- First leg takes place in Madrid on Wednesday night.
- Return leg in Munich the following Tuesday.
- Pep Guardiola looking to crown his final year in Munich with European triumph.
In one of the most anticipated ties of the season, the attacking might of FC Bayern München meets the defensive strength of Club Atletico de Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Accordingly, bundesliga.com has hunted out five reasons why Pep Guardiola's men could progress to the showpiece in Milan on 28 May...
Guardiola vs Simeone
The clash of two contrasting coaching styles is one of the most intriguing subplots to this tie. Guardiola, whose FC Barcelona and Bayern sides have in many ways re-defined the attacking parameters of the modern game, meets Diego Simeone, whose Atletico side have turned defending into an art form since his arrival at the Estadio Vicente Calderon in 2011. The pair have only ever faced off once: The current Bayern coach coming out on top by a 2-1 scoreline on 26 February 2012 in La Liga.
While Simeone's Atletico side were in their infancy then and the club's achievements since have been impressive, Guardiola's experience may be enough to tilt the tie in his side's favour. The Catalan won this competition once as a player and has since lifted it twice as a coach (while Simeone has never lifted it), and also boasts a better win record since joining Bayern (76 percent) than Simeone does at Atleti (63 percent).
Bayern's formidable attack
The Bavarians boast the best attack in this season's competition, with 28 goals so far. Both Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller have contributed eight strikes, while Kingsley Coman is the Champions League's joint-best provider, with five assists. "Regardless of how many I've scored, I still want more," Lewandowski told UEFA.com recently.
There are warning signs for Bayern too, though: Los Rojiblancos have only conceded 16 goals in the league this season - a phenomenal return - and although without influential centre-half Diego Godin on Wednesday, the return of youngster Jose Maria Gimenez is a boost for Simeone’s side.
Weight of history
Remarkably for two sides who have been involved at the business end of European competition over the last few decades, this will be the first meeting between Bayern and Atletico in 42 years. The last - and hitherto only - time they met in this competition holds happy memories for the Germans, though. After equalising late on in the 1974 European Cup final, Bayern won the replay 4-0, the first of three successive triumphs in the competition for the club.
The luxury of choice
Where in last year's semi-final defeat to FC Barcelona, Bayern were without Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and David Alaba and were forced to start with Robert Lewandowski wearing a face-mask at the Camp Nou, Guardiola’s personnel situation coming into this one looks far rosier. Only Robben and Holger Badstuber are unavailable to the Bayern coach ahead of the first leg at the Calderon, with the potential return of Jerome Boateng further good news. "We're really happy that he's back after three months out injured," said executive board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Boateng's return. "It's good that he'll be involved for the final stretch."
Coming out on top in the tie "depends on mental performance" according to Guardiola. Indeed, Atletico are likely to press, harry, harass, close down space and make life difficult for Bayern, as is Simeone's side's wont. If Bayern can thrive under the pressure placed on them over 180 minutes against one of Europe's most intense sides, then they will stand in good stead to reach a first Champions League final of Guardiola's era in his last season at the helm. "It would be amazing if we could bid farewell to Pep Guardiola by winning the Champions League," said Lewandowski. "It would be the icing on the cake after all the time we've had together at Bayern."