Thursday, 2:45 a.m.
Bayern M v R Madrid
H 1.83, D 4, A 4.75
As if a combined 16 European Cups weren’t enough, the Champions League quarterfinal between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will also offer an intriguing duel between master and pupil.
Zinedine Zidane’s transition from retired player to successful coach at Madrid owes a lot to his time at the club under current Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Today [Thursday, 02:45am], the former colleagues will face off in the first of two contests to determine which will guide his team to Europe’s final four.
“We’re ready for Real,” said Ancelotti, who led Madrid to the 2014 title with Zidane as his assistant, a run which included defeating Bayern 5-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.
Two years later, it was Zidane’s turn to lift the European Cup as Madrid’s manager, just four months after taking the job over from Ancelotti’s short-lived replacement, Rafa Benitez.
Toni Kroos, who left Bayern for Madrid when Ancelotti was still in charge, gives credit to Zidane for taking Madrid back to the top.
“He has had a huge impact here. He brought positivity when he arrived and took us in a new direction,” Kroos said. “We are playing better football than before and that was rewarded when we won the Champions League last season.”
The powerhouses’ meeting will be their 23rd, a record for UEFA club competition.
“They will be two fantastic games. This tie could easily be the Champions League final,” Kroos said.
Besides relying on its own potent attack, Bayern will also hope that Cristiano Ronaldo continues to struggle in front of goal this season in Europe.
The Champions League’s all-time scorer with 95 career goals has only struck twice this campaign. That has allowed Barcelona rival Lionel Messi to close the gap after scoring 11 goals to take his total to 94.
Bayern arrives in fine form, enjoying a 10-point lead in the Bundesliga.
The German side will be without defender Mats Hummels (ankle), while Madrid will likely be missing defenders Pepe (ribs) and Raphael Varane (leg). AP/Oddschecker.com