Bayern Munich are facing a tough task as they try to reverse a 1-0 scoreline from the first leg of their Champions League semifinal. They are hoping a lesson learned two years ago will help them get the job done.
At first glance, reversing a one-goal deficit may not seem all that difficult, particularly for a team with as potent an offense as one led by Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. To avoid extra time and win the tie outright, however, Bayern would have to become the first team in 71 matches to beat Atletico Madrid by more than one goal.
Diego Simeone's team have not lost by two since a 2-0 defeat at Celta Vigo in February of last year, and their defense has been particularly solid of late, with clean sheets in their last four games.
However, in the Spanish capital last week, Bayern proved that Atletico's back line is not impenetrable, creating a number of good chances, including a David Alaba effort that was denied by the crossbar. If coach Pep Guardiola chooses to start the unpredictable Müller instead of leaving him on the bench until late in the game, as he did in Madrid, Bayern might just have an easier time finding the back of the net.
"We need to be on fire on Tuesday," Müller told reporters following Bayern's 1-1 draw at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach over the weekend. At the same time though, Müller warned that Bayern must not throw caution to the wind, saying that if they were to concede another, "it will be difficult."
For a reminder of just how wrong things can go, Bayern need look no further than when they were in a similar situation two years ago. Having lost their first leg 1-0 to Real in Madrid, they carelessly pushed forward in the return match at the Allianz Arena - and were dismantled 4-0.
Looking ahead to Tuesday, Captain Philipp Lahm said this shouldn't happen again as the team had "absolutely learned that we don't have to reverse the score within the first 15 minutes, we have the full 90 minutes."
Guardiola will have been encouraged by the return to action of Jerome Boateng on Saturday, after having been out with a groin injury for the past three months. Although Boateng only managed 68 minutes, he said he was looking forward to Tuesday's contest. However, the coach did not say whether or not the 27-year-old central defender would be in the lineup against Atletico.
What is certain is that Guardiola will be without winger Arjen Robben, who remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, as well as defender Holger Bastuber, who is still recovering from a broken ankle.
Franck Ribery's back trouble had raised questions about his availability, but Guardiola told reporters at Monday’s pre-match press conference the French winger had been training with the team and was an option for the second leg.
Given the importance of Tuesday's game, it came as little surprise that the coach chose to rest several key players against Gladbach. Xabi Alonso and Javi Martinez were left out of the squad, while Lahm, Alaba, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara, Douglas Costa and Lewandowski all started on the bench. This may have been part of the reason that Bayern didn't manage to clinch the Bundesliga title on Saturday, but the coach will be hoping the moves pay off against Atletico.
Bayern can also take heart from their strong home record: Since losing the 2014 semifinal to Real, Bayern have won all of their 11 Champions League games at the Allianz Arena.
"It's not over yet, we still have a chance," Guardiola told reporters.
"We'll throw everything into it with 70,000 supporters and deliver a huge fight, that I can promise you," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said."I hope that this fight will lead us to (the final in) Milan."
pfd/dr (dpa, SID, AP, AFP, Reuters)