Key Champions League battles as Real Madrid face Bayern Munich

AFP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

Record 14-time Champions League winners Real Madrid face six-time champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a mouthwatering semi-final second leg clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bayern s Jamal Musiala, left, is challenged by Real Madrid s Lucas Vazquez during the Champions Leag
Bayern s Jamal Musiala, left, is challenged by Real Madrid s Lucas Vazquez during the Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. AP


After the 2-2 draw in the first leg last week, the tie is on a knife-edge.

We look at where the second leg could be won and lost.

Lunin vs Neuer: New star against experienced great

Manuel Neuer, widely recognised as one of the greatest goalkeepers in football history, is still going strong at 38-years-old.

Vinicius Junior beat him twice in the first leg but the German World Cup winner, as is often the case, made some key saves.

Bayern need him to be as strong as ever if they are to return to Wembley, 11 years after their triumph in London over Dortmund.

His opposite number, inexperienced Ukrainian Andriy Lunin was the unexpected star in the quarter-final against Manchester City with two penalty saves.

With Harry Kane in superb goalscoring form Lunin will need to be at his best too, especially if the 25-year-old wants to keep his place with Belgian stopper Thibaut Courtois back after a long absence through injury.

Kane vs Rudiger: A heavyweight battle

German defensive rock Antonio Rudiger will once again be tasked with containing Harry Kane, something he did rather well in Munich, although the England striker converted a penalty.

With Rudiger patrolling Kane could be tempted to drop a little deeper to play in Bayern's speedy wingers.

In a strong position to win the Golden Shoe for top European scorer -- he has 36 goals in the Bundesliga -- Kane is battling with Kylian Mbappe to finish top of the Champions League scoring charts too. Both have scored eight goals.

The England captain is also in search of the first trophy of his career, at the age of 30, which he dreams of winning back in his homeland at Wembley.

Kroos vs Laimer: Midfield tussle

Toni Kroos, the 34-year-old Madrid metronome who brilliantly created Vinicius's opener at the Allianz Arena, shone brightly in Munich, particularly in the first half.

The second period was more complicated, as his team was caught off guard by a much more enterprising Bayern.

This was partly due to the man directly opposing him, Konrad Laimer, who was everywhere, pressing and recovering the ball.

The Austrian proved capable of accelerating play by passing or running into space left by Kroos.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is sure to have noticed this, and could use Eduardo Camavinga in midfield and move Aurelien Tchouameni back into central defence to help plug any gaps.

Battle for wing dominance

In the first leg, the danger always came from the wingers, for both teams.

German duo Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala, who scored and created Bayern's two goals respectively, and Brazilian sharpshooters Rodrygo and Vinicius can blow the game wide open with their explosive pace and skill.

Each did their part to give the opposition defence a torrid evening.

Vinicius, playing more centrally, blazed into space behind Kim Min-jae to strike, and Sane burst back into form with a fine individual goal after leaving Ferland Mendy for dead.

Musiala drew the penalty conceded by Lucas Vazquez and converted by Kane, while Rodrygo forced Kim into a foul to prevent him from turning inside the area for Vinicius' equaliser.

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