Real Madrid and Bayern Munich renew their storied European rivalry in the Uefa Champions League on Wednesday night knowing only one of the football heavyweights will advance to the final.
Here are five things to know ahead of the opening match:
Ronaldo, Bale set
Cristiano Ronaldo is set to return against Bayern after the Madrid forward completed a full training session on Monday for the first time since hurting his left leg.
Ronaldo was nursing a sore knee before the muscle injury popped up and left the Portugal international, who is tied for the tournament record of 14 goals in one season, sidelined for four games.
Gareth Bale, meanwhile, missed Monday’s training due to flu but should be available.
Madrid, who enjoyed a full week off before the match, will also likely be able to count on left-back Marcelo returning from injury.
Manuel Neuer should be fit to line up in the Bayern goal after recovering from a calf injury. The Germany goalkeeper missed the German Cup semi-final win over Kaiserslautern and the 2-0 league win at Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday, but returned to running exercises last Thursday.
“I feel quite good. I presume I’ll be able to play,” said Neuer, who trained over the weekend, as did injured defenders David Alaba and Diego Contento.
After failing to impress in Saturday’s win at bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig, Bayern need to improve for arguably their toughest games of the season.
“We won’t reach the final if we don’t produce two outstanding performances,” said Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, whose side failed to win in three Bundesliga games after clinching the title.
“We’re a good team when we play at full throttle. We’re not at our best level at the moment and it’s clear we need to improve.”
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Bayern need “at least one goal. That was shown by the Dortmund against Real Madrid games.” Dortmund lost 3-0 in Madrid and were eliminated despite beating the Spanish side 2-0 at home.
Carlo Ancelotti’s line-up to face Bayern will be a tough choice, as midfielder Isco has been stellar in stepping in for the injured Ronaldo. But the Spain international looks set to be sacrificed with Ronaldo’s return and Angel Di Maria’s continued good form.
Ancelotti elected to keep Di Maria over Mesut Ozil last summer, selling the Germany playmaker to Arsenal.
‘The Black Beast’
Dubbed “la bestia negra” or “the black beast” by fearful Madrid fans, Bayern have come to represent a thorn in the side of record nine-time winners Madrid.
Bayern, five-time champions, won semi-finals in 1976, 1987, 2001 and 2012, with Madrid’s sole win coming in 2000.
Altogether, Bayern have 11 wins from 20 meetings, with Madrid’s seven wins all coming at home. Madrid are unbeaten at home in the Champions League for 17 games dating to 2011, when Guardiola guided Barcelona to a 2-0 victory.
Guardiola has never lost as a coach at the Bernabeu. Madrid do have a wild card in coach Ancelotti, who has never lost in six meetings against Bayern including four victories.
Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE