it is going to be another tough outing for Boateng. Boateng should be at his best in order to not make life more difficult for Bayern by conceding a goal. Benzema had a couple of chances in the first leg as he outdid Boateng to a considerable extent. After the sending off, Boateng wasn’t able to deal with the attacking prowess of Madrid. With Martinez out and Hummels doubtful, he will be the leader of the Bayern defence in the second leg.