UCL 2019-20: Real Madrid depleted for crucial game, problems mount for Bayern Munichhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/football/uefa-champions-league-preview-fixtures-real-madrid-bayern-munich-6082690/

UCL 2019-20: Real Madrid depleted for crucial game, problems mount for Bayern Munich

Real Madrid has yet to win a match in Group A this season. A third straight setback could leave the team in danger of not making it out of the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema’s form will be crucial for his side. (AP Photo)

Real Madrid is under pressure, depleted by injuries, and in need of a win in the Champions League.

Ahead of the team’s crucial match against Galatasaray on Tuesday, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane certainly has his work cut out for him.

Madrid has yet to win a match in Group A this season. A third straight setback could leave the team in danger of not making it out of the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

Coming off a demoralizing loss to promoted Mallorca in the Spanish league, Zidane needs to somehow put together a squad that is missing Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Also not making the trip to Turkey are Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio, while there are doubts about Toni Kroos following a long injury layoff.

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“We have injured players, it is what it is,” Zidane said. “We can’t change the situation. That can’t be used as an excuse. We have other players in the team and everyone has to show that they have what it takes to be here.”

Zidane used an alternative squad in Saturday’s loss at Mallorca, a result that cost the team the Spanish league lead. Modric and Bale didn’t play and there was hope they could make it to Turkey, but the club said Sunday they have not yet fully recovered.

If Kroos is indeed able to play, Zidane will likely use him in the midfield along with Casemiro and youngster Federico Valverde. In attack, Vinícius Júnior is likely to replace Bale alongside Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard, who didn’t play in Mallorca because of the birth of his son.

After a big loss at Paris Saint-Germain and a home draw against Club Brugge, Madrid is tied with Galatasaray at the bottom of Group A with one point. The Turkish team is ahead on goal difference. PSG leads with six points, four more than Club Brugge.

HEALTHY BARCELONA

While Madrid tries to avert a crisis, Barcelona is just starting to hit its stride.

Barcelona was the team facing a wave of injuries early in the season, with players like Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez among those sidelined. But with most of the squad healthy again, Barcelona started thriving, and it will enter Wednesday’s Champions League match at Slavia Prague coming off five straight wins in all competitions.

Messi, Suárez and Antoine Griezmann — Barcelona’s much-hyped attacking trio — are finally clicking. They each scored in the team’s 3-0 win over Eibar in the Spanish league on Saturday.

“At the end, the great players always find one another and can feel where the other one will make his run or a pass,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “They have worked and played well. And this is the reward.”

Barcelona is tied with Borussia Dortmund at the top of Group F with four points, three more than Slavia Prague and Inter Milan.

JOÃO FÉLIX

Atlético Madrid’s Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday will be the team’s first without the injured João Félix, the 19-year-old Portuguese sensation who was the club’s biggest offseason signing.

Félix hurt his ankle in the 1-1 draw against Valencia in the Spanish league on Saturday, a result that dropped Atlético to fifth place after nine matches.

In the Champions League, Atlético is tied with Juventus at the top of Group D with four points.

LEE’S TEARS

South Korea midfielder Lee Kang-in was in tears after being sent off in Valencia’s 1-1 draw at Atlético Madrid on Saturday.

The 18-year-old Lee was shown a red card for a hard tackle about 10 minutes after coming on as a late substitute in the match in Madrid.

“It’s tough, he was crying in the changing room,” Valencia midfielder Gabriel Paulista said. “He is a kid. He has a lot to learn. We’ve all gone through this and we need to be able to help him.”

Problems mounting for Bayern Munich after worst start since 2010

Bayern Munich’s problems are mounting after its worst start to the Bundesliga in nine years.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw at struggling Augsburg followed a 2-1 loss at home to Hoffenheim and ensured that Niko Kovac’s team has dropped points in half of its league games so far.

Asked if Bayern was sliding into another Autumn-crisis following a similarly weak stint last year, captain Manuel Neuer bluntly replied, “I hope not.”

But the signs aren’t good.

Defensive pillar Niklas Süle has been ruled out for months with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, forward Thomas Müller is unhappy with his reserve role since Philippe Coutinho arrived, and there are questions over the team’s mental strength after just four wins from eight Bundesliga games.

“You’re going to look at the points total from last year and draw conclusions. You’re entitled to do that,” said Kovac, who endured a crisis of four competitive games without a win around the same time last season.

Bayern’s 15 points is the team’s worst mark at this stage since Louis van Gaal was in charge in 2010. The Dutch coach, whose side had 11 points at the time, was fired the following April.

Kovac doesn’t enjoy the unflinching support of Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, but he has been backed for now by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

“We’re all pulling in the same direction,” Salihamidzic said.

Coutinho and Müller, his substitute on Saturday, missed good chances to put Bayern up 3-1 before Alfred Finnbogason equalized for Augsburg in injury time. It was the sixth consecutive game in which Kovac started with Coutinho instead of Müller.

“We live in a competitive society,” Kovac said.

This time last year, Rummenigge and club president Uli Hoeneß attacked the media for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” and threatened to take legal action if unfavorable coverage of the team’s struggles continued.

Kovac managed to turn the side’s fortunes around and eventually led it to a record-extending seventh straight Bundesliga title, as well as a German Cup victory in Berlin.

This year, Kovac has been charged with doing better in the Champions League, where his side has already delivered a statement with a 7-2 rout of Tottenham. Bayern next visits Olympiakos on Wednesday, then it returns to Bundesliga action against visiting Union Berlin on Saturday.

Despite its lackluster start, Bayern is just behind leader Borussia Mönchengladbach at the top of the Bundesliga.

“We’re one point behind first place. Do you want to talk us into a crisis?” Hoeneß said on Monday. “I’m satisfied with everything but our goal tally.”

LEIPZIG STRUGGLING

Leipzig, which had ambitions of challenging Bayern for the league title this season, is also struggling.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side has not won any of its last four competitive games, leading to criticism from chairman Oliver Mintzlaff after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg.

“It feels like a defeat. Five points from the last four home games is too little, two points from the last two Bundesliga games, too. We can do better,” Mintzlaff said.

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Leipzig next hosts Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday.