Madrid the Real deal

  • By: Dave Tickner
  • Last Updated: April 23 2014, 19:38 BST

A true meeting of Champions League heavyweights at the Bernabeu pits nine-time champions Real Madrid against five-time winners, and defending champions, Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid: Can take first-leg lead to Munich
Real Madrid: Can take first-leg lead to Munich

For Real Madrid it's a fourth successive appearance in the semi-finals, while Bayern are looking to reach a fourth final in the last five years.

Real have been in scintillating form in recent weeks, while Bayern's Champions League march has been accompanied by an almost faultless cruise to domestic Bundesliga glory.

Unsurprisingly, then, the betting for the first leg in Spain is tight. Real Madrid are marginal favourites, but still look tempting to me at 7/5.

The Spanish giants have won 23 out of 25 home games this season. Since the turn of the year that record is 12 out of 13 and they have scored at least three goals in each of their last nine games at the Bernabeu.

They have won 15 of their last 17 home Champions League games, netting 55 goals in the process. (As an aside, and such historical stats should not be given too much significance, Bayern have lost their last five games at the Bernabeu.)

Real have been without Cristiano Ronaldo in recent weeks but he looks primed to return for this one. The Portuguese trained on Tuesday morning, with boss Carlo Ancelotti saying afterwards: "Cristiano has trained normally. We will have another test for him to be sure and after that we will make a decision. He is motivated to play in the semi-final.

"It is something that's very important for any player. He will play if there are no problems for sure. If there's a risk, he will not play, that's clear. This is an important match but the decisive match is next week."

The decisive match may well be next week in Munich, but there is no doubt Real's best chance is to take a lead with them.

They should be confident of doing so, and not just because of that stunning run of home form and last week's victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final at the Mestalla.

Real should be confident also because the Bayern Munich machine has in recent weeks shown the first signs of malfunction.

These things are all relative, and Bayern's form is hardly catastrophic. But there's a sense that the edge has gone from their game since wrapping up the title. Their only two league defeats of the season have come in their last three games, and they made hard work of eliminating a Manchester United side at its lowest ebb for 25 years in the quarter-finals of this competition.

It's far from panic stations, but for a side with winning sequences of 11 and 13 games this season their current run of three wins in the last seven marks a significant drop off in results.

A buoyant Real Madrid side, with Ronaldo back and Gareth Bale looking increasingly comfortable with his £85million price tag, look poised to take advantage of any Bayern weakness, however slight. The hosts must be the bet at the price.

  • Posted at 2015 BST on 22/04/2014.