Bayern: We won't apologise to Dortmund

The Bavarians’ vice-president has continued the ongoing dispute between the two clubs over a sum of money loaned to the Signal Iduna Park side during their financial struggles

Bayern Munich vice president Karl Hopfner has insisted that he will not be apologising to Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.

The rift between the pair stems from a disagreement in the details of a loan that Bayern paid Dortmund in 2004, a figure reported to be €2 million.

Watzke had initially claimed that Dortmund would have to pay eight per cent interest on the loan, before retracting the statement following fierce denials from Hopfner, who protested the rate of repayment was much lower.

“I have not insulted him, but placed only the facts on the table,” Hopfner said to Kicker.

When questioned whether there would be any apologies, Hopfner replied: “Certainly not, absolutely not.”

Despite admitting his initial error, Watzke went on to refute claims that Bayern’s loan saved Dortmund and aided their recovery from past financial problems.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Watzke said: “Bayern have given a loan to my predecessor in the previous year, and in February 2005, BVB was insolvent. So there you go: where have Bayern Munich contributed something to the rescue?”

Hopfner, who is currently interim president, will officially replace Uli Hoeness on May 2, after he was given a jail sentence in March for tax evasion.

Neuer: Bayern did a good job against world-class Madrid

The goalkeeper feels Pep Guardiola’s men did enough to earn a better result and is determined to turn things around next week

Manuel Neuer has admitted that Real Madrid made life difficult for Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie, but he feels the Bundesliga champions did well regardless of their 1-0 defeat.

The Bavarians enjoyed the majority of possession at the Santiago Bernabeu, yet failed to find the net as Karim Benzema’s first-half goal eventually proved to be decisive.

“It was tough for us, but we’ve still done a good job against these world-class players,” Neuer told Bayern’s official website.

“Real defended well and looked to hit us on the break, as we knew they would. We’re expecting the return to be similar.

“We have to prise them apart and create chances. We have to maintain concentration when we have the ball so we don’t get hit on the break.

“There’s everything to play for.”

Bayern resume Bundesliga action at home against Werder Bremen on Saturday before the return versus Madrid at the Allianz Arena on April 29.

Real Madrid close in on Decima dream despite '50% fit' Ronaldo and bed-ridden Bale

Carlo Ancelotti’s side saw less of the ball in their Champions League first-leg win over Bayern Munich, but won the game and took a significant step towards their main objective

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Real Madrid’s Decima dream draws ever closer. Carlo Ancelotti’s side tamed Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night to take the upper hand in the tie and move a step nearer to a 10th trophy in European football’s premier club competition. Even more impressively, they did it with Cristiano Ronaldo half fit and Gareth Bale on the bench following a bout of flu.

Ronaldo ran all evening but looked to lack some of his usual sharpness, blasting a glorious opportunity over the crossbar in the first half. But it was the 29-year-old’s slide-rule pass which picked out Fabio Coentrao’s overlapping run down the left and the full-back found Karim Benzema for an easy finish after 19 minutes.

Cristiano came off with 16 minutes left to be replaced by Bale, bed-ridden earlier this week with flu but fit enough to play a part in this match.

“Without Bale and with Cristiano only at 50 per cent, it’s not easy to play as well as we did,” Ancelotti said after the match. And he added, perhaps ominously for Bayern: “Both will be stronger on Tuesday.”

But whether both will play is another matter altogether. Ancelotti admitted that the 4-4-2 system he has employed in the last two games (the 2-1 Copa del Rey final success over Barcelona and now the win on Wednesday) allows his side to defend better.

“Against teams with so much possession, we are more comfortable defending in a 4-4-2,” the Italian explained.

Clinical | Benzema scored with his only touch in the penalty area on Wednesday

Indeed, in 180 minutes using that formation against two of the finest attacking sides in Europe, Madrid have conceded only once – and that was a header scored by Marc Bartra at Mestalla last Wednesday.

Then, Ronaldo sat out with an injury and against Bayern it was Bale’s turn. But with both likely to be much nearer full fitness next week, Ancelotti has a decision to make. His much-lauded ‘BBC’ trident (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano) has brought goals galore for Real this term, yet it makes Madrid more vulnerable in defence. So either Bale (or Ronaldo, but more likely the Welshman) adopts a more disciplined demarcation on Tuesday or one of the two is left on the bench. That being the Portuguese, it seems, is unlikely.

Ancelotti, however, knows full well the dangers presented by Tuesday’s trip to Munich – especially after Madrid almost threw away their three-goal lead at Dortmund in the quarter-finals earlier this month. “We will give everything like we did today,” the Italian said. “But we need to be prepared to suffer.”

On Wednesday, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria were all outstanding in midfield, so should Bale return to the starting line-up, it is likely to be Isco who drops to the bench. “It’s a difficult game, but we have to play with the will and the confidence we had today,” Ancelotti added. “Who knows what will happen there? But I’m confident.”

So he should be. While Wednesday’s win for Madrid was the first defeat for Guardiola as coach at the Bernabeu in eight visits, the result also means Ancelotti remains unbeaten versus Bayen in seven games. As he said before the match: “Bayern might be Madrid’s bogey team, but they’re not mine!”

The current champions’ failure to score an away goal means Madrid are now favourites with the bookmakers not only to advance to the final, but also to win this competition. Ancelotti, meanwhile, seems to have learned lessons from the Dortmund debacle and tightened up accordingly, and even though Bayern will be expected to score on Tuesday, so too will Real.

Without their two finest forwards in tip-top shape, Madrid showed on Wednesday that they no longer fear Bayern, nor are they afraid of Guardiola. The so-called German curse is almost buried, too, after aggregate successes over Schalke and Dortmund in previous rounds. So while there is still plenty of work to be done, Real’s Decima dream is now suddenly starting to look like a reality.

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Madrid defeat takes Guardiola's big-team record to just four wins in 11 games

The Bavarians have failed to raise their game against the elite this term and must resolve their big game malaise soon

By Enis Koylu

When Bayern Munich romped their way to the Champions League title last season, winning all but one of their knockout round games, it seemed there was no team capable of performing in a big game like the Bavarians.

They saw off Juventus with clinical ease, dismantled Barcelona 7-0 over two legs and looked a fearsome machine. They were expected to get even better this term, with the confidence of winning firmly instilled, but their peformances against top teams leave a lot to be desired.

Bayern began life under Pep Guardiola, who took over last summer, against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park in the DFL-Supercup and the Spaniard was given a harsh wake-up call as Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan inspired Jurgen Klopp’s side to a 4-2 win.

A month later, they took on Chelsea in the Uefa Supercup and yet another disappointing performance followed. Twice the Blues went ahead, despite playing much of the match with 10 men, before Javi Martinez forced a penalty shoot-out with a late, late equaliser and the German champions triumphed.

In early October, Bayern produced perhaps their best showing of the season at the Etihad Stadium in early October. The Bavarians started at a canter, Franck Ribery’s early goal setting them on the way to a 3-1 lead.

It was then that they really started to look the dominant force they had been the previous campaign. They got their first Bundesliga win over Borussia Dortmund since 2009-10 in November, winning 3-0 at the Westfalenstadion in an extraordinary sequence of domestic victories.

In Europe, however, they still looked susceptible as they let a two-goal lead slip at in the return game against City. Another goal from Manuel Pellegrini’s side may well have cost them dear and ensured they finished second in their group.

Bested | Dortmund stunned Bayern 3-0 at the Allianz Arena less than two weeks ago

They looked considerably rattled against Arsenal in the round of 16, needing Manuel Neuer to save a penalty early on. Had Wojciech Szczesny not been sent off for Arsene Wenger’s side, they may not have been able to come away with a 2-0 win.

In the return leg, the Gunners held them to a 0-0 draw despite Thomas Muller’s late missed spot kick and they also faced English opposition in the last eight. The worst Manchester United team in a generation gave them a scare, drawing the first-leg 1-1 and leading the second by a goal before the favourites produced a comeback.

They had the chance to reasssert their domestic dominance against BVB earlier in April but were comprehensively outplayed by a team missing a number of their first-team players, Klopp’s men winning 3-0 at the Allianz Arena.

And so their most recent high-profile clash was at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday. Bayern were limp, lifeless and unimaginative, as Real Madrid were noticeably untroubled in a 1-0 win which could have been by a greater margin. Hardly the form of the best team in the world.

All in all, that leaves them with a record of just four wins from 11 games against teams that can truly be classed among Europe’s elite – sides who will be fighting for trophies in the coming weeks.

With only two top teams in Germany, Bayern are realtively untroubled throughout a domestic season thanks to their vast array of riches and stars. But they must learn to raise their game ahead of Tuesday’s return with Carlo Ancelotti’s side, or risk missing out on retaining the Champions League.

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Second-leg turnaround a huge task, admits Muller

The versatile attacker was rather surprised by Madrid’s negative tactics and is determined to turn things around in the return

Thomas Muller feels Real Madrid’s defensive approach in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday was a sign of respect toward Bayern Munich and admits it will be difficult for his side to recover from the 1-0 defeat.

The Bundesliga side enjoyed the majority of possession at the Bernabeu as Carlo Ancelotti’s men were seemingly happy to sit back and defend, but the guests were unable to take advantage of their dominance and slumped to defeat as they found no reply to Karim Benzema’s first half strike.

I think Real Madrid showed us massive respect,” Muller was quoted as saying on Bayern’s official website.

Imagine this: Real Madrid pull everyone back to within 40 yards of their own goal on their home ground.

“We kept on battering away and we were close to scoring at the end. We’ve not done so and we have to make up for that in the return.

We have a huge task ahead of us.

The second leg is scheduled to take place at the Allianz Arena on April 29.

Benzema: Madrid confident of reaching final

The France international is optimistic about his side’s chances of making it to Lisbon in the wake of their 1-0 win over Bayern

Karim Benzema is confident that Real Madrid will reach the Champions League final at the expense of Bayern Munich following their 1-0 win in the first leg of their semi-final tie at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga champions dominated the majority of possession in the Spanish capital, but failed to beat Iker Casillas, meaning Benzema’s first half goal made the difference for the hosts.

“The return leg is going to be just as difficult as tonight. Having said that, we are confident we can win,” Benzema told Uefa’s official website.

“It was a special night. Bayern are a great team but we played a very good game and we won. We were good going forward and in defence.

“We grouped together and broke out to attack like always. It was especially important that we play that way against Bayern.

“We had three brilliant chances in the first half and while they had just one. The important thing was for us to win and now we will look to continue in this form for the second-leg.”

The return will take place at the Allianz Arena on April 29.

I was afraid to return from injury, admits Ronaldo

The Ballon d’Or holder was thrust back into the startng line-up in the win over Bayern Munich but says he felt ready after three weeks out

Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted he was afraid to return in Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Bayern Munich, but insists he was fit enough to return to Champions League action.

The Portugal international has not featured since the Blancos‘ 3-0 home leg win over Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final – exactly three weeks prior to his start at Santiago Bernabeu against the European champions.

He played a key part in Karim Benzema’s goal which allowed Carlo Ancelotti’s men to defeat die Roten 1-0 in the semi-final first leg and the Ballon d’Or holder was delighted with the result ahead of next Tuesday’s return at the Allianz Arena.

“I was afraid – it was my first match after three weeks out,” he told reporters after the game. “Some people didn’t want me to play and some people did. I felt well and ready for the next few games.

“One-nil is a good result. We have a good advantage and if we score next week it will be so difficult for them to qualify for the final.

“The second leg will be a tense match. We have a little advantage so let’s see if that is enough.”

Madrid will now temporarily turn their attention to La Liga, as they prepare to host Osasuna on Saturday as they look to close the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid.

There is no better team than Real Madrid, admits Guardiola

The ex-Barcelona boss was unable to continue his excellent record at Santiago Bernabeu but insists he was proud of his players despite their defeat

Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola claims there is “no better team than Real Madrid” after his side were beaten 1-0 in the Champions League at Santiago Bernabeu.

The Spaniard had never lost as a coach at Madrid’s stadium until Wednesday, when Karim Benzema’s strike was enough to put the reigning European champions to the sword in the opening leg of their semi-final clash.

Guardiola insists he was proud of the way his players approached the game but acknowledged their lack of cutting edge ultimately cost them against Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

“We lost,” Guardiola said to Sky after the match. “It was a difficult game, but there is still a second leg and we will try to get every player in shape for that.

“Madrid have always played like this. They are so quick. They let you play and wait for you to lose the ball. You have to be very neat and very organised, and we did that. I am very, very proud of my team.

“There is no better team than Madrid and we just lacked a goal. Now we have to score two or three and we will work towards that.”

There was a late shout for a penalty in Bayern’s favour from Thomas Muller when the German forward went down under a challenge from Xabi Alonso as he tried to turn inside the area in the dying minutes.

However, the former Barcelona boss responded “no, I don’t think so,” when asked if a spot kick should have been given.

The Bavarians will aim to turn the tie on its head when they host Madrid in the return leg next Tuesday.

Beckenbauer disappointed by toothless Bayern

The Bavarian giants’ honorary president praised Real Madrid for their 1-0 win but felt the visitors offered little going forward

Bayern Munich honorary president Franz Beckenbauer criticised Pep Guardiola’s team for a lack of “punch” as they conceded a 1-0 first-leg advantage to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Karim Benzema scored the only goal as Madrid seized the initiative ahead of the Champions League semi-final return at the Allianz Arena next week.

The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was not seriously threatened before making a late save to deny substitute Mario Gotze.

Beckenbauer hailed Madrid’s defensive efforts but was disappointed the defending champions had not carried more menace going forward.

He told Sky: “I never saw Madrid defend so well.

“But maybe Bayern made it easy for them. They were lacking dynamism, they had no punch.”

Madrid played largely on the counter but it was an approach which could have seen them claim a commanding first-half advantage as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria both squandered wonderful opportunities.

Beckenbauer added: “Maybe Bayern were surprised by the way Real played. It was one of the best matches I have seen from Madrid. They switched the rhythm like they wanted. They attacked suddenly, they pulled back. If it had been 3-0 at half-time you could have stopped the game.

“Madrid were superior, better, quicker. It was a deserved victory. But there is still a second leg. It is doable, but it will be very dangerous and very difficult.”

Ancelotti: Bayern’s slow pace suited Real Madrid

The Italian believes the Champions League holders played into his side’s hands and praised Cristiano Ronaldo for his efforts upon his return from injury

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted that the slow pace suited his side after they defeated Bayern Munich 1-0 in their Champions League semi-final first leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

The hosts saw little of the ball over the course of the game but were a persistent menace on the break, and it was on such a raid Karim Benzema scored the only goal of the match in the first half.

 For the Italian coach, it was an evening that went according to plan, even though he was frustrated at the nervous opening from his side.

“When they slowed their pace we were better,” he admitted to Canal + after the game. “We made some great counterattacks. Teamwork was so important, and [Fabio] Coentrao and [Dani] Carvajal were helped by Isco and [Angel] Di Maria.

“I’m happy about everything, even if the game was hard. Sometimes we suffered but we played well on the attack.

“We began a bit shy, being too defensive and having some problems.”

Cristiano Ronaldo recovered from injury to feature for 70 minutes of the match while Gareth Bale would only play a late cameo due to flu, yet the coach was pleased with how his side coped without the two attacking stars in tandem.

“Without Bale and Cristiano at their perfect level, it is not easy. Cristiano did some excellent work,” he said.

Despite his side’s lead, the former AC Milan and Juventus boss was unwilling to predict a straightforward passage to the final as they look ahead to the return leg at the Allianz Arena.

“The second leg will be tough and we must play with the kind of confidence we showed tonight.”

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