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Bayern's Robben: 'Now we have to reward ourselves'
by Ridge Mahoney, April 28th, 2014 9:10PM

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TAGS:  uefa champions league

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[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] It’s been more than a decade since a team reached three straight Champions League finals and history is on the side of Bayern Munich to do just that.

Bayern has taken four of five head-to-head meetings with Real Madrid in the competition’s semifinals, the second leg of which is Tuesday at the Allianz Arena in Munich (live on Fox Sports 1 at 2:45 p.m. ET). It trails this series, 1-0, courtesy of a Karim Benzema goal in the first leg and if successful, can emulate the three straight finals attained by Juventus from 1996 to 1998.

Bayern prevailed two years ago, winning a penalty-kick shootout, 3-1, in Madrid after the two legs ended tied on aggregate, 3-3. It has won nine of its 10 European home games against the Spanish giant, but its task will be complicated if Real scores an away goal. In that case, Bayern must prevail in the second leg by two goals to win the series outright. A 1-0 Bayern advantage after 90 minutes would force overtime.

“I think the stadium in Munich will be on fire,” said Bayern winger Arjen Robben on Monday. His goal two years ago knotted the series at 3-3. “We'll give everything and we need our fans and their support. The 11 players on the field and the seven on the bench will give everything, and we have lots of confidence.”

A winger on the other team could play a more prominent role than he did in the first leg. Gareth Bale has been bothered by a virus. He was limited to 17 minutes last week, and sat out Real’s 4-0 defeat of Osasuna in league play Saturday.

“I feel good after a few days' training,” said the Welsh international, who netted the winning goal in the Copa del Rey final April 16 by powering up the left side to score from close range. “I'm hoping to play tomorrow and looking forward to it. It's been a good season so far but there is still a lot of work to do.”

Real coach Carlo Ancelotti kept Pepe (hip) and Benzema (knee) on the bench. Both are likely to start in the second leg and present Bayern coach Pep Guardiola with two more experienced foes to deal with. Cristiano Ronaldo played only 62 minutes Saturday yet scored twice against Osasuna and has netted 17 times in his last 13 domestic and European matches. 

“Madrid counterattack at pace,” said Guardiola. “If you lose the ball you need to make sure you close down the space and make the defense compact. They will seek to defend their advantage for 90 minutes, but I’m not sure how. We were desperate to score an away goal [in the first leg]. Now we have to attack even more – we have no other option. I'm convinced they'll want to play as well.”

Bayern also bears the knowledge of beating Barcelona, 4-0, at home in last year’s semifinals and thumping Manchester United in the quarterfinals. It has scored 14 goals at home in the current competition.

“We have to play with confidence,” said Robben. “We scored three goals against Manchester United and last year we scored four against Barcelona. We've had some weeks where we've not been at our best but will still have a really good feeling. We've had a great season so far and now we have to reward ourselves.”

Bayern heads into the second leg under suspicion it has lost some steam since clinching the Bundesliga title more than a month ago. It appeared tentative at times going forward in the first leg but on Saturday thrashed Werder Bremen, 5-2, in its league match.

Despite its one-goal edge, Real will feel the pressure of stumbling at this stage in the past three seasons and the possibility this is the only remaining competition it can win. It trails La Liga leader Atletico Madrid, which faces Chelsea in its Champions League semifinal Wednesday, by six points. Though it has won the competition a record nine times, Real hasn't reached the final since 2002, the second-longest such drought in its long and glorious history.

“I don't think tactically the game is going to change a lot tomorrow,” said Ancelotti. “FC Bayern has its soccer philosophy, but I don't think tactics will be all-important. I actually think the mental side of things will be more important.”

 



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