In the second leg of the semi-final of the 2011-2012 UEFA Champions League. The winner will face Chelsea after that club's thrilling victory over Barcelona this evening. FC Bayern carries a 2-1 lead into the second leg. With Real Madrid holding an away goal, a single goal from the home side will put them over Bayern. But if we're able to pick up even one goal, Real's task will become huge against our tough defense and 'keeper.
I've been out of town for a few days, so correct me if I'm missing any surprise injuries or absences. Robben and Ribery appear to have made nice after their recent ... adventure. Even if there are lingering tensions, everyone appears to be on the same page for tomorrow. So, we'd expect to see our standard line-up, which is completely set at all positions except for the CDMs (could be Bastian + Gustavo, Bastian + Kroos, or possible Kroos + Gustavo) and in the CAM / second-striker hole (could be Kroos or Mueller).
My guess - as always, don't bet on me getting it right:
Ribery - Kroos - Robben
Schweinsteiger - Gustavo
Alaba - Badstuber - Boateng - Lahm
Keep in mind this is what I'm guessing WILL happen, not what SHOULD. Based on the last match, we actually looked more dangerous with Tommy in the hole and Kroos back in the midfield, but it's doubtful Bastian starts on the bench. We went with this line-up last week and won, so I imagine we would try it again. Mueller as first guy off the bench.
Real Madrid is always dangerous, and especially at home. I have to admit, though, I was a little surprised at how tentative they looked for much of the last leg. For most of the second half, Bayern really controlled the match and Real seemed to be clearly playing for a draw. Anyway, that won't be an issue tomorrow, as they need to score and FC Bayern can sit back and let the match come to us (and hopefully take advantage of some holes in the back).
After a hard-fought victory over Barcelona this weekend, Real won't be 100% fresh, but they have a lot of depth, so this isn't any kind of huge advantage. Two guys who haven't seen much action recently are Gonzalo Higuain and Kaka. Higuain came on in the late stages of both the first semi-final leg and the recent Classico, but only for a few minutes. And Kaka has been riding the bench for a while now. If fatigue is a factor, perhaps one or both of these two might get a start. But it's also a possibility that Jose Mourinho doesn't feel fully confident in them, and/or really just like Benzema up top and the Khedira - Alonso mix in the midfield. And this weekend, at least, they seemed to justify his faith.
Elsewhere in the Competition
Shellll-sayyyyy! They have a lot of guys suspended for the final, too - like, practically half their team. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though.
- As I said on the podcast last week, the key to this match is whether Bayern can get a goal. If we get blanked, it's going to be very hard for us to keep Real out of the net the entire match, too. Certainly possible, but not too likely. Last leg didn't feel like a game that would lead to a lot of 0-0 results. But if we can get on the board even once, we really give RM a steep hill to climb.
- That match starts at 2:45 Eastern USA time, which is 8:45 Central European time. We'll be here before the match with line-ups and a Match Day Thread, and immediately afterwards with a recap and video highlights.
- Even if Bayern defends pretty well (which I think we will), Manuel Neuer is going to have to make at least a few stops. He came up big last week against Benzema, and that early save set the tone and seemed to frustrate Real a bit. Manuel's first season has been interesting: a few really good saves mixed in with a handful of blunders and strange bad-luck bounces some of which costs us matches. But if he comes up big tomorrow, all that is forgotten.
- Sorry for the delay in the preview. I've been travelling all day, and our connecting flight was delayed by 3 hours. Just got home a few minutes ago. If it makes you feel any better, watching the Bayern match and writing this blog was pretty much the only thing about coming home I was looking forward to. Thanks for reading.