MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 14: Head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sporting de Gijon at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 14, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Real Madrid took care of business in the Primera, winning two huge league matches over a span of four days to maintain their lead at the top of the table as they start gearing up for an obscure, inconsequential fixture in the Camp Nou next Saturday. First, however, here is this little matter of traveling to Bavaria to face a tiny Bundesliga side called Bayern Munich in the first leg of Champions League semifinals tomorrow.
Cue the ominous music as long-time Madridistas can certainly corroborate the fact that Germany is one place where los blancos have struggled throughout their illustrious history, winning only once in 22 attempts. More to the point, Madrid are also winless in their nine previous visits to Munich, losing three of the four previous semifinals ties against Bayern. Join me after the jump for a closer look at Bayern's recent form, particularly at home, and some historical perspective on this clash between between two absolute giants in world football.
Leaving the historical weight of Real Madrid's troubled German legacy aside for a moment, the fact is that Bayern have won 13 of their previous 14 matches in Allianz Arena, making it a formidable, foreboding place for any side to visit. A mediocre, mid-table Mainz side did manage to escape with a nil-nil draw against a rattled and demoralized Bayern (in the wake of a midweek defeat to Dortmund that likely cost them the league crown). Bayern had rested key players such as Mario Gomez, Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery and Philipp Lahm in preparation for Real Madrid. As pivotal as Madrid's two most recent results have been, the irony is that these two aforementioned Bayern results could potentially have a more profound impact on Real Madrid's season. They've essentially freed Bayern to be able to channel all their energy and focus on getting to the Champions League final which, of course, will be played in the Allianz Arena.
One man who stands directly at the crossroads of past and present is Bayern manager, Jupp Heynckes. Heynckes obviously knows what it's like to coach a gigantic, expectation-laden side to a Champions League title because he did so with Real Madrid in 1998. He recently commented on the nature of the pressure Jose Mourinho is under to deliver Real's 10th European championship, characterizing it as an "obsession."
Mourinho does have the advantage of having faced a very similar Bayern side, personnel wise, in the Champions League final with Inter just two years ago. The other advantage Mourinho currently boasts is the ability to select Cristiano Ronaldo, a man whose scorching, otherworldly form is burning through superlatives and adjectives almost as fast as beleaguered Spanish keepers. Bayern is able to counter with an elite, world class goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer. Bayern captain and German international Phillipp Lahm understands the monumental task ahead of his teammates as they try to contain CR7, emphasizing the need to defend as a unit.
This is our week, Madridistas! Let's get excited. Tell us how your feeling about the match-up with Bayern.
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