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Bayern Munich vs Arsenal: Last hope or no hope?

Following last week’s eliminations of Manchester United and Celtic, Arsenal are now Great Britain’s last remaining representatives in the Champions League. Fans not susceptive to tribalism may, for one night only, cheer on a club simply for being close to home. But should they bother?

Gunners fans will point to the absence of Franck Ribery through injury and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng through suspension as causes for optimism. Add to that the potential absence of Arjen Robben due to a calf problem and Bayern are without some key ingredients in what has been an outstanding season to date.
But with the German side already holding a 3-1 advantage, with three away goals to boot, everything points to an Arsenal exit.

Theo Walcott

The current Bundesliga leaders have lost only one league game and one European game all season. In short, the team who were once called “the invincibles” are facing their (almost) modern day equivalent. And in order to overcome them, Arsenal require three goals without reply. This against a team that has conceded only nine home league goals all season, and only one away!

With statistics like that, it is no wonder football observers are wondering what will happen when Pep Guardiola takes charge next season. It is a scary prospect when they are already near-perfect without him.

Arsenal’s last outing was their 2-1 league defeat against Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping for the perfect response from his team. The only downside is that the perfect response may still not be good enough against a side that almost invariably score. Should they do so, the pressure on Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla will be huge.

Bayern Munich celebrate

Their only hope is to score first, keep it tight at the back, and play the game on their own terms. The speed of Theo Walcott on the counter-attack could be crucial, but against a side that don’t need to leave gaps, it may be in a set-piece – at least for the opening goal – that Arsenal’s best hope lies.

With Jack Wilshere ruled out for three weeks and Lukas Podolski also missing, Arsenal will hope the players they can call on will prevent it being a hat-trick of last-16 eliminations. But with Manuel Neuer in goal, the likes of Philipp Lahm and Javi Martinez in front of him, and Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic a constant threat up front, it will take an almighty performance from the London side.

Anything is possible in football, but some things are more possible than others.

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Bayern’s attack proved its worth in the first leg; their defence is key in the return against Real Madrid

Bayern Munich are 90 minutes away from a home Champions League final, with a massive Bavarian fanbase praying that this year will end an eleven-year wait to be crowned European champions once more. Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu is as daunting a fixture as any in world football, and the German visitors will be up against it from the first whistle. The side’s attack has given them and advantage; it is now down to the at-times criticised backline to secure progression.

Jupp Heynckes’ men showed their worth in the first leg of the crunch tie, with a no-fear and attacking outlook resulting in a slight but deserved victory. Goals from Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez, who secured victory in the dying moments, mean that the Bundesliga giants take the smallest of advantages to the Spanish capital.

Die Roten’s ability on the offence has never been in doubt; with the likes of Gomez, Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller at their disposal, Bayern’s prowess on the front foot is rightly respected by all in the game in Europe. However, despite the team’s defensive efforts improving from last term, there are still question marks over the back four and the organisation of the Bavarian rearguard.

Traditionally Bayern’s approach was based around a solid backline, with the Allianz Arena outfit recording countless 1-0 victories on the back of a hard-fought early goal and a dogged defensive effort. However, the class of 2012 do not give the club’s followers the same confidence as teams of the past. Jerome Boateng has been brought in to solidify the centre of the German defence and although the side has leaked less goals than previous campaigns, the reformed full back and Holger Badstuber have come in for criticism, specifically aimed at their concentration and positioning. They will be severely tested on Wednesday, but given an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong on the biggest stage.

In Cristiano Ronaldo the hosts have arguably the form player in world football, and with the likes of Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria in support, Los Blancos have set records and all but won the Primera Division title back this term. A 2-1 win at Camp Nou on Saturday, no mean feat, will mean that the Santiago Bernabeu crowd will be baying for German blood in midweek.

To successfully negotiate this tricky task, Heynckes must get his tactics right and the starting XI must show discipline and play to their strengths. As the game progresses, if Bayern can stave off Madrid’s attacks, the crowd could get edgy and the home players slightly desperate. The likelihood is that the Bundesliga outfit may well need an away goal (or two) to get through, and to achieve this the likes of Ribery and Robben must take advantage of the positional mediocrity of Madrid full backs Fabio Coentrao and Marcelo or Alvaro Arbeloa.

Finally, rumours that Robben and Ribery had a falling out and came to blows at half time of the first leg must be firmly banished; a monumental team effort is needed for the German club’s dream of participating in a Champions League final at the Allianz Arena to come to fruition.

Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich: Six tactical factors that could decide the Champions League tie

Perennial European heavyweights Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have been coupled together in the semifinals of the Champions League, in what should be a captivating and close tie.

The first leg will be played at the Allianz Arena on 17 April, with the deciding fixture in Spain a week later on 25 April. With world-class players on both sides, here are six tactical situations that could well decide which team progresses to the final.

Can Real Madrid Be exposed in wide areas?

One of the areas that Bayern will look to get joy from, especially in the first leg at home, will be out wide. In former Santiago Bernabeu wideman Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, Jupp Heynckes’ side have two of the most potent wingers in the game, who play a major part in orchestrating the Bavarian outfit’s attack.

With attacking-minded full-backs such as Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao in Los Blancos’ side, and Philipp Lahm looking to get forward for the German team, Bayern may well find joy down the flanks. Although Madrid will most likely play two holding central midfielders in front of their defence in the away leg, out wide the likes of Angel Di Maria will be reluctant to track back—Bayern can use this to their advantage.

The predatory instinct of Mario Gomez

In Mario Gomez, Bayern have one of Europe’s form strikers, whose predatory instinct, finishing and movement off the ball is pivotal for club and country. The Bundesliga’s current top scorer showed his calibre in front of goal in the last round, hitting the back of the net four times against a hapless Basel side in the quarterfinals.

Jose Mourinho’s team selection at centre half will be interesting given that Gomez will need to be paid close attention. With Sergio Ramos currently on the sidelines through injury, the Portuguese trainer will pray that the Spain international returns in time to go head-to-head with Bayern’s main forward. If not, the less-assured Raul Albiol, hotheaded Pepe and ageing Ricardo Carvalho may well have their hands full.

Sami Khedira vs Thomas Muller

Real Madrid have recently looked to the Bundesliga for new signings, with Nuri Sahin, Mesut Ozil, Hamit Altintop and Sami Khedira all moving from Germany to the Spanish capital. Khedira may well have an important role to play in limiting the impact of Bayern playmaker, and international colleague, Thomas Muller.

At times petulant and inconsistent, Muller has the ability to be anonymous or a match-winner; at his best the attacking midfielder’s supply to hitman Gomez is a key feature of Die Roten’s play going forward. Muller will look to play in the hole between Madrid’s defence and midfield, and as such Khedira looks like the most likely option to shackle the talented playmaker.

The goalscoring threat of Cristiano Ronaldo

Despite it being widely acknowledged that Lionel Messi is the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo has inspired Madrid to the top of La Liga and is having a record-breaking season. The Portugal international has matured from a tricky winger at Manchester United to a powerful and at times almost unplayable attacker in his time in Spain.

Ronaldo’s threat is two-fold. Given a free reign to wreak havoc by the Spanish giants, CR7’s mobility, constant movement and lethal eye for goal make him a devastating attacker, and a major goal threat.

To be shackled or even partially stopped, Bayern will have to instruct the likes of Anatoliy Tymoschuk and Luiz Gustavo to be very disciplined in their positioning, and combative in their tackling. However, over-exerting resources to stop the world’s second-best player may well leave room for the likes of Di Maria, Ozil and Kaka to dominate possession.

The creativity of Mesut Ozil

An unsung hero in a star-studded Madrid attack, Mesut Ozil will be an all-too-familiar face for the German side. Where the likes of Ronaldo pose a direct threat through pace and power, Ozil’s main strength is passing and precision.

The playmaker is the fulcrum of Madrid’s possession play, and arguably has the most ability to supply the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, and create goalscoring opportunities.

With the Germany international’s guile, ability to slip a marker and superb eye for a pass, Bayern’s aforementioned defensive midfielders will need to get through a lot of work if the Allianz Arena outfit are to stand a chance.

Bastian Schweinsteiger vs Xabi Alonso

Two of the most accomplished midfielders in the European game, the battle between Xabi Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be key in the outcome of the two-legged tie. Although not always in direct competition due to Alonso’s deep-lying position, the pair are the heartbeat of their respective midfields and teams.

Alonso has the passing ability and regimented positional sense to allow those more gifted teammates in attack to prosper, whilst Schweinsteiger’s energy and influence on Bayern’s other players makes him a vastly important man for the Germans. With the pair potentially locking heads for their countries at Euro 2012 in June, these influential midfielders will be key men in deciding this tie over 180 minutes.

Published – Bleacher Report

Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: The young and the new of German football meet

With three points separating the top two teams in the Bundesliga, leaders and champions Borussia Dortmund host perennial powerhouses Bayern Munich in a massive game at Signal Iduna Park on Wednesday. A win for the hosts will all but seal back-to-back titles, whilst an away victory will give the biggest club in German football the impetus to go on to win their title back.

Jurgen Klopp has transformed an underperforming and mediocre Dortmund setup into a well-tuned and talented squad of promising stars since taking over at the club in 2008. The team’s Bundesliga crown last season was the first since 2002, and the 44-year-old trainer has continued where he left off last term in 2011/12. Many feared for Die Borussen after the forced sale of key midfielder Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid and a slow start to the season, whilst Champions League elimination in the group stages proved that the young pretenders have a way to go yet to replicate the historic achievements of the European champions team of 1997.

Despite this, a run of ten wins from 13 league games propelled the holders back to the top of the standings, and the crown is now Dortmund’s to lose. With home advantage and their opponents still with European distractions, Klopp’s young superstars will look to strike a decisive blow on Wednesday. The likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze (although he will not play through injury) and Robert Lewandowski have shone over a fantastic 24-month period for the club.

Off the pitch, Dortmund recently claimed another victory over their traditionally superior rivals. The signing of Borussia Monchengladbach and Germany attacking midfielder Marco Reus, wanted by the Bavarians also, shows that Klopp’s men are serious in their rejuvenation and could be ready for a period of dominance in the country.

Bayern, by their own admittance, were poor last season but a summer of rebuilding, the arrival of Jupp Heynckes and a better start to the campaign has saw Die Roten back to their ominous best at times this campaign. Despite spending spells on top of the pile and thrashing sides on occasion, inconsistency has crept in at times domestically, which Dortmund have taken advantage of.

With Real Madrid lying in wait in what should be a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final, the Allianz Arena outfit have a potentially memorable end of season ahead of them. However, both Los Blancos and Dortmund will put Bayern under pressure, with the side’s defence still to really prove that it has what takes to challenge for honours. The attacking abilities of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez are not in question, however it is whether Bayern can shut out an attacking-minded Dortmund side that will be the difference in the game.

Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 at the Allianz Arena through a solitary Gotze strike, and despite Bayern’s history, players and prestige will go into this game as favourites. The home side could well be on the verge of a new era of success, with 90 minutes for the young Borussen stars to prove their worth and retain their title.

Five strikers ready to light up Euro 2012

Interest and excitement is starting to build around Euro 2012, with the international tournament less than six months away. All the usual suspects will travel to Poland and Ukraine, with holders Spain sure to be tested by Germany, Netherlands and maybe even England, amongst others. The following five attackers have their nation’s hopes resting on their shoulders, and will battle it out for the competition’s golden boot.

Robin van Persie – Netherlands

Premier League defences will testify to the quality and predatory nature of Arsenal and Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, as The Gunners’ captain is ready to lead Bert van Marwijk’s attack in the summer. With 22 goals in the English top flight so far this campaign, Van Persie is without doubt one of the form forwards in world football. With the likes of Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder ready to supply him, expect Van Persie to continue his stellar club form on the international stage.

 

 

Mario Gomez – Germany

Mario Gomez has emerged as the spearhead for Bayern Munich’s improved showing this term, and is the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer with 17 goals so far. On the international stage Gomez scored six goals in Euro 2012 qualification, and will battle it out with veteran Lazio forward Miroslav Klose for the No 9 jersey. With a considerable contingent of Joachim Low’s squad originating from the Allianz Arena, Gomez’s bond with his club team-mates, in particular playmaker Thomas Muller, could see Germany as a real contender in the summer.

 

Roberto Soldado – Spain

Spain’s attacking options are frightening, and the holders will again be the team to beat in eastern Europe this time around. Although their midfield of Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Andres Iniesta is set, Vicente Del Bosque has options up front, with no clear cut starting No 9. With Fernando Torres struggling for form and David Villa recovering from a leg break, the stage is set for Roberto Soldado to become the World champions’ main man. The Valencia forward has consistently been a threat in La Liga and the Champions League over recent seasons, and the top Spanish goalscorer in the Primera Division this season so far could well be a massive success if given his chance.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo has been accused of not recreating his form for Real Madrid on the international stage, but the sprightly attacker will want to prove his critics wrong this summer. Last season’s Pichichi winner, Ronaldo has continued this term where he left off, and has already netted 24 times in 21 Primera Division games this campaign. At times a one-man band for club and country, Ronaldo will have to be at his best if Portugal are to progress through a difficult Group B, which also contains Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.

 

 

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s record at club level is a copybook of success, as the striker has achieved glory and won league titles at Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and AC Milan. At 30-years-old, Zlatan will look to lead his nation to a strong Euro 2012 campaign and build on his 28 international goals. Temperamental, at times selfish but undoubtedly one of the most prolific strikers in world football, Ibrahimovic could well be the Scandinavian country’s hero or villain.

 

Published – Footbo

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