Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich braced for Champions League ‘fight’ with Atletico Madrid
Bayern Munich are preparing for a tough fight in Wednesday’s Uefa Champions League semi-final, first-leg, with coach Pep Guardiola braced for a battle with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
Bayern hold a seven-point lead in Germany’s top flight and warmed up for their Madrid mission with a 2-0 win at Hertha Berlin on Saturday as Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa supplied the goals.
Bayern will claim a record fourth straight Bundesliga title if they beat Borussia Moenchengladbach at home on Saturday, but first they need to overcome Atletico at Madrid’s Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Guardiola made seven changes to his starting line-up in Berlin as his side produced just six shots on goal in the German capital and he expects a tougher test in Madrid.
“It will be a completely different game,” said the Spaniard, who has now reached the last four of the Champions League seven times as a coach, four times with Barcelona and three with Bayern.
“It’s difficult to always play at 100 per cent and I understand if the players already had an eye on Wednesday’s game against Atletico.”
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Atletico are locked in a three-way battle with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the Primera Liga, and Bayern need a good performance away to stand a chance ahead of the semi-final return leg on May 3.
“We will have to fight for every centimetre and need to be switched on from the very first minute,” Bayern’s World Cup winner Mario Goetze said.
“We’ll have to play cleverly and need to put in our best performance.”
Bayern rotated their squad in Berlin with centre-backs Medhi Benatia and Serdar Tasci unlikely to start in Madrid.
Nevertheless, Bayern have not conceded a goal in their last three games since drawing 2-2 at Benfica in the quarter-finals of the Champions League two weeks ago.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was pleased with his back four after Berlin drew another blank and they have leaked just one goal in their last seven league matches.
“When we rotate, it’s really important that our game still works, so we wanted to put in another good defensive display,” Neuer said.
Midfielder Arturo Vidal is Bayern’s man of the moment, having scored in each of their last two league games, plus netting home and away against Benfica in the quarter-finals of Europe.
Bayern’s hotshot striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 38 goals this season, eight of which came in the Champions League.
He is looking forward to taking on Atletico’s back-four, which has only conceded six goals in their ten Champions League games so far.
“I hope we can bring a good result back to Munich,” Lewandowski said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
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Updated: April 24, 2016 04:00 AM