Bayern Munich v Atletico Madrid | Tuesday 3 May | Allianz Arena | 20:45
The Allianz Arena plays host to the second leg of this fascinating Champions League semi-final between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. Atletico defied my expectations with a typically resolute defensive effort last weekend. Simione - perhaps more so than any other manager in the competition - understands the psychological lift that a clean sheet at home gives in the classical Champions League format. And this is set up perfectly for them. Bayern are going to have to score and will offer Atletico the space necessary to counter effectively.
Pep Guardiola’s side will need to temper aggression with caution in what is bound to be a titanic clash in Germany.
To Win (90 Mins)
Bayern 6/10 | Draw 11/4 | Atletico 9/2
Bayern Munich missed out on the opportunity to secure the Bundesliga this past weekend with a disappointing draw against 'Gladbach. The Bavarian powerhouse seems to be burdened by the weight of expectation in recent weeks.
Guardiola’s imminent departure adds a further dose of urgency to what is becoming a do or die fixture in determining the fundamental legacy left by the Spaniard. Atletico squeezed the midfield effectively last week and seemed to dominate the battle for fifty-fifty balls. Bayern enjoyed possession but were forced to operate laterally rather than incisively.
Thiago may come into the side to give Bayern some more ingenuity in tight spaces. It’s all well and good having Vidal’s demonstrative midfield presence and Alonso’s range of passing, but the demonic hustling that Atletico possess requires a more dexterous approach than perhaps any other club in the competition.
Muller and Lewandowski need to show slightly more urgency in the final third of the field and will need to capitalize on any opportunity presented to them.
While this does seem to be a considerable challenge for the German monolith, one can’t help but cast their mind back to the manner in which they overcame Juventus in the round of 16.
Diego Simeone's accomplishments at Atletico are difficult to fathom. To effectively dismantle the complete hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Spanish context is one thing, but to extend that ruthless competitive format onto the European format - whilst operating on drastically inferior economic realities - is quite frankly unbelievable.
There is an ‘all for one and one for all’ ethos that permeates the entire squad. Niguez, Fernandez, and co are willing to sacrifice individual plaudits for group success. Simione’s more vitriolic demeanour perhaps has the capacity to instil a healthy dose of fear in his disciples.
Atletico will relish the chance to sit back and engage reactively to Bayern’s attempts to break them down. Luiz and Juanfran showed great athleticism in the first leg and will need to replicate that endeavour if they are to subdue what will be a rampant Bayern side.
They will be hoping that Bayern overcommit in the midfield, freeing up space for Koke and Carrasco to exploit. Greizmann is clearly their main target man and driving force going forward. But I predict that he will remain a largely anonymous figure as Atletico hang back in waiting.
Verdict: Bayern 6/10 It just seems that Bayern have the ability to elicit a performance when it really matters. Atletico have the whole masochistic ‘defend at all costs mantra’ down to a tee, but this week may turn out to be the time that the dam wall breaks.
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