Guardiola is always thinking four steps ahead – De Boer

The former Barcelona man, who played alongside the Spaniard at Camp Nou, says his intelligence as a player has manifested as coaching “genius” in recent seasons

Former Barcelona midfielder Ronald de Boer has lavished praise on Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola, saying the Spaniard is constantly thinking “three to four steps ahead.”

The 43-year-old lifted the Champions League twice at the helm of the Blaugrana and could become the first coach in the modern era to claim the trophy for a third time this season, with his Bayern side set to face Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

De Boer, who played alongside Guardiola at Camp Nou between 1998 and 2000, says the former Spain international’s intelligence as a player has helped him to become a “genius” in the dugout.

“As a manager, Guardiola is a genius,” the former Netherlands international told Sport1.

“As a player he was always very intelligent on the pitch. Physically he couldn’t match the more robust players so he had to be clever. He always thought three to four steps ahead and is still doing this as a coach.”

Guardiola takes his Bayern side to Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

'We won't fall into a Lewandowski hole' – Watzke

The 54-year-old insists Jurgen Klopp has proven he can cope with the loss of big-name players following the previous departures of Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa

Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp will ensure the team does not suffer from the loss of Robert Lewandowski, according to club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

The Poland international, who reached 100 goals for the club in the DFB-Pokal semi-final win over Wolfsburg, will join Bayern Munich on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Watzke, however, is adamant the club will cope with the loss of the 25-year-old, highlighting that Klopp has found a way to compensate for high-profile departures in the past – specifically Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid, and Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United.

“It was said that we would not cope with the loss of Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid. The same was said when Shinji Kagawa moved to Man United. We can’t replace Robert man for man, but we won’t fall into a Lewandowski hole,” he told Bild.

“We have one of the best coaches in the world and he always manages to find a solution. I’m not a bit afraid of next season. I’m convinced we’ll be successful again.”

Dortmund have already taken steps to address the loss of Lewandowski, having agreed a deal to sign Hertha striker Adrian Ramos at the end of the season while reportedly exploring the prospect of bringing Torino marksman Ciro Immobile to the club.

Watzke is hopeful BVB can subsequently close the gap to Bayern Munich at the top of German football, but accepts it is a formidable challenge.

“Bayern have played an incredible season. They are the model, the flagship of German football. We will of course try to shorten the distance even more next season, but when they play like that, it’s tough.”

I didn't want to face Real Madrid, admits Martinez

The Spain international says Carlo Ancelotti’s side are the toughest left in the Champions League and warns of the threat they pose on the counterattack

Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez has admitted he did not want to be drawn against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals.

The holders will take on Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the first-leg of their last-four tie on Wednesday in a repeat of the 2012 semi-final, which Bayern won on penalties.

Martinez believes los Blancos are the toughest side remaining in the competition which Bayern could have faced and has warned of the danger they pose on the break.

“They’re getting better, they’re more compact and strong. I didn’t want them in the semi-finals of the Champions League. They’re the toughest we could have faced,” he told El Mundo.

“They’re very dangerous on the break. [Angel] Di Maria, [Gareth] Bale – who scored in the Copa del Rey final – or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, if he plays, create a lof of problems.”

Martinez is backing his compatriots in the Atletico Madrid team to reach the final at the expense of Chelsea – especially with Spain striker Diego Costa enjoying the best season of his career so far – but warned that Jose Mourinho and his team cannot be underestimated.

“He [Costa] fights a lot and has a lot of ability to open up defences. And he’s in a great run of form. I wish Atleti lots of luck,” said Martinez.

“A team coached by Mourinho is never simple, he always does a great job in the knockouts. He prepares everything to reach his ultimate goal.”

Martinez added that Bayern focus far more on retaining possession under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola, but he maintains the style seen under Jupp Heynckes last season has not been lost.

“Guardiola has maintained the style of Heynckes, but he’s changed many things and the play is different. Above all, in terms of the ball. Now we play more slowly, keeping the ball at all times.”

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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