Rob Stone is the lead studio host for FOX Sports' soccer broadcasts. He was kind enough to answer some questions about Real Madrid's upcoming Champions League tie against Bayern Munich with play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson and analyst Eric Wynalda on the call (FOX Sports 1, Wednesday, 2:00 PM ET).
Q: Rob, how has this Bayern Munich squad changed since Pep Guardiola took over?
I'm not totally sure that a lot has changed for them. They already won it all last season, so they already had that winning mentality. Some coaches want to bring their own coaching staff when they take over, but that has not been the case this time because Guardiola realized they had a great personnel in the club. They are now just three games away from winning back to back Champions League titles, something that hasn't been achieved since AC Milan's success during the late 80s.
Q: So, what are your odds for this tie?
Well, you wouldn't want to bet against the defending champions. I think the first leg will be hugely important in this tie. And obviously, there are some concerns regarding the injuries for both sides. I think it's also time for Real Madrid to reach the Final after so many years, so I am not exactly one of those who believe Bayern will surely go through.
Q: What will be they key?
I obviously have to answer Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale for Real Madrid. It seems that they could both play and that could make the difference. But Bayern are a really strong side and they can play whatever style they want to play. They can play physical, they can play possession-oriented football and they don't have just one scorer. Every player in that team is a goal-scoring threat.
Q: How did you watch the Copa del Rey match?
Well, years ago, you got what you got in terms of football broadcasting. There weren't many games live on TV, but now you can watch almost everything. I see kids on school wearing Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi replicas, soccer is growing pretty fast here.
Q: And the Major League Soccer is growing fast too, right?
Exactly. You could say that no league is growing faster than MLS. It's a very organic league, and the atmosphere at the stadiums is really great. If you were to go to one of those stadiums completely blindfolded, you could guess that you are in Spain, Germany or England watching one of those leagues.
Q: So to get back to the Champions League tie and wrap this up, give me a prediction for our Semifinals!
I think we're going back to penalties! I predict a 2-1 or 3-1 win for Real Madrid with Bayern Munich doing the same kind of job for the second leg and both teams having a lot at stake in the shootout once again. It would be great for the neutral fans!
Q: Thanks Rob!