Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid host giants Bayern Munich in their Champions league semifinal first leg tie at the Vicente Calderon stadium on Wednesday night. A tie, that promises tight defending from both teams and a long night for the La Liga giants.
It’s 42 years since Bayern Munich ever played Atletico Madrid in a competitive fixture. That tie, the 1974 European Cup final ended 4-0 in favour of the Germans.
Atletico are now playing their second Champions League semifinal in three years, which underlines the pedigree of manager Diego Simeone – selling top players every year, but never selling their dreams.
Pep Guardiola, meanwhile defines stupendous consistency, playing his seventh Champions League semi final in his seventh year of coaching.
Ever since FC Barcelona went out, the buzz is unanimous in saying ‘this is Bayern Munich’s Champions league to lose! The same sentiment is echoed at the betting market too for the first leg semifinal encounter. I did an average of top 5 betting sites odds and this is how it looks.
Atletico Madrid win : 32%
Draw : 31%
Bayern Munich win : 37%
Diego Godin’s absence, due to hamstring injury, is a key factor in this tie and has considerably swung odds in the German team’s favour. Keeping a clean sheet at home is mandatory for Atletico’s progress and Godin has been their best defender, their tower of solidity, the past three years. It’s tough to imagine an Atletico defence lining up without the Uruguayan, and with repetitive waves of Bayern attack expected towards their citadel, it could be a long night for the home fans.
For Atletico, Torres is back after suspension and Hernandez should fill in Godin’s role.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Luis, Hernández, Giménez, Juanfran; Carrasco, Gabi, Koke, Níguez; Griezmann, Torres
For Bayern Munich, the only tinkering Pep can do is with his defence where he will likely choose two amongst Bernat, Rafinha, Kimmich and Martinez. Coman will likely come in as a substitute.
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Bernat, Alaba, Martínez, Lahm; Vidal, Ribéry, Alcántara; Müller, Costa, Lewandowski
Form guide and Fine print:
Both teams have had impressive and undefeated last five games running up to this tie.
Atletico have four consecutive clean sheets now in all competitions while Bayern Munich have scored at least two goals in each of their last six games. This tie will be all about Bayern’s attack vs Atletico’s defence.
Historically Guardiola’s teams have struggled at semi-final stages of Champions league vs teams with robust defences. As Barcelona manager, his team lost in 2010 to Inter Milan and then in 2012 to Chelsea. Both ties were lost by 2-3 scoreline and in both return legs, played at home, his team played with a man advantage for majority of the game. Yet, could not manage to nick the tie.
Guardiola’s Bayern have been thrashed in consecutive semi-finals by La Liga giants Real Madrid (in 2014) and Barcelona (in 2015). In both ties, his team let in five goals! They will be wary of facing yet another La Liga giant at this stage. Although the challenge is of a different type now, not overwhelming attacking threat but one with meanest defence.
Guardiola also has external pressure of finding his next club Manchester City in semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition. If Bayern go out in semis and City progress to finals, it will be a double blow to the Catalan legend. Not only will it define his term at Bayern as below expectations, it will also set the bar too high for Guardiola to match at City.
His Bayern tenure has always been compared to Jupp Heynckes raising the bar in 2013, winning the treble, just as Guardiola was taking over the team. That raising of the bar, forever put pressure on Guardiola at Bayern and he may prefer a lighter burden when he moves to Manchester City.
Simeone’s team knocked out Barcelona in the previous round, and are within a hair distance of leading La Liga title race (currently same points at the top with Barcelona, second on head to head). They have got pundits raving since.
However personally i think much of this situation is created by Barcelona themselves going under par in prime business end of the season. The Catalans have been poor in April – losing games at will, needing refereeing decisions to aid them in their wins – and didnt test Atletico as much as they should have at Vicente Calderon.
Both teams will seek safety first and not want to go behind early. A low scoring draw likely.