Real need to close up leaky defence

Robert Lewandowski's return will be cheered by Bayern, with Javi Martinez suspended and Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng not fully fit yet.
Robert Lewandowski's return will be cheered by Bayern, with Javi Martinez suspended and Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng not fully fit yet.PHOTO: REUTERS

Lewandowski may return in Madrid as Bayern seek goals to recover from 1-2 deficit

MADRID • Real Madrid's struggling defence will have to keep Bayern Munich's deadly striker Robert Lewandowski at bay in the Bernabeu today to reach the Champions League semi-finals.

The Spanish football giants will be defending a 2-1 lead from the first leg of the quarter-final, which the Polish hitman missed with the shoulder injury that also kept him out of Bayern's 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga on Saturday.

However, Lewandowski trained on Sunday and is poised to return as Bayern look for goals today against a Real side who have kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 games.

"I'm fine. I'm very pleased I was able to take part in training today. Everything's okay," said the Pole, who is Bayern's top scorer with 38 goals in 40 games in all competitions.

Javi Martinez is banned after his first-leg red card, while Bayern may also be without the injured Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, who both missed the Leverkusen clash.

"Of the three (injured), Lewandowski has the better chance of being fit to play," said Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti. "It will be very difficult in Madrid but we still have confidence. We still have an opportunity and we'll do our best."

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    Champions League goals Robert Lewandowski has scored this season, bolstering his Bayern tally to 38.

Lewandowski has seven Champions League goals, level with Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (11) and Paris St-Germain's Edinson Cavani (8), this season.

He is also joint top of the Bundesliga scoring charts with Aubameyang on 26 goals, as Bayern lead the domestic standings by eight points.

Lewandowski joined Bayern from Dortmund in 2014, a few months after Real knocked the Bavarian side out of the Champions League in the semi-finals. Bayern were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate but Real's defence is weaker now.

Pepe broke two ribs in this month's Madrid derby against Atletico and misses the Bayern game along with French centre-back Raphael Varane, who still has a hamstring problem.

That leaves Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernandez as the pairing at the heart of the defence for Real, who are also without forward Gareth Bale owing to his calf injury.

Real last kept a clean sheet against minnows Alaves on April 2 and have not looked solid at the back all season.

They beat Sporting Gijon 3-2 on Saturday but conceded two sloppy goals, needing a 90th-minute winner from Isco to help them keep Spanish title rivals Barcelona at arm's length.

"They had two chances and scored two goals," Real manager Zinedine Zidane said after the game. "(The players) all lost concentration, we weren't switched on for the free kick (that led to Sporting's second goal)."

The Madrid side, who lead LaLiga by three points, could pay a high price for any similar slip-ups against Bayern, particularly with Lewandowski lurking.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Real need to close up leaky defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe