Posts Tagged ‘champions league semi final’

Arjen Robben returns to the Bernabeu tonight, looking to knock his former club out of the Champions League.

He will have every right to feel aggrieved at his departure from Real Madrid; after all, he played a huge role in winning them the league in his first season.

He joined Los Merengues from Chelsea for a fee mooted to be around £24m in 2007, and his impact, while not immediate, certainly cannot be underestimated.

He scored five goals that season, but all of them came in the last four months of the campaign.

Corey Fiske, of Real Madrid Football Blog, said: “The fact that he almost single handedly brought Real Madrid to a league title after an awful start to the campaign…speaks volumes of his talent.”

Madrid narrowly missed out on a league title in his second season, one that would prove to be his last. That was despite another string of fine performances individually, which saw him score eight goals in 37 games.

The second coming of Florentino Perez, and with him Los Galacticos II, meant that Robben, in his view, forced out. By his own admission, he “didn’t want to go” but “the club wanted to sell me.”

He has a remarkable habit of winning the league title in his first season, having done so at PSV and Chelsea as well as Madrid, and a move to Bayern Munich saw that trend continue.

He scored 16 league goals that season, 23 overall, to help propel Bayern not only to the league title but also the Champions League final – albeit one they lost.

His second season was partially derailed by injury, and it was clear to see as Bayern lost their grip on the league to Borussia Dortmund, and were knocked out of the Champions League – by Inter, the same team who’d beaten them in the previous final – in the last 16.

This season, he has been instrumental in the progress to the Champions League semi final, and his importance has become plain to see.

Edson Karimi, of Red Robbery, said: “Is Robben better now? The stats say yes; 0.6 goals per match for Bayern as opposed to 0.2 for Madrid.

“He certainly is more important for Munich and any hope for a FCB win can only come true if Robben plays at his best.”

Fiske, however, has a slightly different view. He said: “[Robben] is a great player, but maybe he should have been more, on level with a Messi or Ronaldo, but because of his physical frailty, and I dare say his mental frailty, he will never be one of the best. His selfish play can affect a team, and its no question he can have an adverse affect on games.

“He has done well at Bayen too, but would anyone say he is an important player of the club, or merely an excellent player that is on the squad? That’s how I viewed his time at Real.”

Tonight, the stage is set for Robben to prove Madrid wrong. Only time will tell if he’s up to the challenge. Whether he is or not could well decide who wins.

Below is a reminder of what Robben is capable of in the Champions League:

 

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Germany’s most successful side take on Europe’s, as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid revive an old rivalry.

Munich have won the Champions League four times – more than any other German side; Madrid have won it nine times – more than any other side in history. Neither, however, have done so in ten years.

Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes is no stranger to this competition, or to Real Madrid: he led Los Blancos to the Champions League title back in 1998. His opposite number, Jose Mourinho, has won this competition twice: firstly, with Porto in 2004, and then with Inter in 2010, when they beat the Bavarians in the final.

Bayern aren’t exactly heading into this game in the best form. On Saturday, they were held to a 0-0 draw with Mainz, in a rather dull encounter. More pertinently, they lost to Dortmund last Wednesday, and also lost any chance they had of winning the title.

By contrast, things are going extremely well for Madrid. On Saturday, they brushed off Sporting Gijon with a fairly routine 3-1 win. Last Wednesday, they stuck four past their city rivals Atletico, and they’re currently four points clear of Barcelona in La Liga.

Having both rested players at the weekend, neither side has any real injury concerns. Bastian Schweinsteiger may not be fully match fit, but such is his importance that he is likely to start.

There are likely to be a few key battles throughout the pitch, not least if Mourinho decides to pit Cristiano Ronaldo against the young Austrian David Alaba, who is in line to start at left back.

Similarly, Bayern’s biggest threats could come from out wide, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben – who has a point to prove against the club that sold him – coming up against the solid if unspectacular Alvaro Arbeloa and the attack-minded Marcelo.

Mario Gomez is the second highest scorer in the Champions League this season, with 11 goals (only Lionel Messi has more), while the in-form Karim Benzema may just get the nod over Gonzalo Higuain.

The odds seem to be in the favour of Madrid, something supported by Edson Karimi of Bayern blog Red Robbery. He said: “Real Madrid play the second leg at home, have a deeper squad and can win dirty whereas Bayern need the lead, struggle to play well without the ball and haven’t been in a good form recently.”

His sentiments were echoed by Corey Fiske, of Real Madrid Football Blog, who said: “I am very confident in the match, but I would not go so far as to say we will make the final. Being favorites is fine, but I will not say we will win the tie, only that I like our chances and given Bayern’s loss to Dortmund and draw to Mainz, their loss of the league title yet again has to give Real Madrid a psychological advantage. Then again, if Real were to lose the Clasico sandwiched in between the two legs, the tables could turn. It should be a great tie, and I am looking forward to it.”

Let the games begin…

Prediction: 1-2

 

Make your own prediction, or discuss the potential teams etc, using the comments box…