Bayern Munich’s preparations for the first leg were thrown into chaos when it emerged that a shoulder injury would keep out Robert Lewandowski, their prolific striker from Poland. Although Thomas Muller is hardly a disastrous replacement, he endured a poor match in Munich and was substituted by Carlo Ancelotti even at a stage when Bayern were behind and chasing the game.
Lewandowski will return at the Santiago Bernabeu, however, and this will be a perfect demonstration of quite how transformative his presence can be. With him up top, Bayern are better in so many ways — they can play more directly, cross the ball more and they are also more effective at playing passing combinations in dangerous positions on the edge of the box. Lewandowski’s touch and link play are somewhat underrated because he’s considered a pure No. 9, but his creative skills shouldn’t be underestimated.
This may prove crucial, because Real Madrid are often guilty of not protecting their defensive quartet effectively. Casemiro has rightly established himself as a fixture in the holding role, but if Real are overloaded between the lines, the centre-backs can drift out of positions too easily, creating gaps for others to sprint into. Watch for aggressive forward runs from Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara, who know they’re more likely to receive clever passes from Lewandowski than Muller.
Lewandowski confirmed his status as a top-class centre-forward against Real four years ago, when he smashed in all four goals in a 4-1 Dortmund victory at the semifinal stage. If Bayern manage to complete a dramatic turnaround here, Lewandowski needs a performance of similar quality.