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Champions League Preview: Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich

Champions League trophyAtletico and Bayern meet in the other semi-final in a pairing many fans have been looking forward to ever since Pep Guardiola took charge of the record German champions. Los Colchoneros were one of few sides to trouble Barcelona during the 45-year-old Spaniard’s reign at the Catalan club. “I know just how special this Atletico team is and how much passion they play with,” acknowledged Guardiola.

While Bayern Munich currently bear the unmistakable hallmarks of Guardiola’s coaching philosophy, they have not exactly sparkled in recent weeks. Nonetheless, the Bavarian side boasts a certain directness not shared by Barcelona. That attribute was perfectly demonstrated by the two headed goals that proved so crucial in their narrow last-16 win over Juventus, and could prove vital again versus Atleti.

With Guardiola set to leave the German champions this summer after three seasons at the helm, can he steer his team to the final after two Champions League semi-final defeats in the past two campaigns?

Player to watch
Before the season began, Arturo Vidal was not necessarily at the top of his coach’s wish list. Vidal is hardly typical of the midfielders usually found in Guardiola teams, but the tactician must be glad to have the combative Chilean in his ranks after he found the net in both legs of Bayern’s quarter-final win over Benfica.

Many observers in Germany believe Vidal will play a key role against Atletico too, even if he overstepped the mark in a Bundesliga game in Stuttgart two weeks ago. The 28-year-old was substituted after just 26 minutes to prevent him from picking up a red card. One thing’s for sure: Guardiola and Bayern will be wanting the midfielder at his very best against Diego Simeone’s charges.

What they said

“We heard that [Atletico’s] stadium is one of the three most atmospheric arenas in Europe. I love playing in front of crowds like that. Whether you’re at home or away, that kind of match is incredible for any player. Even if the fans are cheering against you, it spurs you on and gives you a real adrenaline boost.”
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski