In arguably the most anticipated matchup of the 2016-17 Champions League, defending champion Real Madrid head to Germany on Wednesday to face Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena in the first leg of their quarterfinals tie. The two European titans will battle without their veteran center backs but since both teams have plenty of depth there isn't expected to be a shortage of quality play.
Despite a road setback to Hoffenheim on Tuesday, Bayern has been on an impressive hot streak. Carlo Ancelotti's squad disposed of Arsenal by a 10-2 aggregate and seem to have another domestic title sewed up with six wins in their last seven Bundesliga matches. Not only is Bayern winning, but they are winning big, outscoring their last 12 opponents across all competitions by a combined score of 41-5.
Ancelotti welcomes back forward Thomas Muller, who sat out two matches with an ankle injury. Striker Robert Lewandowski, who has 26 goals this season, is questionable for the match after suffering a shoulder injury against Borussia Dortmund.
Center back Mats Hummels appears to be sidelined with an injury and won't be available. Javi Martinez, who spent most of his career with Athletic Bilbao, is expected to fill in for Hummels.
Real Madrid enters the match in mostly good health but is lacking at center back with longtime starter Pepe (rib) and Raphael Varane (hamstring) unavailable. Zinedine Zidane is expected to turn to Nacho, who stepped in for Pepe against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid is also riding on plenty of momentum. Los Blancos made quick work out of Napoli in the Round of 16 and have not lost a domestic match since falling on the road to Valencia on Feb. 22. Zidane no doubt wanted a better result than a draw at home against local rival Atletico this weekend, but Real Madrid has had minimal struggles against other recent opponents, with six wins in their previous six matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been held scoreless in his last three matches but the Portugal star has 19 goals in 24 matches this season.
The last time Real Madrid and Bayern Munich met in a knockout round was the 2014 semifinals, with Real Madrid prevailing on aggregate, 5-0. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will meet in the second leg on April 18 at Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid Probable Lineup
D: Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Carvajal
M: Casemiro, Kroos, Modric
F: Benzema, Ronaldo, Bale
Bayern Munich Probable Lineup
D: Boateng, Martinez, Alaba, Lahm
M: Alcantara, Vidal, Alonso,
F: Lewandowski, Ribery, Robben
Prediction: Bayern Munich 1-1 Real Madrid