Bayern Munich jetted off to Spain hoping to realise their dreams of reaching the Champions League final ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final, first-leg, against “very, very dangerous” Atletico Madrid.
Boosted by their passionate fans, Atletico’s Vicente Calderon stadium is set to offer an intense challenge to Bayern with a place in this year’s final on May 28 in Milan at stake.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico will provide Pep Guardiola with an acid test in his third and final year in charge of Bayern before coaching Manchester City.
The 45-year-old has seen his Bavarian giants knocked out by Spanish opposition at the semi-final stage in both of his previous two full seasons in charge.
“They have a big heart and a very good mentality. This is a top, top team. They are very, very dangerous,” warned Bayern’s Guardiola, who needs a good result in Madrid ahead of next Tuesday’s return at the Allianz Arena.
“I know exactly how special Atletico’s team is and with how much determination they play.”
Bayern’s Germany defender Jerome Boateng could return to the starting line-up for the first time since January after a groin injury.
“I am ready and I’m there to help the team,” he said on a possible inclusion in Bayern’s bid to repeat their 2013 treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles.
Simeone’s Atletico threw down a gauntlet in the quarter-finals by knocking out last year’s winners Barcelona while Bayern are bidding to win the European crown for the sixth time.
“Of course we have a goal and that’s to reach the final and continue living this dream,” said Bayern’s chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge before boarding the plane at Munich airport.
“Any team who can shut out Barcelona has a lot of quality.
“This team can hurt anyone and be very unpleasant to play against.”
Bayern excited the 2014 Champions League semi-finals with a crushing defeat to eventual winners Real Madrid, then succumbed to Barcelona at the same stage of last year’s competition.
Having again drawn Spanish opposition, Bayern are hoping to make it third time lucky and they expect a battle royal against Atletico’s miserly defence which has leaked just 16 goals in La Liga this season.
“We have our eyes wide open,” said Germany forward Thomas Mueller.
“There will be antics and many one-on-ones in the grey area. It’s something we’ll have to adjust to.”