The Bayern Munich coach faces his former club Real Madrid over two legs, knowing that victory will ensure the German side will be the first to contest a Champions League final in its own stadium.
Bayern will seek to become first to contest final in its own stadium. Photo: EFE
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes faces his former club Real Madrid over two legs, knowing that victory will ensure the German side will be the first to contest a Champions League final in its own stadium.
Heynckes led Real to the 1998 trophy and knows the pressure on the Spanish powerhouse to claim a record 10th title is immense. "The obsession to win this trophy was there from the beginning," the 66-year-old said of his solitary year in charge. Heynckes was sacked for finishing the season in a lowly league position, fourth.
His counterpart, Jose Mourinho, denied Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final by winning with Inter Milan at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The Real coach also won the title with Porto and is seeking to become the first coach to win the competition with three different clubs.
Four-time winner Bayern is hoping its strength at home will prove decisive in Tuesday's semifinal first leg. "Lust, passion, desire for success are decisive," Heynckes said in Monday's press conference. "And I feel that in my team. They have this chance perhaps once in their lives."
Bayern has won 13 of its last 14 games in Munich, where Real has never won in nine attempts. The Spaniards have only one win from 22 visits to Germany, a 3-2 victory at Bayer Leverkusen in September 2000.
History also favors the Germans, who have 10 wins from 18 previous clashes between the great rivals, including eight from those nine games in Munich.
Bayern has prevailed in three from four semifinal clashes, going on to win the title when the sides last met at this stage in the competition in 2001. It was Bayern's last European title, and the Bavarians are keen to make up for disappointing form in the Bundesliga by reaching a ninth final. "We'll pull everything out, we'll fight, give everything to make it," said winger Thomas Mueller.
Bayern has all but conceded defeat in the league after falling eight points behind defending champion Borussia Dortmund. "Our focus now is on the Champions League and the German Cup," said sporting director Christian Nerlinger after Saturday's 0-0 draw to Mainz ended Bayern's 11-game winning run at home.
Munich plays Dortmund in the German Cup final on May 12. Bayern's 1-0 defeat at Dortmund last Wednesday effectively decided the Bundesliga, and Heynckes acknowledged as much by starting regulars Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery, Philipp Lahm, Luiz Gustavo and league topscorer Mario Gomez on the bench against Mainz.
"Rotations were necessary to be fully there on Tuesday,'' said Heynckes.
Gomez, with 25 Bundesliga goals, will be hoping to add to his Champions League tally of 11. Bayern winger Arjen Robben, for one, could feel he has a point to prove after scoring 11 goals in 50 league appearances for Madrid before being deemed surplus to requirements in 2009. "I hope and believe that he will be particularly motivated against his ex-club,'' Heynckes said Monday. "He's a player that can make the difference."
But Madrid is unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions and has only conceded one goal in five away Champions League games so far. "Everyone knows what's coming. It's the toughest opponent of the season," said Kroos.
Madrid is four points ahead of three-time defending champion Barcelona in the league, Saturday's 3-1 win at home over Sporting Gijon maintaining the capital side's advantage before Saturday's crucial "clasico" in Barcelona.
Mourinho used Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria as second half substitutes to give his regulars extra rest, while neither Kaka nor Xabi Alonso featured against Sporting, the latter missed out through suspension.
Madrid called up its entire 23 man squad for Munich, plus reserve team goalkeeper Tomas Mejias. "For those who say Mourinho is a defensive coach, the numbers aren't bad," said Madrid's assistant coach Aitor Karanka after his side matched the league record 107 goals it scored during the 1989-90 season.
Like Madrid, Bayern has no major injury worries ahead of the tie, though Bastian Schweinsteiger is still not 100 percent after recently returning from a nagging ankle injury.
Mueller, Kroos, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Luiz Gustavo are all one booking from suspension, while no Madrid playing is in danger of missing the second leg.
Bayern's defense will need to be at its best to stop Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Benzema, who have combined to score 107 goals in all competitions this season.
Madrid hasn't won the title since 2002 and is also spurred by the prospect of a possible final against arch rival Barcelona on May 19. The defending champion faces Chelsea in the other semifinal tie.