Lewandowski, Ribery key to Bayern's hopes of UCL comeback
Bayern Munich trail 2-1 ahead of their Champions League semifinal second leg away at Real Madrid but all is not lost. Here's five reasons why Bayern can turn the tie around in their favour ...
Last season, Carlo Ancelotti's misfiring side were good enough to beat Real 2-1 in 90 minutes to extend the tie into extra time, with a half-fit Robert Lewandowski subbed towards the end with a nagging shoulder injury. He's fully fit this time around and Bayern's top scorer will be hurt by the criticism of his off-colour first leg performance -- missing a couple of chances he would normally gobble up in the Bundesliga. Bayern will need Lewandowski at the top of his game, adding to his 39 goals for the season, to fire them to victory against potentially his next employers.
Help from the referee
In last season's quarterfinal exit, referee Viktor Kassai incurred Bayern's wrath following Arturo Vidal's dismissal. CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was not amused, feeling the German champions had been "cheated", while an incensed Thomas Muller added that it was like playing with "10 vs. 14 men" after a couple of offside goals from Cristiano Ronaldo were also not spotted.
Trailing 3-0 at home against Juventus in the quarterfinals this time around, Real needed a hotly debated last ditch penalty to see off the Italian champions and incur the wrath of Gianluigi Buffon.
Bayern will need help from referee Cuneyt Cakir in the cauldron of the Bernabeu. He officiated in Bayern's 3-1 group stage win over Neymar & Co. in Munich.
Bayern's longest serving player Franck Ribery hasn't scored since March 2015 in the Champions League. The 35-year-old missed a golden chance to double the lead last Wednesday in Munich but blew the opportunity by taking a clumsy touch with the goal at his mercy -- a genuine "game changer" according to coach Jupp Heynckes. Ribery had run the hapless Dani Carvahal ragged all night in Munich and should have crowned his top performance with at least a goal. With the return of David Alaba at left-back, Bayern's left side is potentially even stronger for the return in the Bernabeu, but they will need a repeat performance from the Frenchman -- ideally ending his goal drought -- to turn the tie around.
Keeping Ronaldo quiet -- again
Amazingly, Real scored twice in the Bavarian capital and Ronaldo didn't find the net for the first time in this European campaign. Having not tasted defeat with Jerome Boateng on the pitch in 29 games, it was clearly a cruel blow to their chances when their rock at the back went off with Bayern comfortably leading 1-0. While Ronaldo scored a hat trick the last time the two teams met in the Bernabeu, another off-key display would aid Bayern's chances. Alaba's return will bolster Bayern's backline and provide more attacking impetus too, while the classy Mats Hummels and replacement Niklas Sule can cover the big Boateng blow.
Do it for Heynckes
Heynckes always reaches the final, leading the Bavarians to the showcase in both 2012 and 2013 during his last spell in charge, culminating in the historic treble season and victory over Borussia Dortmund in the all-German affair at Wembley. Bayern have previous too under Heynckes in the semifinals in the Bernabeu, winning a penalty shootout in 2012. "Don Jupp" even won the trophy in 1998 with Real, before being kindly rewarded with the sack eight days later. It's one last push for Bayern who will do everything to keep their treble hopes alive, aiming to provide a fitting tribute to the 72-year-old who will retire, again, at the end of the season.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.