Misfiring strikers hope to lift Real

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes one-on-one against Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic. The Frenchman, along with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, must find improved form for the Champions League encounter against Bayern Munich tonight.
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes one-on-one against Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic. The Frenchman, along with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, must find improved form for the Champions League encounter against Bayern Munich tonight.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Attacking trident must shake off erratic form as they take on arch-rivals Bayern Munich

MADRID • Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to rekindle some of the magic they once served up under Carlo Ancelotti today, when they face their old coach in the latest edition of Real Madrid's rivalry with Bayern Munich.

Real's trident enjoyed one of their most productive nights under Ancelotti the last time they were in the Allianz Arena, running riot in a 4-0 win to inflict the heaviest defeat on a side coached by Pep Guardiola.

But the trio have frequently been blamed by the Spanish media for Real's unconvincing attacking displays this season, with the team relying on other player, not least defender Sergio Ramos, for goals.

The spotlight will be on the out-of-form frontline in today's quarter-final first leg in Germany as Real resume their bid to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the trophy.

Bale, who missed three months of action through injury, has endured his worst season since joining Real with nine goals in all competitions, while Ronaldo, with 19 in the league, is on course for his worst domestic tally since 2010.

Benzema has also been far less prolific in domestic matches this year but is the team's top scorer in the Champions League with five goals to only two each from his Portuguese and Welsh team-mates.

  • Champions League goals scored by Real Madrid's much-heralded "BBC" trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Cristiano Ronaldo this season.

There will be extra pressure on the forwards because of the absence from the Real defence of the injured Pepe and Raphael Varane.

Bayern, meanwhile, will be missing defender Mats Hummels with an ankle problem, allowing Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez to form the centre-back partnership.

But Bale has warned his team-mates that the Bavarian giants have improved under Ancelotti, particularly at the back.

"Ancelotti has probably made them a bit harder to beat, but they are still deadly going forward," he told Goal.com.

"With the first leg being in Munich, we really need to try score an away goal and defend well, so that we can make the most of the second leg being at the Bernabeu."

Ancelotti pitting his wits against Real manager Zinedine Zidane, the Italian's assistant when he won the 2014 Champions League crown with the Spanish giants, is just one of the many the sub-plots today.

World Cup 2010 winner Xabi Alonso, who also won the Champions League three seasons ago before joining Bayern, will face his former club for the last time before retiring in June.

Team-mate Arjen Robben and Real midfielder Toni Kroos are two others coming up against their former employers.

Bayern's top scorer, Robert Lewandowski, a long-time Real target, should be able to start, despite being forced off with a shoulder injury towards the end of the 4-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

The Poland striker, with 38 goals in all competitions this season, expects to be "100 per cent" fit.

Ancelotti says "little things will make the difference" between the star-studded squads that will see two free-scoring giants go head-to-head.

Bayern are on a Champions League record of 16 straight European wins at home and that is a run Robben is keen to maintain.

"We have to up the ante, we have to signal (to Real) from the first minute that there is nothing to take in Munich and we want to win the game," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Misfiring strikers hope to lift Real'. Print Edition | Subscribe