UCL Semi-Finals: Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich (1st Leg)

Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.

Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich | Wednesday 27 April | Vincente Calderon | 20:45

Champions League logo, Manchester City v Real Madrid first leg semi-final.

Pep Guardiola’s German experiment has elevated Bayern to unprecedented dominance in German football. He has broken down aesthetic barriers and successfully integrated more self-consciously fluid patterns of play at the Bavarian giants. Unfortunately, history may spin a more critical yarn if that Champions League trophy eludes them. For all his innovation, Pep has yet to bring the Holy Grail of club football home.

Diego Simeone benefits immeasurably from the perception that they are the perpetual underdogs. But don’t be fooled by that title; Simeone's side have earned their place at the adult’s table and will provide arguably the toughest test that Bayern will face this campaign.

To Win (90 Mins)
Atletico Madrid 18/10 | Draw 2/1 | Bayern Munich 16/10

Atletico Madrid
The manner in which Atletico stifled Barcelona’s attacking nexus was particularly striking considering Catalan’s recent form against Atletico. Simione’s side - surely the fittest in world football - never conceded an inch of ground without an almighty battle. Gabi and Niguez battled relentlessly while Griezmann continued to augment his standing as one of Europe’s hottest properties.

Bayern will probably offer more midfield bite than Barcelona through combative figures such as Vidal and Alonso. I expect Simione to play a 4-3-3 formation that will more closely resemble a 4-5-1 in practice; Koke and Carrasco will likely be charged with trying to aid Griezmann going forward.

Fernando Torres has been in impressive scoring form but will likely be kept on the bench to achieve the maximum athletic potential of the side. Godin and Gomez will believe that they can effectively cope with the presence of Robert Lewandowski.

Filipe Luis was brilliant against Barcelona; his form is perhaps one of the most prescient indictments of Chelsea’s failures to harness quality. Simione’s side will know that keeping a clean sheet at home is crucial to their chances of progression against favourites Bayern. Their side is perfectly suited for this sort of masochistic endeavour, so Bayern are going to have to get creative to circumnavigate this ferocious Atletico side.

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Bayern Munich
Pep Guardiola’s side have almost flown under the radar en route to the semi-finals. The fiasco that was Barcelona’s exit along with City’s historic qualification have been the real headline grabbers. This will suit Pep just fine as he aims to immortalize himself further in European folklore.

Bayern’s dynamic system has looked impressive recently and will need to be especially efficient against this dogged Atletico side. Vidal and Alonso complement each other perfectly in midfield and will provide a far more stable midfield nucleus than Barcelona in the previous tie. Vidal’s tenacity will help them win those fifty fifties while Alonso’s ability to spread the play will also give Costa and Muller a chance to break on the counter.

Douglas Costa has proved to be a terrific signing for Bayern - cutting in off that right hand side with the type of intent that has kept Arjen Robben out of the side. Lewandowski has been lethal in front of goal while Thomas Muller has contributed tremendously from wider areas.

The battle between Luis on the left and club captain Phillipe Lahm could prove critical in seeing which side gains sway of proceedings. Luis has been extremely progressive this season while Lahm’s conversion back into a more traditional right back has been welcome.

Bayern are perhaps a more organized side than Barcelona. Barcelona’s incredibly free flowing attacking qualities - impressive as they are - seemed to grow increasingly disorganized and random in the face of a stern Atletico defence. Bayern will be more patient and seem able to combine flair and a more systematic approach to their attack

Verdict: Bayern 16/10
 I honestly feel that Bayern’s coherent attacking systems and more rugged midfield composition will see them conquer this valiant Atletico side. Lahm and Alaba should be able to contain the overlapping runs of Luis and Juanfran while Vidal proves instrumental in the midfield battle.

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