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Real must ‘improve’ to overcome Bayern in Champions League

MADRID – Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is searching for the formula to take his team’s performance up several notches to get past Bayern Munich on May 8 and reach the Champions League final.

The Italian admitted after the 2-2 semi-final, first-leg draw last week in Bavaria that Real failed to find their consistent best despite earning a decent result, with the German giants largely on top.

“Bayern are very dangerous, they were at their best and we weren’t – we have time to improve for Wednesday,” Ancelotti said at the Allianz Arena, after Vinicius Junior’s brace secured Real a draw.

Real come into the match on the back of sealing the La Liga title after a 3-0 win over Cadiz on May 4, but with the Champions League in the forefront of their minds, celebrations were put on ice.

Los Blancos players reported for training on May 5 and the players did not join fans at Plaza Cibeles, where they would usually party together after earning major titles.

The 14-time Champions League winners instead had their sights firmly set on extending their European domination.

“We would like to celebrate with all the fans, but they understand because on Wednesday we have a very important challenge,” said Ancelotti. “We have the most important game of the season coming up.”

Real captain Nacho Fernandez agreed with his coach.

“We’re on the verge of reaching another final, we’re going to give our all to get there – that’s why we can’t celebrate too much,” he said.

Real’s target is achieving a fifth La Liga and Champions League double.

Ancelotti has won 12 trophies at Real and is close to catching the club’s all-time leader Miguel Munoz on 14, secured between 1960 and 1972.

To reach the final at Wembley, he must find a way to restrain Bayern’s wingers Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala, who caused Real a constant headache in the first leg.

Dani Carvajal will return from suspension at right-back to try and shackle Musiala, while stopping Sane might require Jude Bellingham and others tracking back to help Ferland Mendy.

“It was important when we began to defend with collective commitment,” Ancelotti reminded his players when speaking about the side’s improvement this season.

“The big effort was made by the forwards, rather than the defenders – injuries helped us understand that it wasn’t about individuals but a team effort.”

Ancelotti only started Nacho against Cadiz from the line-up he deployed in Munich, so his players will be fresh and chomping at the bit to reach the final.

Real kept Bayern’s prolific striker Harry Kane quiet for the most part last week but the England captain netted from the spot after Lucas Vazquez clumsily felled Musiala.

The coach could also bring in Eduardo Camavinga to add energy and disrupt Bayern’s build-up before the ball gets to Kane.

If Ancelotti’s planning fails, Real always have the “magic” of the Santiago Bernabeu to fall back on.

Their remarkable string of home comebacks to reach the 2022 Champions League final is fresh in the memory, with players quick to highlight the stadium’s legend and mystique.

“It’s time to have a magical night at the Bernabeu,” said Vinicius.

Meanwhile, six-time Champions League winners Bayern, who still do not have a coach lined up for next season after the impending departure of Thomas Tuchel, head into the clash ever more reliant on Kane.

The striker has 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions, officially his best return in a season.

“It’s 0-0 now, one game to take you to Wembley... It all comes down to next week and we have to perform on that big occasion so the opportunity is there,” he said last week.

Thomas Muller, a two-time Champions League winner, said on the club’s website on May 6 that efficiency would be key in Madrid.

“It’s a game on equal terms, on a knife’s edge. Football is about being effective,” he said.

“Now it’s about getting over the finish line in Madrid. (Real are) extremely dangerous but very playable. Whether they are beatable is for us to determine.” – AFP

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