Real Madrid-Bayern Munich Preview: Hosts hoping Ronaldo is fit for reunion with old rival Guardiola

Bayern Munich’s Champions League defence reaches a crucial juncture in Wednesday’s semi-final first-leg at Real Madrid.

The Bavarian giants are bidding to become the first team to defend Europe’s premier club competition since AC Milan did so in 1990.

Pep Guardiola’s men secured the Bundesliga crown last month, allowing them to turn their full attention to lifting the Champions League trophy once again.

Nine-time winners Madrid – who will be hoping key men Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are passed fit – do not have the same luxury and are involved in a three-horse race, with city rivals Atletico and Gerardo Martino’s Barcelona, for La Liga glory.

Madrid were not in action at the weekend, but Bayern beat Eintracht Braunschweig 2-0. Captain Philipp Lahm felt that win, which came after back-to-back Bundesliga defeats, was crucial ahead of their crunch clash in Madrid.

“We did very well, especially in the second half. It’s important we set off for home feeling good, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” the Germany international told the club’s official website.

“[Against Madrid it will be] sensational. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ll see two massive games.

“On Wednesday we’ll show we’re always up for it in the important games. But it’s still 50-50.”

Bayern, who have won the competition five times, are set to welcome Manuel Neuer back from a calf problem after the Germany goalkeeper missed the last two matches.

The 28-year-old participated in training on Sunday and is expected to be fit, while David Alaba should be available after missing out at Braunschweig due to illness.

Bayern will have happy memories of facing Madrid in the Champions League, with a 3-1 penalty shootout win at the Santiago Bernabeu securing their place in the 2011-12 final.

The Germans won the first-leg 2-1 thanks to goals from Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez, and, although Ronaldo struck twice in the early stages of the second-leg, an Arjen Robben penalty forced extra-time.

The tie was eventually decided by a penalty shootout, with Neuer Bayern’s hero as he saved from Ronaldo and Kaka, while Sergio Ramos’ miss allowed Bastian Schweinsteiger to strike the winning penalty.

The two sides have met five times in the semi-finals of the competition, with Bayern winning four – in 1976, 1987, 2001 and 2012 – and Madrid enjoying only one success came in 2000.

Los Blancos have not won the competition since 2002, but will take heart from the fact they are unbeaten in their last 17 home matches in Europe.

In fact, their last Champions League defeat at the Bernabeu came when Guardiola steered Barcelona to a 2-0 success in the 2010-11 semi-finals.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will be sweating on the fitness of Ronaldo and Bale, although the former has returned to full training.

Ronaldo has missed the Spanish side’s last four matches due to knee and thigh problems, but came through a training session on Monday. Bale is suffering from illness and it would be a major blow if either player is ruled out.

Defender Sergio Ramos should be fit, though, having recently been troubled by a neck injury.

Bayern are unbeaten in their last 10 away Champions League matches and know if they can extend that run they will take a big step towards next month’s Lisbon final.

Betting Special: Louis van Gaal favourite to replace Moyes

A 2-0 defeat to Everton appears to have been the final straw for the Old Trafford hierarchy and Paddy Power make the Netherlands boss favourite to replace Moyes

David Moyes’ appointment at Manchester United raised plenty of questions about the former Everton boss and his ability to live up to the expectations that accompany such a prestigious job.

In truth, Moyes hasn’t really looked as if he belonged in the Old Trafford dugout and Goal understands the Premier League defeat to Everton is to be the final straw for the 50-year-old Scot.

Leading the market to replace him is Louis van Gaal at 3/1 (4.00), the man who has been heavily linked with a summer move to Tottenham in recent weeks. But punters clearly believe that the man who will lead the Netherlands in Brazil this summer will be a highly-sought after appointment.

The 62-year-old’s contract with the Dutch FA will expire after the World Cup, and he has been open about his desire to manage in the Premier League, so it’s of little surprise to see him as the market favourite.

There are a number of candidates with strong links to the club in the other front running positions to replace Moyes, with former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz being backed into 9/2 (5.50) with Paddy Power, having been as big as 66/1 (67.0) just a few days ago.

Ryan Giggs has also been backed in recent weeks and now resides at 4/1 (5.0), although given the number of high profile, experienced candidates that could be available it seems unlikely that the Old Trafford hierarchy would risk appointing someone without any managerial experience on a long-term basis.

It could be more likely that Giggs would take over in an interim capacity for the final few games of the season, but the bookmakers could require the United midfielder to be appointed on a longer term basis in order to settle the market so punters should use caution with this selection.

That same logic could apply to the fact that Paddy Power make Sir Alex Ferguson a 6/1 (7.0) chance to be the next Manchester United manager.

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is made a 16/1 (17.0) chance, although even at that price such a switch seems increasingly unlikely given how well the Bavarian club are doing under the former Barcelona man and how much work appears to be required at Old Trafford.

Jurgen Klopp is a 7/1 (8.0) bet according to the Irish bookmakers and although perhaps more plausible than Guardiola, the fact remains that United could struggle to lure a manager of his ilk who is currently employed at a stable, successful club, especially after defeat to Everton meant that United could no longer qualify for the Champions League.

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Ronaldo completes Real Madrid training session – but Bale sits out

The Portugal star and Sergio Ramos were fit enough to practice as normal with the rest of the squad, but the €100 million man is suffering with an illness

Cristiano Ronaldo was fit enough to complete a full training session on Monday for Real Madrid as they prepare for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old has been battling to shake off a hamstring problem sustained in the quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund and was initially a doubt for Wednesday’s meeting at Santiago Bernabeu.

However, the attacker was able to train on Sunday before the club confirmed he completed a full routine session on Monday morning, meaning he will likely be fit to feature for Carlo Ancelotti’s side against the reigning European champions.

Sergio Ramos, who has also been struggling with a minor injury, also completed the session, but Gareth Bale was forced to sit out due to illness.

Wednesday’s encounter in the Spanish capital is set to kick off at 20:45CET.

Mourinho, Guardiola, Ancelotti – who is the most successful coach of the Champions League era?

Three of the tournament’s best-ever bosses have the chance to win their third trophy this season and eclipse the record of the great Sir Alex Ferguson

Three of the greatest Champions League coaches of all time go head-to-head this week as the semi-finals get underway.

Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho have all twice won Europe’s greatest prize and will lead Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively into the last four first legs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

All three bosses have the chance to become the best the tournament has seen in its 22-year history, with a third triumph enough for them to surpass the record of the Champions League’s most successful coach – Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Manchester United icon reached the final on four occasions, winning two of those in 1999 and 2008, while his record of seven semi-finals has only this season been bettered by Mourinho. His tally of quarter-final appearances (12) remains unsurpassed.

Sir Alex Ferguson 2 4 6 12
Carlo Ancelotti 2 3 5 8
Ottmar Hitzfeld 2 3 4 6
Jupp Heynckes 2 3 3 3
Jose Mourinho 2 2 8 8
Pep Guardiola 2 2 5 5
Vicente del Bosque 2 2 4 4
Marcello Lippi 1 4 5 5
Louis van Gaal 1 3 5 6
Fabio Capello 1 3 3 5

In the above table, Goal has ranked the top coaches from the Champions League era (beginning in 1992-93) in an Olympics-style system. Bosses are assessed initially based on the number of tournament wins, followed by final appearances, then semi-final outings, and lastly quarter-final spots.

Ferguson remains the Champions League’s most successful head coach, but with Guardiola, Mourinho and Ancelotti all on the cusp of a third title, one of the trio could move to the top of the table by the end of this season.

Guardiola twice won the prize with Barcelona, in 2009 and 2011, Ancelotti did the same with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 – losing a final in between in 2005 – while Mourinho emerged victorious with Porto in 2004 and Inter in 2010.

The top 10 consists of three Italians, two Spaniards, two Germans, a Scot, Dutchman and Portuguese. Rafa Benitez just misses out on a place on the list with one trophy and two finals. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also fails to make the cut with just one unsuccessful final appearance and two semi final outings during his career.

Only Liverpool icon Bob Paisely has lifted Europe’s top prize three times, but that was before the Champions League era.

Mourinho already holds the record as the first head coach to reach the last four with four different clubs (Porto, Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea) but will he be the first man to clinch his third Champions League crown?

Bundesliga Team of the Week: Reus stars again

The BVB attacker makes the cut in Goal’s best XI from matchday 31 but not a single Bayern Munich player is included

Bayern Munich’s poor run of Bundesliga form continued as they stumbled to a 2-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig after a shoddy performance, while Borussia Dortmund continued their winning streak by beating Mainz 4-2. But only one player from the division’s top two sides features on Goal‘s Team of the Week.

Raphael Wolf takes the plaudits in goal after leading Werder Bremen to a vital 3-1 win over Hoffenheim which all but secures their status in the top flight for yet another season.

Augsburg recorded a 0-0 draw against fellow midtable outfit Hertha Berlin, with Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, putting in a star performance at the back. He is joined in defence by Naldo, a rock at the back for Wolfsburg and Emir Spahic netted two for Bayer Leverkusen against Nurnberg.

Hoffenheim may have lost, but Roberto Firmino was inspiration in midfield. Leon Andreasen kicked the weekend’s action off with an early goal for Hannover in Thursday’s thrilling win at Eintracht Frankfurt, Julian Schuster helped secure three vital points for Freiburg, Philipp Bargfrede was on target for Bremen and Marco Reus helped Dortmund to yet another win, capping a fine performance with a converted penalty.

Admir Mehmedi got two in Freiburg’s 4-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach and Ivica Olic scored for Wolfsburg against Hamburg, who look increasingly doomed to a bottom-three finish.