Bayern Munich and Atlético Madrid are bracing up for the UEFA Champions League Semifinal in a match that is expected to be a knockout, drag-out fight for prevalence. Soccer betting odds-makers are favoring the German team, but midfielder Mario Goetze acknowledges that “we will have to fight for every centimetre and need to be switched on from the very first minute. We’ll have to play cleverly and need to put in our best performance.”
Unlike Real Madrid or FC Barcelona – which are like little lost boys without their respective stars – Munich has a deep roster.
As a matter of fact, Bayern’s Spanish coach Josep Guardiola – Pep to his friends, which I’m not – made seven changes to his starting line-up in a 2-0 winning over Hertha Berlin on Saturday. “When we rotate, it’s really important that our game still works, so we wanted to put in another good defensive display,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Bayern Munich are one win away from a record fourth Bundesliga championship in a row, and striker Robert Lewandowski is en fuego – having scored 38 goals this season, eight of which came in the Champions League. To put it bluntly, they are delivering the Teutonic Terror.
Experts on betting on football might think that Bayern are not losing any sleep over Atlético – and it is hard to lose sleep over a team referred to as Mattress Makers. But the truth is that the Madrilean team has already slain one giant and they might have it in them to topple another. Like David and Godzilla from the bible. Atletico’s back-four has only conceded six goals in their ten Champions League games so far, and prodigal son Fernando El Niño Torres is going through a sort of renaissance, scoring five goals in the last six games and seems to have gotten his lost mojo back. And in addition to their defensive prowess, which could make them San Antonio Spurs of soccer, Atlético also packs an effective counterpunch. And soccer connoisseurs are very high on Koke… Atlético’s midfielder that is, coach Diego El Cholo Simeone’s field general.
All things considered, Bayern Munich are the best in the world at what they do, and what they do best isn’t very nice to the people that they do it to. But Atlético Madrid are their biggest challenge so far and, historically, have not lost to a German team in about 20 years. All signs indicate that that streak will end this Wednesday or whenever the second leg is played at the latest, but expect Atlético to give Bayern Munich a good run for their money. In the end, though, anyone expecting a Cinderella story here is in for a rude awakening.