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Bayern, Madrid lock horns with Champions League final spot at stake

German powerhouse Bayern Munich and Spanish giants Real Madrid will collide in a thrilling Champions League semifinal at the iconic Allianz Arena on Tuesday night after both teams extinguished English hopes of European glory.

Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern side overcame Arsenal in the quarterfinals, while Real Madrid eliminated Manchester City in a tense penalty shootout, showcasing their pedigree in Europe’s premier tournament.

The Bavarians, no longer the perennial Bundesliga champions, seek redemption in the Champions League after disappointments in domestic competitions.

This tournament might be their only shot at glory before Tuchel’s tenure in Munich ends.

Despite not replicating their previous dominant performances, Bayern managed a 1-0 second-leg victory over Arsenal, with Joshua Kimmich’s header sealing the win after a thrilling 2-2 draw in London.

This victory sets up their first semifinal appearance since their 2019-20 triumph.

On the other hand, Real Madrid boast an impressive record against Bayern in the Champions League knockout stages and arrive in Munich with an 18-game unbeaten streak.

Bayern Munich’s narrow victory over Arsenal marked the start of a four-match winning streak for Tuchel’s side.

They followed this up with convincing back-to-back Bundesliga wins over Union Berlin (5-1) and Eintracht Frankfurt, with Harry Kane’s 34th and 35th Bundesliga goals of the season sealing the latter.

The Englishman’s match-winning brace at the Allianz Arena also saw him reach the milestone of 400 career goals.

His next challenge is to help Bayern extend their impressive 15-match unbeaten run at home in the Champions League, with three clean sheets in their last three European matches on home turf.

Bayern’s last home Champions League defeat was Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-2 victory exactly three years ago.

If Tuchel’s men can overcome Real Madrid, they will face either French champions-elect PSG or Borussia Dortmund in the final at Wembley.

However, Los Blancos will not make it easy for Bayern, as demonstrated by their thrilling 3-3 draw with Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

The La Liga log leaders emerged victorious in the subsequent penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Andriy Lunin playing a heroic role by saving crucial penalties from Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic.

Real Madrid’s impressive form extends beyond Europe.

They have an 18-game unbeaten run and key victories in La Liga, including a memorable win over Barcelona in El Clasico.

They arrive in Munich with confidence and momentum, making them formidable opponents for Bayern in this semifinal clash.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have maintained a flawless European record in the 2023-24 season.

Entering the semifinals, they are unbeaten in 10 consecutive Champions League matches, just one shy of their all-time record set during their triumphant 2016-17 campaign.

If Los Blancos can secure at least a draw in the upcoming match, their prospects will look promising.

Additionally, Real Madrid boast an impressive six-match unbeaten streak against Bayern Munich in Champions League matches, eliminating them in 2013-14, 2016-17, and 2017-18 before clinching the title each year.

Bayern Munich coped well without the banned Alphonso Davies in their second-leg match against Arsenal, with Noussair Mazraoui and Raphael Guerreiro effectively neutralizing Bukayo Saka.

However, Davies is now available after serving his one-match suspension.

In contrast, Bayern is dealing with several long-term injuries, including Sacha Boey (hip), Gabriel Marusic (ACL), Bouna Sarr (ACL), and Tarek Buchmann (hamstring). While none of these players were expected to start, Tuchel faces an injury crisis with numerous first-team regulars sidelined.

Konrad Laimer and Matthijs de Ligt, respectively, suffered ankle and knee injuries during the match against Frankfurt. Tuchel is hopeful that both players will recover in time for the first leg. Jamal Musiala, who missed the weekend match due to tendon pain, is also in contention.

The Bayern infirmary is further crowded with Leroy Sane (groin), Serge Gnabry (hamstring), Dayot Upamecano (ankle), and Kingsley Coman (groin), all nursing injuries.

However, Coman is the only one confirmed to miss the first leg at this point.

Real Madrid’s medical situation is much better than that of their host, Bayern Munich.

Ancelotti is expected to receive a significant boost with the return of Jude Bellingham, who was rested for the match against Sociedad due to a sickness bug.

Rodrygo and Ferland Mendy have also recovered from their respective illnesses and fatigue, leaving only Thibaut Courtois and David Alaba sidelined with knee injuries. Courtois could even return for the match against Cadiz on May 4.

In the meantime, Andriy Lunin will continue to guard the posts, while Bellingham, Rodrygo and Mendy are likely to be included in the starting XI after Ancelotti rotated the squad for the Sociedad game.

However, Ancelotti will be forced to make a change at right back, as Dani Carvajal received a yellow card suspension in the match against Manchester City.

Lucas Vazquez, who performed admirably in El Clasico, will start in Munich.

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