'Machine' Ronaldo gears up for clash

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) warming up with Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema before the LaLiga match against Athletic Bilbao last week. Ronaldo scored in the 1-1 draw.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) warming up with Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema before the LaLiga match against Athletic Bilbao last week. Ronaldo scored in the 1-1 draw.PHOTO: REUTERS

Bayern wary of free-scoring Portuguese star, Real seek 6th straight win over German side

MUNICH • Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were once the untouchable trio, but only one of Real Madrid's feted "BBC" can be sure of their starting place against Bayern Munich today.

Ronaldo has dragged Real into the Champions League semi-finals with, even by his standards, an astonishing goal glut that includes 22 in 12 games, and at least one in each of his last 11 matches in Europe.

The Portuguese has also scored in every Champions League game this term with 15 goals from 10 games.

Bayern defender Jerome Boateng is keenly aware that limiting Ronaldo's impact at the Allianz Arena will be critical to the Bavarians' chances of getting past the defending champions, with Real having won their last five encounters.

"It's impossible to completely stifle Ronaldo, we can only stop him as a team," Germany's Boateng said on Monday before the first-leg tie.

"An attacker cannot be more complete than him - left foot, right foot, head, he controls everything and in front of the goal, he's a machine."

But Robert Lewandowski feels that Real, who are seeking their third straight Champions League and 13th European Cup, are not just a one-man team.

Real have been heavily linked with him in recent months and the striker, who has scored 39 goals in all competitions this term, knows there can be no better stage to impress a potential future employer by upstaging their star forward.

  • BAYERN V REAL: THE 25TH SHOWDOWN

  • 11 

    Wins apiece for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in their past 24 meetings.

  • Goals Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Bayern in the Champions League, including five over two legs in last season's quarter-finals.

  • Goals Robert Lewandowski has scored against Real in the Champions League, the most by any player against the defending champions.

"We know Ronaldo has already scored quite a few goals against Bayern (nine in six appearances against the German champions). I hope he won't add to it this year," he said.

"But the main thing is the team's performance, not only Ronaldo's. We know their players are really good and able to score too. We have to watch every player.

"But if we stick to our game and live up to our full potential, Real might have problems too," added the Pole, who is the only player to register four goals in a Champions League last-four meeting - against Real in 2013 when he was at Borussia Dortmund.

The LaLiga club knocked out five-time winners Bayern in the quarter-finals of last season's campaign, edging a dramatic encounter 6-3 on aggregate after extra time.

Bayern, who are unbeaten at home this season, have not forgotten the controversy surrounding that exit, with defender Joshua Kimmich on Sunday pinning it on then referee Viktor Kassai.

"Last year, the referee knocked us out," he said.

This time round, Bayern have a tactical trump card in former Real manager Jupp Heynckes, who came out of an almost four-year retirement last October after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked.

The 72-year-old, who is bidding to become the oldest coach to win the European Cup, will be handing over the reins to Niko Kovac at the end of the season, but he plans on leaving Bayern with the perfect parting gift of all - another treble.

Heynckes won the Champions League with Real in 1998 after a 1-0 win over a Juventus side featuring Real manager Zinedine Zidane.

And in 2013, he led Bayern to their first treble. They remain the only club left in the Champions League that can achieve the feat.

Having set another record with his 12th straight victory in the competition after a 2-1 win in the first leg of Bayern's quarter-final against Sevilla, the most recorded by any manager, the German is relishing the magnitude of the glamour tie.

"It's a cracker - a gigantic meeting in a positive sense," said Heynckes.

"These are two teams with a great tradition, who play and love attractive football... There is no favourite although I do have a good feeling for us."

It seems fitting, though, that his old club should provide the opposition on what promises to be an emotional night for the veteran coach.

"Real is a worthy opponent for every coach. It was not on purpose for me to be on this stage, because I had already ended my career," he added.

He will, however, have to contend with the loss of Arturo Vidal after the Chilean's injury ruled him out for the rest of the term.

Left-back David Alaba and midfielder Corentin Tolisso are also in doubt for the home leg.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline ''Machine' Ronaldo gears up for clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe