Mon, Apr 29, 11:02pm by Kevin Pitstock
After completion of the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals, it looks to be an all-German final. With both first leg matches played in Germany, the German sides each put up four goals. Bayern Munich humbled Barcelona 4-nil, whilst Real Madrid allowed Robert Lewendowski to steal the spotlight in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 stomping of Real Madrid.
Many a pundit thinks that the semis are over. However, this football fan is not so sure that is the case. To be quite fair, both Real Madrid and Barcelona have huge mountains to climb if they are to advance to the finals. Both sides have the “climbers” and the “equipment” to reach the peak. To write either side off as having zero chance of winning is quite unfair and even disrespectful to them. This upsets me. However, the punter in me fully realizes that these matches should provide plenty of opportunity to profit due to the heavily slanted view of the public.
At the time of this writing, both Spanish clubs are favoured to win the second leg at home. Whilst Real and Barca are expected to win the match, they are both long shots to qualify for the next round. IASBet lists Barca at 1.91 to win the match and 12.00 to go through to the finals on aggregate. Barcelona failed to score the ever-important away goal in the first leg.
Real Madrid have the benefit of the away goal, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal. Their away goal makes them 4.25 to qualify for the finals, according to IASBet. Additionally, Real Madrid are 1.61 to win the second leg of their Champions League tie.
For both clubs, history is against them. Only five sides have ever came back to win a Champions League tie when they were down by two or more goals from the first leg. Whilst history shows this feat has been accomplished five times, it has never been done in a semi-final leg. In the 2003-04 quarter-finals, Deportivo recovered from a 4-1 deficit against AC Milan to win 5-4 on aggregate. Real Madrid’s Kaka witnessed this recovery first-hand, as he was part of the losing Milan side and scored two goals in the first leg of the tie.
AS Monaco came storming back in the quarterfinals of the same year. Their victim was none other than Real Madrid. Madrid went up 4-2 in the first leg, only to allow Monaco to recover and advance by winning the second leg 3-1, sending the French side through on away goals.
Barcelona made the recovery themselves. Chelsea went up 3-1 at home in the first leg of the 1999-2000 quarter-finals. The return leg saw Barca drop five bombs on Chelsea (two in extra time) to go through on aggregate and complete the comeback. Chelsea made the comeback themselves in 2011-12, as they stormed back against Napoli in the round of 16. Like Barca, Chelsea needed extra time in order to go through.
In addition, Barca recovered from a two goal deficit in this year’s round of 16, as they were down 2-nil after their round of 16 first-leg match against AC Milan. Lionel Messi scored two in the first half of the return leg at Camp Nou, whilst David Villa and Jordi Alba also contributed to the score line to see the Spanish Giants through.
Now that we have shown it is surely possible, let’s look at the second leg matches to decide which Spanish home side, if any, are likely to play in the finals.
Robert Lewendowski was a one-man show for Dortmund in front of his home supporters. His four goals in the first leg served to keep Dortmund as the only remaining unbeaten side in the Champions League Competition.
Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp will surely field a more defensive side in their away leg. However, he will certainly consider that sometimes the best defence is a strong offense – which Lewendowski proved he is more than capable of delivering. Lewendowski entered Dortmund’s weekend match as a sub, playing twenty-odd minutes in light duty to keep him fresh for the mid-week Champions League tie. Dortmund went on to win their league match 2-1 against 15th place Fortuna Düsseldorf. Sahin and Blaszczykowski scored for Dortmund.
For Madrid, The Special One will demand near-perfection from his side. Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo picked up an injury in the first leg. He did not suit up for his side over the weekend in their 2-1 win against Athletico Madrid. Di Maria added his name to the score sheet with the match winner in the 63rd minute to give Real the victory in the Madrid Derby.
Tactically speaking, Madrid are expected to field an attack-minded side. Cristiano Ronaldo leads all goal scorers in the Champions League with twelve goals. Whilst Ronaldo is on twelve, the next highest scorer is Karim Benzema, who is on four goals. To say Madrid are not largely dependent upon Ronaldo’s ability to score would be quite an understatement. However, the likes of Benzema, Higuain, Mesut Ozil, and company provide threats from all parts of the pitch for Real. The Spanish hosts are without Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo – both of whom are injured. To win at home by a large enough margin to move onto the finals, Mourinho will not only require productivity from his strikers, but he will also need his central midfielders – namely Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso to take charge in the centre of the pitch and provide service to their speedy, skilful strikers.
For Dortmund, their goal scoring has been substantially more diverse than that of Madrid’s. Robert Lewandowski is on ten goals for Dortmund, whilst Marco Reus has scored four. Mario Götze and Felipe Santana each have two goals to his name, whilst Schmelzer, Hummels, Blaszczykowski, and Schieber each have a goal to their name. For Dortmund to move on to the finals, they may need an away goal to place intense pressure on Real. In addition to grabbing an away goal, Dortmund must keep track of Ronaldo, possibly to the point of man marking him throughout the match.
Historically, speaking, Madrid boasts eighteen wins, four draws, and only two losses against German opposition on Spanish soil. By comparison, Dortmund have lost five matches, whilst winning one and drawing four times when they travelled to Spain.
Expect the Special One to field a very attack-minded Starting XI. This leg of the Champions League should be a goals fest and must be if Real Madrid wish to move on to the Finals.
Prediction: Real Madrid 5 – Borussia Dortmund 1
To me, this fixture is far less likely to produce drama than the other is. Bayern Munich are simply the deepest and most complete team in the whole of Europe. Bayern hold a convincing 4-nil lead on aggregate and they collectively prevented the Spanish side from netting an away goal during the first leg. It is worth noting, however, that Barcelona sunk four goals on Bayern at Camp Nou in the 2008-09 Champions League Quarterfinals. Barca’s 4-goal effort in ’09 saw the Spanish side through on aggregate by a 5-1 margin. Barcelona went on to win the competition.
Barcelona is unbeaten at the Nou Camp during this year’s CL competition and have not dropped a European match at home in over four years. However, Bayern Munich looks to secure their third appearance in the finals out of their past four seasons.
Barcelona absolutely need their Argentinian magician Lionel Messi to work his magic. Messi has been playing through a hamstring injury and has eight goals in this year’s Champions League competition. Xavi Hernandez has provided four assists for Barca. Jordi Alba has two goals for Barca, whilst seven players have a single goal for Barcelona during the competition.
Bayern Munich sees Thomas Muller leading their scoring with seven goals on the campaign. Cladio Pizarro has four goals for the Bavarians and Tony Kroos has three, whilst strikers Mario Gomez, Mario Mandzukic, midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, and Arjen Robben have each scored twice in the Champions League. Franck Ribery and Shaqiri also have a goal to their name. Bayern’s 26 goals in eleven matches lead all clubs in scoring. Barcelona have scored eighteen by comparison.
Whilst Bayern lead the competition in scoring, Barcelona dominate the stats in passing and possession. Barcelona average 68% possession (35 minutes worth per match) and have completed nearly 2400 more passes than Bayern have.
In the first leg, Barcelona looked panicked and rightfully so. Their typical slow, methodical, and deliberate style of passing was replaced by higher paced, higher risk passes that were quite uncharacteristic of the Spanish side. Barcelona controlled the ball in the first leg, possessing it 63-37%. However, Bayern were far more efficient with what they did when they had the ball, as they scored four times out of nine shots on the frame.
If Barcelona are to win the match, let alone go through to the finals, they must possess smartly and score. Their side is capable of waging a comeback without rushing themselves. Thus, they must remain patient and play with urgency whilst not forcing themselves. However, this is far easier said than done. Bayern field an extremely disciplined and skilled side from top to bottom. Bayern is also capable of losing the leg but winning the tie.
Prediction: Barcelona 2 – Bayern Munich 2
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