Our footy scribe previews the mouth-watering UEFA Champions League contest between Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid.
On paper, this should have been a pulsating group decider that could have gigantic ramifications on the entire competition. Instead, Bayern’s inconsistency in the group has relegated this to something of a damp squib, with Atletico guaranteed to finish top of the group.
Both of these European heavyweights are having inconsistent seasons and both are actually aiming for a slice of European history this Tuesday night. Just generally, I think there’s more at stake here than what superficially appears. Being able to claim a prize scalp could be huge for confidence as both sides rightly consider themselves possible European champions.
UEFA Champions League | Tuesday 6 December | Allianz Arena | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Bayern Munich 6/10 | Draw 28/10 | Atletico Madrid 9/2
Bayern Munich did what they needed to do this week with a fairly routine win over Mainz. Polish hitman Robert Lewandowski continued to light up the Bundesliga with a terrific brace while Arjen Robben returned to scoring form. I personally feel like Carlo Ancelotti could do without this 4-3-3 formation, and should return to the 4-2-3-1 championed by Pep Guardiola.
Furthermore, Joshua Kimmich just looks the better option at right back at present, despite Philipp Lahm’s relationship with the club. It looks as if Arturo Vidal should partner Xabi Alonso in midfield, bringing some necessary bite to proceedings, while Robben and Franck Ribery may get to rekindle their old partnership.
It looks as if Kingsley Coman and Holger Badstuber will be unavailable for this game, with Ancelotti actually in the refreshing position of having a large squad to choose from. Bayern have an imperious record over Spanish teams at home in European competition, having won 17 out of 24 matches, losing only twice.
Furthermore, Bayern are looking to extend their unbelievable home winning streak in Europe to 15 matches. There are clearly powerful historical forces at work here. The Germans perhaps possess the greater amount of goal threats, but they are coming up against a team whose European pedigree in recent seasons has been nothing short of impeccable.
Atletico were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by in-form Espanyol at the weekend, leaving them a full nine points behind city rivals Real Madrid. I could sense that there was still some residue left following that disappointing defeat to their eternal rivals. They only managed three shots in the first half, the joint least for them the entire season at the Vicente Calderon.
At least they reclaimed some of their defensive solidity and I’m sure that Diego Simeone will be motivated to win this week. If Atletico win, they will become only the 7th side in UEFA Champions League history to win all six of their group games.
One area where Atletico impressed in the first tie was the midfield, with the likes of Koke and Saul Niguez dominant. If Bayern choose to persist with the 4-3-3, my guess is that Atletico will just play it narrow and flood the centre of the field, with various players capable of intricately picking Bayern apart.
Surely Ancelotti will opt to play Vidal alongside Alonso in a reversion to the 4-2-3-1. Antoine Griezmann has been slightly ineffective in recent games, with perhaps schedule overload and Euros hangover catching up to the ebullient Frenchman.
Verdict: Totals – Over 2.5 Goals (17/20)
If I was in a bind, I would go for the Bavarian giants, purely giving the goal-scoring form of Lewandowski versus the Griezmann’s recent anonymity. I expect both sides – safe in the knowledge of their destinies – to attempt to entertain and make history.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets