Yesterday I noted that Bayern Munich had won 13 of their 14 previous home matches, but I actually missed a statistic that counters it that in a way that will make us all feel a little better as we wait for kickoff at the Allianz this evening. Real Madrid have only conceded one away goal, thus far, during the 2011-12 Champions League tournament. Los blancos are the stingiest team in the entire competition conceding a meager six goals, while Bayern have conceded only seven. So while these sides are bursting with elite, world class attacking talent they've also been the two best defensive sides in the Champions League, as well. Join me after the jump for more analysis and commentary.
The prior Real Madrid connections of Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes is one of the tie's most intriguing subplots and Henyckes confirmed that he has indeed been keeping close tabs on Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, saying:
I know them well, I know how they play, I know their players, their reserve team players.
So I'm sure he knows that Ricardo Carvalho and Lass Diarra have not traveled to Munich, according to Sky Sports. There was a lot of discussion and speculation about Lass in the comments yesterday and his unavailability may signal, as some of us hoped, that Mourinho will opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation with Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso linking the defense and attack and not a 4-3-3 system
The other big selection mystery is exactly who will feature with Cristiano Ronaldo. Which 2 of the following 3 will be selected: Kaka, Mesut Ozil or Angel Di Maria? Signs seem to point to Kaka getting a start or at the very least significant minutes. Will Mourinho opt for the Ozil/Kaka combo that has demonstrated potential and chemistry this season and use Di Maria as a super sub? Or will Ozil be rested for Barca? The answers to these questions will come soon enough but the suspense is intense.
Another wildcard is Fabio Coentrao. The versatile Portuguese defender/midfielder has seemingly fallen out of favor and it has become increasingly difficult to predict how and where he fits into Jose Mourinho's plans. It'll be interesting to see what role, if any, he plays in today's match. His defensive ability is superior to Marcelo's, so I'm anticipating that he'll be selected at left-back. Alvaro Arbeloa is a good bet to be selected as right-back and his ability to contain Franck Ribery will be one of the decisive factors in the tie. I just hope that Arbeloa takes an extremely conservative, stay-at-home approach this evening. Sound positional play from the Spanish international will be critical.
Bayern will have a strong, full squad at their disposal, with the only question mark being the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger who has just returned from injury. The influential midfielder is expected to play, but for how long and at what level of effectiveness remains to be seen. Sami Khedira's ability to neutralize Schweinsteiger could be one of the key factors in today's match-up.
Jose Mourinho has chosen an interesting psychological tactic ahead of this match, remarking that his side had "nothing to lose." It could be a simple of case of the manager subliminally telling his side to relax, but, as we all know, Real Madrid have much to lose if they don't turn in 2 very strong performances this week.
Let's talk, Madridistas! Kick off nears. Hala Madrid!
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