Sandro Wagner ready to make his mark in Madrid | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 30.04.2018
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Sandro Wagner ready to make his mark in Madrid

With Robben injured and Lewandowski misfiring, could Sandro Wagner be Bayern Munich’s secret weapon in Madrid? The 30-year-old embodies all the qualities the Bavarians need to keep their treble dreams alive.

Falling to a 2-1 defeat against the Champions League's reigning titleholders on home soil left a sour taste in the mouths of Bayern's players, hierarchy and fans alike. The final trappings of the encounter were crying out for a player capable of providing a spark and punishing Real Madrid for their inability to defend crosses: Wagner was that player.

Read more: How good are Bayern Munich? 

Having already made three enforced changes with Robben, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez going off injured, Jupp Heynckes' hands were tied and the striker had to make do with warming the bench. Now, with the second leg upcoming, Wagner is determined not to be frustrated again: "As a super sub or from the start: I absolutely want to play in Madrid.”

Lewandowski under pressure?

Rewind to the turn of the year and the thought of Wagner starting a must-win Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid would have verged on being farcical. The tides appear to have turned in his favor though.

Following Saturday's 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Jupp Heynckes singled Wagner out for praise following "an outstanding performance”, in which he notched his eighth Bundesliga goal in 12 games for Bayern, seven of which have come in his last seven league starts.

Since then, reports have emerged that Heynckes held "crisis talks” with Lewandowski after a string of sub-par performances leading several German news outlets to back the Munich-native to start on Tuesday.

'A courageous option'

While similar in physical stature, Bayern have profited from having two strikers at their disposal, who can bring contrasting qualities to a match. With no natural replacement for Robben available, why not deploy both in Madrid on Tuesday?

"It would certainly be a courageous option,” admitted Wagner, when asked by BILD about the possibility of partnering Lewandowski up front. "I've discussed it with the head coach. I haven't gotten an answer yet, but it's been suggested.

Bundesliga Bayern München Hannover (Getty Images/O. Andersen)

Hannover were the only side to prevent Sandro Wagner scoring in his last seven league starts.

Bayern have to score twice on the night for a chance to book their ticket to Kiev in May and will certainly be looking to exploit Real's vulnerability defending crosses into the box. The question remains how much is Heynckes willing to risk for a chance at a second treble. 

Read more: Opinion: Bayern too stretched to challenge at very top level

If the 72-year-old opts to break the norm with a two-man frontline, he can still call upon Thomas Müller and Franck Ribery to provide natural width, or narrow the playing field by shifting Müller behind the two strikers with Javi Martinez, Thiago and James Rodriguez in tow.

An even more outside-of-the-box approach could be to drop Martinez back into a three-man backline, let Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba – if he's fit – provide the width and give Thiago, James and Müller free roam in midfield. Even with a lengthy injury list the options are still enviable.

Sixth time lucky?

There is no doubt that switching to a two-man frontline would be a big change for Heynckes. However, while, club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, was right to refer to criticism of Lewandowski as "laughable”, he also commented that the second leg was "all about work, passion, courage and lots of fight.”

Wagner not only ticks all those boxes, but would force Real to rethink their approach and potentially free up Lewandowski to provide more of a threat than he did at the Allianz Arena. "We all want revenge and we've vowed to give it absolutely everything in Madrid,” Wagner said.

With Bayern's treble dreams on the line against a side that has had their number in the last five meetings, the one-man walking "Bestia Negra” could be the secret weapon needed to banish the curse. 

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