Bayern Munich v Barcelona
Live on ITV1
Pep Guardiola had some good news on Saturday afternoon. Journalists speculated what it could be: Had he extended his contract amid those Manchester City rumours? Might Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery or David Alaba miraculously be back in time for Tuesday’s Champions League final second leg at the Allianz? Unfortunately for Bayern it was neither. “No one else got injured,” Pep said, “which means a lot for us at the moment.”
It was one of the few silver-linings after fourth consecutive negative result, a 1-0 loss to Augsburg, the club’s worst run since October 1991. Maintaining intensity after wrapping up the Bundesliga was a problem for Bayern last season and it’s tempting to draw the same conclusion here, although elimination from the DFB Pokal semi-final only came after a calamitous penalty shoot out while a great collective display away to Barca was undone after 77 minutes by the genius of the world’s greatest ever player.
Injuries have compromised things for Guardiola. They brought about the fallout and resignation of the club’s medical staff and one can only imagine what this tie would have been like had Robben, Ribery and Alaba all been fit and available. There’s a tiny chance Bayern could still turn this around. Mehdi Benatia has reminded everyone of how his team can score lots of goals and in quick succession like against Roma and Porto. But this is Barca we’re talking about and they look determined to make a statement even at 3-0 up on aggregate, perhaps as revenge for their semi-final knock-out two years ago. The front trio has scored 112 goals this season and this version of Messi is the best yet. Back Barca to win even in Bavaria @ [2.76].
Back Barcelona to win @ [2.76]
Real Madrid v Juventus
Live on Sky Sports 1
A roar of jubilation emerging from the dressing room at the Camp Nou interrupted Luis Enrique’s post-match press conference on Saturday night. After celebrating a win against Real Sociedad, his players were now enjoying watching Real Madrid go 2-0 down to Valencia at the Bernabeu and lose ground on them in the title race. Their rivals would hit the woodwork twice, see a penalty saved and still come back to draw yet the players looked crestfallen at full-time. Slipping four points from the top of La Liga with only two games remaining, their chances of reclaiming the championship for the first time since 2012 faded.
As preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League second leg with Juventus it was far from perfect. If the pressure wasn’t already high enough on them to turn this tie around, it has been raised again. Carlo Ancelotti changed system and returned Sergio Ramos to defence but lost Toni Kroos to injury after 25 minutes. Sweating on his fitness, the prospect of missing him and Luka Modric when politics and a lack of faith precludes the selection of Sami Khedira, Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva doesn’t fill Madrilenos with confidence.
Meanwhile, Paul Pogba is back for Juventus. He played an hour or so against Cagliari and gave his side the lead with a shot from outside the box before the interval. It’s a welcome selection headache for Max Allegri who was able to rest Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata ahead of the trip to the Spanish capital. In the 12 occasions Juventus have won the first leg 2-1 at home, they have gone through every time. Confidence is high and why shouldn’t it be?
While Real can’t play a badly as they did in Turin, they still give the impression of lacking balance. For three straight games they have conceded two goals. Juventus won’t be daunted by the Bernabeu. They played there last season and silenced the Westfalenstadion in the Round of 16.
Back them to qualify @ [2.12].
Back Juventus to qualify @ [2.12]