Bayern & Chelsea Must Make Home Advantage Count If They Are To Cause Champions League Upsets

by Richard Smith

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

With most football observers convinced that the Champions League final on May 19th will be contested by Real Madrid andBarcelona, what are the realistic chances for Bayern Munich and Chelsea when they take on the two “Spanish Giants” in this week’s Semi Final first legs?

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

The odds strongly suggest that the German team will be up to the task of at least grabbing a first leg lead to take to the Bernabeu next week but they will only pay dividends if Bayern produce their very best performance.

They come into the game following a limp goalless draw at home to Mainz 05 at the weekend, a result that virtually handed over the Bundesliga title to rivals Borussia Dortmund. In contrast Real warmed up with a 3-1 victory over Sporting Gijon in which talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 41st league goal of the season! This continued his remarkable run of scoring form that has seen him score at a rate of more than a goal a game this season.

As far as the stats and history are concerned, it is Bayern with the upper hand. In four previous Champions League Semi Finals they have qualified from three of them. They are also 10-6 in front when it comes to European games head-to-head against Real Madrid and have never been beaten by the Spanish side in nine games played inMunich, winning eight and drawing just once.

Bayern also bring to the match an unbeaten 100% home record in this year’s competition and in Mario Gomez, they have a striker bang in form who has scored 11 times in the competition this season.

Bayern manager, Jupp Heynckes, actually managed Real Madrid for a year in 1997-98, during which time he took them to their first Champions League success for 32 years. It was an incredible performance but his lack of success in domestic terms ultimately cost him his job and will no doubt provide him now with a huge incentive to beat them in this Semi Final. His other major incentive is the fact that final will be played at Bayern’s Allianz Stadium giving his team a huge advantage even if the final is against defending champions Barcelona.

Of course with stars on the pitch from both teams, Gomez, Ribery and Robben from Bayern and Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzema from Real to name but a few, there is one name that could prove the difference between the two teams. That name of course is Real Boss, Jose Mourinho and it was he that masterminded Bayern’s downfall against his Inter Milan side in the 2010 Champions League final and he will be out to do so again this time.

As far as this opening leg is concerned a Bayern home win is priced at 13/8 with the draw a 12/5 chance withMadrid7/4. However, the odds of Bayern qualifying for the final are 13/8 andMadrid1/2 which suggests that the bookies think this game will be decided in the return leg at the Bernabeu.

Chelsea v Barcelona

With the popular theme of Barcelona – “A Bridge Too Far for Chelsea” being adopted by much of the European media, it looks like the Blues are going to have their work cut out in this first leg on Wednesday evening at Stamford Bridge.

Conversely however, perhaps it is Barcelona who will have the more to worry about as Chelsea appear not to have just stopped the rot created by previous manager Andre Villas-Boas (AVB) but have moved forward in terrific style under interim boss, Roberto Di Matteo. Their 5-1 thrashing of Spurs at Wembley on Sunday in the FA Cup Semi Final is the culmination of an eleven match run since the departure of AVB which has seen just one defeat and a new challenge for a Premier League top four finish ignited.

Barcelonawill have plenty of reason to fear Didier Drogba who was quite simply magnificent against Spurs and if he plays with the same commitment on Wednesday then it will be a case of watch out for Barca!

This isChelsea’s sixth excursion in nine years into the Champions League Semi Final and they will remember the last time they were at this stage in 2009 when they came up againstBarcelona. In that tie, they managed to draw the first leg 0-0 at the Nou Camp and were 1-0 in front in the second leg when three minutes into injury time Anders Iniesta struck with Barca’s only shot on target in the second half to win through on the away goals rule. It was a desperate piece of bad luck for Chelsea who had at least two good penalty appeals turned down on the night and although,Barcelonadominated possession, it was Chelsea who were always the most likely team to score. That said Barcelona have proven to be a particularly tough barrier for Chelsea to overcome and got the better of the ‘Blues’ in each of the Semi Finals they reached when Jose Mourinho was at the helm at “The Bridge”.

Barcelonaboss, Pep Guardiola will only be too well aware of the threat aChelseateam in full flow can pose, particularly atStamfordBridge. He will also know that his team looked tired at the weekend in their 2-1 win over Levante and with an El Classico encounter against Real Madrid on the agenda for this weekend he has every right to be nervous.

With odds of 4/1 to win this first leg, Chelsea look exceptional value against Barcelona who are 8/11. Chelsea will know that if they are to cause an upset then a first leg advantage is imperative and they will have no other option that to go for the win in this game but at 9/2 to qualify (Barcelona 1/6) it will once again be likely that this game will go in the favour of the reigning champions in the second leg unless they can take at least a win to the Nou Camp.

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