Don't expect many goals in Atletico v Bayern, warns Richard Buxton
Argentinian's win-at-all-cost mentality is Atletico's ace against German champions
ATLETICO MADRID v BAYERN MUNICH
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
Rarely will a Champions League semi-final see so much attention on the two protagonists' technical areas - but this is no ordinary semi-final.
There is also nothing ordinary about either Diego Simeone or Pep Guardiola, currently front and centre among European football's greatest managerial minds.
As players, little could separate the respective head coaches of Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. They were both tenacious and industrious; reflected in a head-to-head record that yielded four wins apiece and three draws.
Off the pitch, they continue to be box-office material.
Potential match-winners feature in both starting line-ups, but all eyes will be on Simeone and Guardiola when they face off again tomorrow morning (Singapore time) for only the second time in their managerial history.
The first leg in Madrid is a heavyweight clash, but it is the first meeting between both sides since they contested the infamous 1974 European Cup final.
That in itself has reopened old wounds for Atleti, but it is the scars of 2014 which now drive on Simeone.
The Argentinian has already managed to cut their closest competitors down to size.
Two seasons ago, he stole La Liga away from Barcelona in their own backyard, while Real Madrid were taken to extra-time in the Champions League final.
Already, his men have dethroned Barca, the reigning European champions, and another all-Madrid final remains in the offing.
Domestically, Atletico are level on points with leaders Barca, and are behind only because of an inferior head-to-head record.
Atletico's success has been achieved through the art of winning ugly; Simeone's maverick streak is threatening to give Jose Mourinho's self-proclaimed status as the "Special One" a run for its money - at a fraction of the cost.
Appearing to instruct a ballboy to engage in some in-game sabotage during last Saturday's win over Malaga took it to a new level of duplicity - it would have made the ex-Chelsea boss proud.
Victory at all costs may have become the 45-year-old's hallmark but method is not in short supply amid the madness.
Only three European teams have conceded fewer shots per game than Atletico-Bayern, chief among them.
Guardiola is a man at the opposite end of the spectrum.
WIN OR BUST
Manchester City's future manager faces a win-or-bust finale to his tenure in Bavaria.
Successive semi-final exits in prior campaigns have cast a shadow over a formality-like haul of three back-to-back Bundesliga titles in that time.
The expectations that he would eclipse Jupp Heynckes' historic 2013 treble have failed to materialise, with defeats by Real and Barca, where his "tiki taka" vision remains in all its glory.
He will have his work cut out at the Vicente Calderon, too.
With only seven points lost from their previous 12 Bundesliga games, Bayern's defence is as formidable as they come.
But, on the European stage, it has been incredibly porous at times; not least in their breathless and belated Round of 16 victory over Juventus.
Guardiola's unrelenting penchant for playing possession-based football could well be their undoing, especially against the wily Simeone and his lock-solid midfield.
BY THE NUMBERS
Atletico Madrid have conceded only 16 goals after 35 La Liga games this season, and leaked only five in 10 Champions League matches.
Bring them on
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
Having exited at the Champions League semi-finals under Pep Guardiola for the past two seasons, Bayern Munich hope they will be third-time lucky this term.
In fact, striker Robert Lewandowski hopes they can go all the way to win the cup as a parting gift for Guardiola, who will join Manchester City next season.
"It would be amazing if we could bid farewell to Pep Guardiola by winning the Champions League - it would be the icing on the cake after all the time we've had together at Bayern," Lewandowski told uefa.com.
"I hope it happens.... we want to win every single match until the end of our time with Guardiola. We want to be celebrating until the end."
The treble-chasing German side will be the first to win a fourth consecutive German league title, if they beat Borussia Moenchengladbach at home on Saturday.
They also face Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final in Berlin on May 21.
But first, they will bid to overcome Atletico Madrid, whose miserly defence has conceded only 16 goals after 35 La Liga games this season, and leaked only five in 10 Champions League games.
Those statistics have not gone unnoticed by Lewandowski, who has scored 38 goals this term and is relishing the meeting.
He said: "They have the best defence in the Spanish Liga. As a striker, it's a challenge to face a side that concede so few, but I'm happy to play against them.
"We know it will be tough, I hope we prepare well for it, don't make mistakes and show we want to play in the final.
"I am hoping for two great performances from us, to confirm our ambitions to go as far as possible."
His cause will be helped by the absence of Atletico's rock in defence, Diego Godin. The Uruguayan centre back is out with a hamstring injury.
However, in his absence, the 20-year-old Frenchman Lucas Hernandez has deputised well, as shown in last Saturday's 1-0 win over Malaga.
Bayern, meanwhile, will be without winger Arjen Robben and defender Holger Badstuber.
The German side rested several regulars last Saturday but still beat Hertha Berlin 2-0, with goals by Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa, despite producing just six shots on goal. - Wire Services.
They have the best defence in the Spanish Liga. As a striker, it’s a challenge to face a side that concede so few.
— Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski
Bayern confirm talks with Hummels
Bayern Munich confirmed yesterday that they are negotiating with Borussia Dortmund captain and Germany defender Mats Hummels.
Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said he expects the 27-year-old to join Bayern next season, even though his Dortmund contract runs until June 2017.
"Basically, I can confirm what Mr Watzke has said; Mats is dealing with Bayern," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Watzke said: "(Hummels) still has unfinished business with the club (Bayern Munich). His father, his mother and his brother all live in Munich. His girlfriend comes from Munich, he's from Munich, too."
Watzke said Bayern would have to "dig really deep in their pockets" to sign Hummels, who has a market value of 32 million euros ($49m).
Watzke added that he hopes to see Mario Goetze, who has made little impact since joining Bayern in 2013, returning to Dortmund. - AFP.