By JOHN BOSCHINI
Despite the dominance Real Madrid have exhibited in this season's UEFA Champions League, speculation lingers that their route to the semifinals has something to do with poor opposition along the way.
Jose Mourinho's men have yet to play a team from England, Spain, Germany or Italy in their 10 UEFA Champions League matches, but all that will change when they travel to the Allianz Arena to take on German powerhouse Bayern Munich in the opening leg of their semifinal tie. Madrid are searching for their first Champions League title in 10 years, while Munich have the added incentive of playing for a chance to reach the final that is taking place in their home stadium.
This is a matchup of two of the most prolific offenses in Europe. In UCL play, Real Madrid have scored 33 goals, while Munich have scored 25 despite being drawn into perilous Group A. For Bayern Munich, defending their home field has been a constant, as the club has won all five UCL games at home while only conceding three times. That stretch will be put to the test, as Real Madrid have been virtually as dominant on the road, making the first leg a dead heat.
Here is a closer look at the Madrid-Munich semifinal clash:
BAYERN MUNICH VS. REAL MADRID
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Both sides have been efficient while at times explosive in their path to the semifinals. Real Madrid have yet to face any real challenges but a +27 goal differential have shown how dominant Madrid can be. Their 8-2 aggregate victory over APOEL Niocsia in the quarterfinals was well over before the return leg at the Bernabeu.
Bayern Munich used a pair of 2-0 wins over Marseille to easily advance into the semifinals. Ivica Olic made a surprising return to the scoresheet with a brace in the return leg.
THE LOWDOWN: While both offenses have been clicking on all cylinders recently, a flurry of goals is unlikely. Madrid have shown a willingness to play defensively and use the speed of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema to strike on the counterattack. It was the same strategy Mourinho used to defeat Barcelona while coach of Inter Milan in 2010 before beating Bayern in the final.
Munich is tough to break down at home, however, having won 12 of their last 13 European competitions at the Allianz Arena and have only dropped points twice at home in their last 22 games in all competitions.
Bastian Schweinsteiger will be available for selection, but his lack of match fitness could see him utilized as a substitute. Madrid will see the return of Xabi Alonso but will be without Ricardo Carvalho and Lassana Diarra.
What do you think of today's game? Can Bayern Munich take the advantage or will Real Madrid effectively end the tie before the second leg?
Share your thoughts below.