Real Madrid v/s Bayern Munich: Robert Lewandowski returns to keep Bavarians’ title hopes alive – Bayern face familiar Champions League fate in Madrid
Carlo Ancelotti, Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jupp Heynckes, Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich, Real Madr (AFP – Christof Stache)
Bayern Munich face a familiar problem as they travel to old European foes Real Madrid on Tuesday needing to make history to keep faint hopes of Champions League glory alive.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s second-half double in Munich last week made him the first man to reach a century of European goals, but more importantly handed Madrid a vital 2-1 first leg lead.
The 11-time European champions have never failed to progress after winning the first leg away from home in the Champions League.
“It won’t be easy, we’re the underdogs, but we’ll have a chance to win in Madrid,” insisted Bayern captain Philipp Lahm after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen.
Recent history, though, would say otherwise.
Should Bayern fail to pull off a fightback, it will be the fourth successive season they have been eliminated by Spanish opposition.
When Pep Guardiola was hired as Bayern boss in 2013, he was expected by the Bavarians’ demanding hierarchy to build on Jupp Heynckes’s treble and create a Bayern dynasty of the like that saw them win three consecutive European Cups between 1974-1976.
Heynckes’s Bayern thrashed a worn down Barcelona left behind by Guardiola a year earlier 7-0 on aggregate on their way to winning the Champions League.
However, the Germans have only known defeat in four visits to Spain since without even scoring a goal.
Guardiola was humiliated on his three returns to Spain as Bayern boss in three semi-final, first legs on the way to elimination against Real, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti was named as Guardiola’s replacement specifically for his European nous having won the Champions League a record three times as a coach.
Yet, the Italian hasn’t been able to find a solution for Bayern’s Spanish travel sickness as they also lost 1-0 to Atletico on their most recent visit back in September.
Bayern’s struggles tell a broader tale, though, as Spanish sides have won their last 11 European ties against German opponents in the past three seasons.
With Ancelotti’s men needing to score at least twice to have any chance of progressing, it is just as well top scorer Robert Lewandowski looks set to shake off a shoulder injury to start at the Bernabeu.
The Pole, who has scored 38 goals in 40 games this season, missed the first leg and the stalemate against 10-man Leverkusen in which Bayern missed a host of chances.
“The chances we missed were fatal,” fumed Thomas Mueller, whilst former Bayern star Lothar Matthaeus said Lewandowski is simply “irreplaceable.”
Lewandowski has haunted Madrid in the past, scoring four times in a famous semi-final, first leg rout for Borussia Dortmund on their way to the Champions League final in 2013.
And if Bayern need more encouragement, Ancelotti has shown he can dramatically turn around historic streaks in the past.
Before the 2013/14 season Madrid had won just once in 25 visits to Germany.
However, after smashing Schalke 6-0 in Gelsenkirchen, they went onto eliminate both Dortmund and Bayern on their way to winning the competition.
A similar turnaround in Bayern’s fortunes would be sweet revenge for Ancelotti on his first return to the Santiago Bernabeu since being sacked by trigger happy Real president Florentino Perez in 2015.