Bayern Munich v Manchester United, Champions League quarter-finals, March 30, 2010
Since the quarter-final draw was made, much of the talk surrounding this tie has harked back to the 1999 final which was one of the most dramatic of all time. Lost in the late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the fact that Bayern Munich dominated the eventual treble winners for all but the crazy last few seconds. This time it would be a surprise if the Bavarian giants better Manchester United in either game.
Louis van Gaal has masterminded a fine turnaround at Bayern after a woeful start but the German giants defence is a real cause for worry and they come into this game following some poor results. The 2-1 home defeat to Stuttgart on Saturday came as surprise and meant they failed to take advantage of the fact that both their main rivals for the Bundesliga title, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, played each other on the same day. (1.37 on either Manchester United or the Draw.)
The loss at the Allianz Arena to Christian Grossâ€™ side was their second in consecutive Bundesliga games and following a brilliant run from the end of November when they claimed 13 wins on the bounce, recent form has been patchy. In the last eight matches in all competitions Bayern have won just three. More than anything the recent run has proved that van Gaalâ€™s side rely heavily on Arjen Robben and are still waiting for Franck Ribery to really fire following an injury hit campaign. (Bayern are 13.00 to win the Champions League.)
The Dutch winger has been the standout player in the Bundesliga this season and has revelled in a position on the right wing where he has been able to cut in to devastating effect on his left foot. This month in particular Robben has justified his 25 million euro transfer fee from Real Madrid in the summer, scoring a stunner at Fiorentina in the last round of the Champions League, a double to see off Freiburg 2-1 in the Bundesliga and then another brilliant extra time winner against Schalke in the DFB Pokal last week.
But Robben is touch-and-go to play on Tuesday night. The Dutchman ended Saturday’s match with Stuttgart standing miserably on the touchline, not moving for the last five minutes of the game after injuring his calf and he now has to be considered highly unlikely to start the Champions League showdown.
Ribery meanwhile has struggled all season with various ailments and the constant speculation about his future has not been matched by many standout performances on the pitch. Ribery came on at half time against Stuttgart, and Bayern will hope that extra resting period will work in the Frenchman’s favour.
Ribery needs to be on his A-game, as the supporting cast is further weakened with Bastian Schweinsteiger suspended for the first leg and Mario Gomez expected to miss out with injury.
Sir Alex Ferguson will also face a real dilemma as the veteran Scot often plays quite defensively away from home in Europe. But, this Bayern Munich defence is there for the taking. Hans-Jorg Butt is an ageing keeper who is prone to error and Wayne Rooney (if fit) should be licking his lips at facing Daniel van Buyten and Martin Demichelis in the centre of the defence. Their problems in defence are illustrated by the fact that there will be at least one inexperienced defender included in the backline, probably Holger Badstuber. (2.04 to be over 2.5 goals, 1.63 to be under.)
Manchester United (4.00 to win the Champions League), meanwhile, should be chomping at the bit to start what looks like a run to the final that looks very negotiable with one of Lyon or Bordeaux to come next. The main fitness doubts surround Wayne Rooney (3.25 to be the competition’s top scorer) and Rio Ferdinand who both missed the 4-0 victory at Bolton on Saturday but Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed they will play in Germany. The England striker, and the player Franz Beckenbauer has already pinpointed as the man Bayern fear claimed a brace AC Milan in the second leg of the last round after heâ€™d missed the match at Wolves.
As ever, Fergusonâ€™s side are really beginning to purr at just the right time, with the victory at Bolton their seventh successive since losing at Everton. (Draw/Manchester United is 5.50.) Dimitar Berbatov will be pushing for a starting berth after his brace at Bolton but it will likely be Nani and Valencia flanking Rooney. Rafael and Michael Carrick should also come back into the side and Ji-Sung Parkâ€™s importance was highlighted by the fact that he sat out the whole game at the Reebok.
The huge European experience United bring to this match should have a big bearing and their attacking qualities, combined with Wayne Rooneyâ€™s brilliance should ensure a narrow victory or a score draw to take back to Old Trafford.
101gg predicts: Bayern Munich 1 â€“ Manchester United 2 (8.75)