Berlin (MunichNOW Sports / dpa) – While Bayern Munich may have successfully defended their Bundesliga title, their bid to become the first club to retain the modern-day Champions League hangs by a thread when they host Real Madrid in the semi-final second leg on Tuesday.
Bayern won the Bundesliga in record time, the domestic title being decided in March for the first time ever, but it is in the Champions League that their campaign will be defined. Successfully defending the European crown would make them the first club since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990 to do so and would guarantee a place in the history books.
Failure would not only be a missed opportunity but it would call into question coach Pep Guardiola’s possession-based football philosophy.
When Bayern dismantled Barcelona – a side shaped by Guardiola, even if he was no longer coach – at the Champions League semi-final stage last season it was a victory for pace and counter-attacking over keeping the ball without attempting to penetrate the opposing defence.
In the first leg clash between Bayern and Real last week, the visitors dominated possession but it was the
hosts who made the better chances and won the game 1-0 when Karim Benzema tapped home to finish a lightning quick counter-attack.
Similarly in the quarter-final, Bayern laboured to break down a Manchester United side intent on defending despite having clear control of possession for long spells of both legs.
Bayern did score five against Werder Bremen on Saturday to ease their attacking concerns but conceded twice on the break in a manner which will make Real confident of securing a crucial away goal on Tuesday. “We have to push forward, play our game, score goals and of course watch out for their counter-attacks,” Arjen Robben said on Tuesday.
Defender Jerome Boateng expressed his frustration at how the side had been caught short at the back on Saturday but coach Guardiola reaffirmed his attacking principles. “We need more than a goal to progress. We have to push forward,” he said but also called on his team to “play more effectively” and demanded aggression in the penalty box. “I have to find the balance,” he added.
Balance is required as conceding just once would mean Bayern require at least three goals of their own to reach the final. That could be a tall order against a Real side which has allowed only one goal in their last four matches.
Bayern will have the backing of a passionate crowd in what is sure to be a special atmosphere. Various players have asked for the support of the fans. “We know that they (the fans) will be behind us tomorrow,” said David Alaba. “We need them.”
Coach Guardiola agreed with the Austrian international before reminding everyone that the players held their destiny in their own hands. “At the end of the day, it’s down to us. The fans can’t score a goal,” he said.