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Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid: Four players to watch in the first leg

Wednesday 25th April 2018

Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg. This fixture is the competition's most-played match in history. Tonight's encounter will be the fifth time the sides have met in the last four since 2011-12. The Germans conquered six seasons ago. The Spaniards claimed revenge two years later.  

Madrid have won the last five games against Bayern. The Bavarians, however, possess a strong home record this season, conceding just one Champions League goal while remaining unbeaten in the Bundesliga. The Allianz Arena is their fortress. Los Blancos must hit top form to come away with a positive result. 

Zinedine Zidane and Jupp Heynckes have both won the Champions League twice as managers. The Bayern boss, at 72, is aiming to secure his second treble after already claiming this season's Bundesliga title and booking a place in the German Cup final. The Madrid gaffer, meanwhile, remains on course to win Europe's most prestigious club competition for the third successive time, despite suffering a terrible domestic campaign. 

Here are four players to watch during the first leg between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. 

James Rodriguez

Rodriguez faces his parent club, Madrid, with a point to prove. The Colombia international joined Bayern on a two-year loan deal last summer. After struggling for minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, he's had a terrific debut season in Germany. The 26-year-old has been involved in 16 league goals.     

Rodriguez will put in the maximum effort against Los Blancos. He's determined to show his worth. Watch out, Zidane.  

Marcelo

Since arriving at Madrid in 2007, Marcelo has made the left wing his home. It would be wrong, however, to compare him to the iconic Roberto Carlos.  

Marcelo's attacking, as well as defensive, contribution is highly commendable. He's capable of destroying any team single-handedly. Although his crossing hasn't been up to par this season, the Brazilian remains equally dangerous on the ball.  

It will be interesting to see how Bayern's Joshua Kimmich deals with Marcelo in the final third.

Sven Ulreich

Perhaps a surprise inclusion among this list, Ulreich must produce his best to keep out the reigning European champions. To defeat Madrid, a team requires an immense performance between the sticks. In last season's quarter-final against Los Blancos, Manuel Neuer failed to perform, conceding six times.

Since Neuer's injury, Ulreich has been Bayern's knight in shining armour. He's kept three Champions League clean sheets this campaign. His performance in the 3-1 home win over Paris Saint-Germain proves he can be trusted in the big games. 

Can Ulreich nullify Cristiano Ronaldo, though?

Cristiano Ronaldo

It seems almost impossible to stop Ronaldo. The Portuguese is this season's Champions League top scorer with 15 goals, five ahead of his closest challengers. He's also the competition's all-time leading marksman.    

Ronaldo has been in scintillating form post-Christmas, scoring at least once in each of his last 11 Champions League appearances (17 goals in total). He loves finding the net against Bayern, too. During his illustrious European career, only Juventus have kept him in check fewer times than the Bavarians.  

With creators all around, Ronaldo focuses on getting in the right place to capitalize. His trickery, shooting ability and dynamic physique contribute hugely to Madrid's success.

Harsh Vardhan

A pilot in the making residing in India, Harsh is also an ardent follower of European football and his heart resides in Manchester, particularly the blues. He has deep passion for writing, with special admiration for combined-elevens, while also contributing to the sports column of a local daily.


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