Managers claim Champions League semi-final is wide open
Holders Real Madrid face Bayern Munich in a blockbusting tie.
Managers Zinedine Zidane and Jupp Heynckes both believe the blockbusting Champions League semi-final between holders Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is wide open.
The two sides, both giants of the European game, meet each other in the first leg of their eagerly-anticipated last four tie at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
Madrid, who are bidding for a 13th European crown and a third in succession, beat the Germans in last year’s quarter-finals but coach Zidane insists that counts for nothing.
The Frenchman, speaking at a pre-match press conference covered by UEFA.com, said: “I don’t think there are any favourites. It’s a semi-final – it’s completely different to last season. It’s a different match.
“We are in the semi-finals and we want to play a good game. We are prepared for that, knowing that we are going to have to suffer.
“We will need a big performance against a strong opponent. Bayern are a great club with great team spirit. I have no doubts that mentally we will be at 150 per cent.”
#Heynckes: "The game will be a great one for the watching public. Both teams play attractive football. There is no favourite for me - but I have a good feeling." #FCBRMA #packmas pic.twitter.com/Hel1Ra9pzq— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 24, 2018
Opposite number Heynckes echoed those thoughts as he conducted his pre-match media duties.
The veteran German said: “Both of our teams will provide us with attractive football. There are big players and it will be an open game. For me there is no favourite but I have a good feeling.
“We have had success in the Bundesliga, reached the final of the cup and we want to cap that with the final of the Champions League.”
Heynckes has guided both clubs to Champions League glory in the past. His success with Real in 1998 – beating a Juventus side that included Zidane in the final – ended a 32-year wait for European success at the Bernabeu.
Heynckes, also a winner with Bayern in 2013, said: “I have some great memories in the Champions League, 1998 for example. It was a fantastic feeling when the whistle went and Real were European champions again. It was a big moment but I do not like to look back, I live in the present.
“It’s a wonderful privilege to have had success in my career and to reach the semi-finals – and hopefully the final – against one of my old clubs, Real Madrid.”
The match provides an opportunity for Colombia forward James Rodriguez, who is on loan at Bayern this season, to make a point to his parent club.
“I didn’t want James to leave,” said Zidane.
“He wanted more game time, which I can understand. I never had any problem with him, he just wanted to play.
“James loves to play football, so of course he’ll want to do a good job – but not to show me or prove me wrong.”