EUROPEAN football expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over Wednesday night's titanic Champions League tussle between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport 2
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid boast 16 European Cups between them but only one of Europe’s big boys can progress to the Champions League semi-finals, meaning we should be treated to two blockbusting ties across the next six days.
In a fascinating subplot, this fixture also pits together two close friends and previous colleagues in the dugout. Zinedine Zidane played under Carlo Ancelotti at Juventus and worked as his assistant at Real Madrid when Los Blancos destroyed the Germans in their last meeting in this competition.
Bayern hitting their stride
Ancelotti is now in charge at Bayern and the three-times winner of the Champions League is bringing the Bavarians to boil at just the right time. The avuncular Italian was criticised for his slow-starting side but gradually FC Hollywood are hitting expected heights.
Bayern play a direct, counter-attacking style and it paid dividends on Saturday when the Bundesliga table-toppers dismantled Dortmund 4-1 in Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena. It was Munich’s seventh successive home victory and kept the Bavarians 10 points clear at the summit domestically.
Record-breaking home form
The German champions suffered a surprise reverse at Hoffenheim earlier in April but their stranglehold at the Allianz can’t be opposed. Bayern are unbeaten here across all competitions since March 2016 with the hosts churning out a record-breaking run of 16 successive home Champions League wins.
The Bayern juggernaut has seen Ancelotti’s outfit notch 29 goals since Valentine’s Day here, notching at least four goals in three of their last four as hosts. And in attack FC Hollywood have Robert Lewandowski in the form of his life – the Polish hitman has scored 46 goals in 45 games for club and country.
At the back, Manuel Neuer’s expected to return and with Jerome Boateng partnering Javi Martinez once more in central defence, the Bavarians will be keen to extend a streak of shipping just three goals in 1,045 minutes of action at the Allianz Arena.
Madrid’s battle for supremacy
Visitors Real Madrid leaked a late goal in the city derby against Atletico on Saturday afternoon but with Barcelona beaten in Malaga, Los Blancos are now heavy favourites to clinch a first La Liga triumph since 2012.
But the demanding Spanish giants have also set their sights on becoming the first club to retain the Champions League trophy. And despite their strong claims to deliver the double, pressure is mounting on Zidane.
Madrid’s defensive woe
Real’s raw results and form appear strong – Madrid have W12-D3-L1 since mid-January – but performances have been far less impressive, especially defensively. On Wednesday night the visitors arrive without both Raphael Varane and Pepe meaning Nacho will be paired alongside Sergio Ramos at centre-back.
Dani Carvajal missed training this week but should overcome injury and having failed to record a clean sheet on their travels since mid-December, conceding at least twice in six of their 10 away days during that sample, Los Blancos supporters are understandably concerned.
Napoli could and should have made Madrid pay during their 6-2 aggregate Last 16 exit. Don’t be fooled by that final score – the Italians cut Real open on numerous occasions but failed to take a catalogue of opportunities and I wouldn’t expect Bayern to be quite so kind.
An attack that deserves respect
The triumvirate of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale will start for Madrid and whilst the inclusion of all three stars takes away from the balance of the team, it ensures the capital club boast a major goalscoring threat and I’d fancy the Spaniards to get on the scoresheet.
Real have scored in each of their past 52 matches, with their last blank coming in the semi-finals of last season's tournament at Manchester City. And so whilst I’m down on the defending champions’ chances of a positive result here, I’m respectful of their ability to make their mark.
The betting angles
So there’s two angles of attack that interest me here. Firstly, Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score seems too good to turn down at 19/20 (Coral) and secondly I’ll back a Bayern win alongside BTTS at 47/20 (BetStars).
Both teams have scored in each of Madrid’s past 10 away games across all competitions – averaging 4.30 goals per-game – plus all eight of their Champions League ties this term have featured winning BTTS selections.
The duo have scored at least twice in 14 of their collective 16 Champions League games this season and kept a collective two clean sheets with Over 2.5 Goals rewarding goal-heavy backers in 14 fixtures during the same sample.
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (19/20 Coral)
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid – Bayern Munich to win and Both Teams To Score (47/20 BetStars)