Real Madrid and Bayern Munich aiming to be the bad guy in the Champions League final

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich aiming to be the bad guy in the Champions League final

The shrug from Kylian Mbappe said it all. Walking through the mixed zone at the Parc des Princes, having seen Paris Saint-Germain’s latest attempt on the Champions league summit end the same way as the rest, the French superstar was asked who he wanted to emerge from the second semi-final, poised at 2-2 between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Presumably, a trap was being set: either Mbappe would confirm his preference for the club he is widely expected to join this summer in Madrid (no doubt prompting a Parisian pile-on), or else commit the faux pas that would set his likely new employment off to an unfriendly start before even setting foot through the door.

Instead, wisely, he expressed the indifference that most neutrals now surely feel, Borussia Dortmund certain to be the non-partisan pick in next month’s Wembley final, regardless of which giant emerges to face them from Wednesday evening’s Bernabeu clash.

And let us face it, that is probably welcome news to both Real and Bayern, too, the opportunity to play the bad guy one that both behemoths embrace. A villainous cloak sits lightly on the shoulders of two clubs whose brand is built on crushing the rest.

For Madrid, who have already disposed of a Manchester City side most had as clear favourites to repeat last year’s success, there is now a glaring chance to complete a ludicrous decade of Champions League dominance: win this season’s competition and across the last ten renewals they would have outscored the rest of Europe by six to four.

For Munich, there would an opportunity to serve reminder of their native superiority at the end of a season in which Xabi Alonso’s unbeatable Bayer Leverkusen have dared to challenge the throne. Bundesliga also-rans, they would head to north-west London as heady favourites to repeat 2013’s win over a more regular foe in Dortmund, and on the same patch.

They ought really to be favourites to progress, too, having been the better side in the first-leg, only to see Vincius Jr. score from Madrid’s first chance, then salvage a draw from the penalty spot after Bayern’s roaring second-half response.

That Madrid escaped Munich on terms, just as they had gotten out of Manchester with a penalty shootout victory despite being outplayed, added to the sense of their inevitability in this competition, a legend that in trying to play down yesterday, Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel effectively acknowledged.

Perfectly poised: The two giants drew 2-2 in Bavaria last week (REUTERS)

“Bayern are also one of the most successful and dominant clubs in the world and we have an obligation to do our best when we step on the pitch tomorrow,” he insisted.

“You don’t talk about myths, that would make it harder for us. It is already one of the toughest stadiums to win but not impossible. We are not here to enjoy the moment.”

In trying to shatter the Madrid aura, Tuchel will be aided by the return of centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, who seems certain to be thrown straight into the XI on his injury comeback given Min-jae Kim’s hapless first-leg show.

Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, has his captain Dani Carvajal back from suspension but has ruled out the chance of starting Thibaut Courtois, despite the former Chelsea goalkeeper making a successful comeback from two serious knee problems in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Cadiz, which wrapped up the LaLiga title.

“[Andriy] Lunin will play tomorrow,” Ancelotti said. “Courtois has to take his time to get back to his best. He played against Cadiz after training very well and had an excellent game, showing security and confidence, but he has to get back to his best.”

At the end of yesterday’s training session, Tuchel huddled his players in the centre of an empty Bernabeu, where no away side has won all season, and later told the media he was giving them a 49 per cent chance of becoming the first.

For Ancelotti, the equation was rather simpler: “I’m confident because we’re talking about Real Madrid.”


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