A goalless draw at the Allianz Arena tonight will be enough for Real Madrid to progress to their first Champions League final since 2002, but Gareth Bale has insisted that they will not just, as the expression goes, ‘park the bus’.
Last week Carlo Ancelotti’s side eked out a narrow 1-0 victory against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their semi-final tie at the Santiago Bernabeu, Karim Benzema’s 19th-minute strike proving enough for Los Blancos.
In the Spanish capital, Bayern controlled the ball better than Madrid did – they ended up with 72% of the possession. Pep Guardiola’s side were the more attacking as well, but it was Madrid who had the better opportunities and could have gone 3-0 up by half time had Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria taken their chances.
Bayern are expected to press forward right from the start in Munich tonight and Madrid are once again expected to play on the counter-attack. However, Bale insists that he and his teammates will attack at every chance.
Bale came on for the final 17 minutes last week as he was suffering from flu, but he still managed to make a couple of rampaging runs that created problems for the defending European champions. Tonight he is likely to start after having fully recovered and his pace is once again going to threaten a Bayern defence that has looked vulnerable in recent weeks.
‘We have a very hard game against Bayern, but we're looking forward to it’, the 24-year-old told reporters on Monday. ‘We like to attack, but tomorrow we need to know how to defend, too. We are ready to give it our best shot. We haven't qualified for the final yet.
‘There is a lot of expectation at this club because you always have to win. We won the cup and now we want the Champions League. We want to do the same in the Champions League. We are eager to play against the best teams and to win titles. We will look to play good football, as we always do’.
Tonight will be the biggest test that the world’s most expensive footballer has faced since joining Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur. Much was made about the (reported) £85 million that the Spanish giants dished out last summer to recruit the Wales international, but so far Bale has done justice to that huge transfer fee.
14 goals and 12 assists in just 25 La Liga appearances and five goals and two assists in 10 Champions League matches are enough to make Bale’s debut season for Madrid a successful one. It becomes even more impressive when you add in THAT sensational goal he scored in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona at the Mestalla in Valencia earlier this month that won them the trophy.
Yet, tonight will be a match like no other. In the past three years under Jose Mourinho, Madrid have failed to progress beyond the semi-finals of the Champions League. This time under Ancelotti they have a great chance of breaking that run. A 1-0 lead combined with the return to full fitness of Ronaldo and Bale gives the nine-time European champions an exceptional boost to carry on their match towards ‘La Decima’.
And that was why Bale was brought in last summer.