Bayern & Guardiola better than expected, says former Champions League winner Giovane Elber

The Brazilian has hailed the Spaniard’s impact on the Bavarian outfit since taking over in the summer and believes his old club are Champions League favourites

EXCLUSIVE

Former Bayern Munich striker Giovane Elber believes that the Bavarian outfit have exceeded expectations since Pep Guardiola took over.

The German champions won an historic treble under Jupp Heynckes last term, but the ex-Barcelona coach took over in the close season.

They romped to the Bundesliga title in record time and have reached the Champions League semi-finals and the showpiece of the DFB-Pokal.

“I had good expectations for Bayern, but they’ve been very impressive so far,” he told Goal.

“In the Bundesliga they are clearly superior to all of their opponents and play wonderful football. I see Bayern as the favourites to win the Champions League along with Real Madrid.

“The other teams are all underdogs in my opinion.”

Bayern tackle Real Madrid in the last four of Europe’s top competition at 20:45CET on Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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04 2014
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Guardiola: Madrid are a special side

The former Barcelona coach has revealed his respect for Carlo Ancelotti’s team and believes they will provide the sternest possible test they could’ve faced in Europe

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola believes his side will face the most difficult opposition left in the Champions League when they take on Real Madrid on Wednesday.

The two teams will go head to head in the first leg of their semi-final tie at the Bernabeu and the former Barcelona boss believes even the possible absence of Cristiano Ronaldo will not weaken their hosts.

“Madrid are a special side and with Carlo Ancelotti as their manager they are the most difficult opponents that we could have drawn in this stage of the competition,” Guardiola told reporters.

“I’m always very happy to play in the semi-final of the Champions League, especially against a team like Madrid and with a team like Bayern. We need to play well and get a result.”

“Hopefully we can well and give a show to the fans. People want to see the best and if Cristiano plays, they will see the best.

“However, if [Ronaldo is unfit and] someone else plays, such as Isco in the Copa del Rey final, there will still be a show.

“Real used to have one real stand-out player [Ronaldo], now they have at least four.”

The former Barcelona boss holds an unbeaten record on his trips to Madrid, but is refusing to look at statistics ahead of Wednesday’s game.

“These statistics are from the past when I was with another club, in another situation. It has nothing to do with Wednesday’s match.

“We’ll have to put in a very good performance to win. It is always necessary to play well against Madrid, even more so with it being a semi-final.”

The 43-year-old also paid tribute to his side, who have been crowned Bundesliga champions and reached the final of the DFB-Pokal, as well as the Champions League semi-final stage.

“It’s very difficult to win the Champions League but I am very proud of my team after they won the Bundesliga in March.

“We are in the cup final and the semi-finals of the Champions League, which is not an easy achievement.

“We’ve won a lot of games and are playing well. We have been stable throughout the season and showed a lot of team spirit.”

Guardiola concluded by distancing himself from the vacant managerial position at Manchester United following David Moyes’ dismissal on Tuesday.

“I signed for three years when I joined Bayern and I feel that we can still improve. But it has taken time for me to change my Catalan culture and adopt a German style. It was not easy and I needed time.

“I still have a job to do at Bayern, I’m comfortable here and people respect my work. I want to stay here.”

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04 2014
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Meet Casillas in Madrid or Kaka in Milan

An amazing new competition, courtesy of Hyundai, offers 20 fans the chance to be a great part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Campaign with a global superstar

They are two icons of 21st century football. Iker Casillas and Ricardo Kaka have won everything there is to win in both the club and international game.

Few star players are more decorated, or dedicated. They have earned the respect of their peers and the admiration of millions.

Now, Hyundai is offering the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take brilliant and quality photos with one of these legends at a glamorous photo-shoot in either Madrid or Milan next month.

The competition is designed to reward Super Fans – the true supporters who care so passionately that football is part of the fabric of their lives.
 
Ten Super Fans will be flown to Madrid to meet Spanish goalkeeper Casillas, while 10 other Super Fans will jet off to Milan to hook up with Brazilian playmaker Kaka.

To be there #withkaka or #withcasillas, fans simply need to take a football-related photo of themselves and upload to their local Hyundai facebook page, including these hastags:

#withkaka or #withcasillas, plus #nearestdealership

Hyundai, official partner of the 2014 FIFA World CupTM, is running the competition and have asked fans to include the location of their nearest Hyundai dealership in the post. This is a simple task but for more details please click here

The competition is open to fans living in the following nations: Germany, Poland, Czech Republich, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Switzerland, Netherlands and Italy.

The prize includes flights, hotel accommodation and a unforgettable experience with your football hero. Click here to participate.

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04 2014
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Xabi Alonso rejects 'underdog' tag ahead of Bayern tie

The midfielder believes his side are equal to the Bundesliga champions and is confident they can advance to the final

Xabi Alonso has rejected any suggestion that Real Madrid are underdogs ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Bundesliga champions will start the game as favourites, but the Spain international believes his side are at least equal to Pep Guardiola’s side and more than capable of advancing to the final.

“I don’t consider Real as the underdogs,” Alonso told Marca. “Bayern is a great rival and we, like them, are having a great season.

“I don’t think either team is the favourite and I don’t think it’s in our interest to think ourselves one way or the other.

“However, now, after three years getting to the semis, in our fourth year, we want to go a step further and reach the final.

“Our motivation is absolute and we are fully focused on what we have to do.”

The midfielder also highlighted the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Real Madrid side, but acknowledged the 29-year-old will only play if he is fully fit.

“He [Cristiano Ronaldo] gives us raw power and potential to create chances and score goals,” Alonso added.

“He is fundamental to us and when he’s there, we take full advantage of our opportunities, however, he will only play if he is 100% fit.”

The midfielder also praised Gareth Bale for a great start to his Real Madrid career.

“We hope Gareth Bale continues as he is. He is showing a lot of great things in his first year at Real Madrid.”

The Spaniard believes home advantage could prove the difference in Wednesday’s match and has admitted that support from the Santiago Bernabeu faithful is sure to give the team a lift.

“On the pitch we have to show our eagerness and spirit. All support from the stands is a plus for us.

“Against Dortmund, going down to the stadium in the bus and seeing so many fans was very important to us and gave us a lift.”

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04 2014
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La Liga Team of the Week: Mascherano saves Barcelona with last-ditch block

The Argentine defender ensured the Catalans claimed all three points thanks to his timely intervention in the 2-1 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night

Atletico Madrid are now just three wins away from winning La Liga after beating Elche 2-0 in the 34th round of matches in the Primera Division.

Atletico started slowly but overcame the promoted side on Friday, while Barcelona moved up to second with a hard-fought 2-1 win at home to Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid enjoyed a weekend off following their Copa del Rey success last week and ahead of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, there were wins for Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla and Malaga in week 34. Here, Goal picks the standout players from the latest games in Spain’s top flight.

In goal, Willy Caballero was in fine form for Malaga in the Andalusians’ 2-0 win at home to Villarreal in Monday night’s game.

At the back, Joao Miranda defended well and headed Atletico in front in their 2-0 success over Elche. Meanwhile, Alejandro Galvez impressed for Rayo as they beat Betis 3-1 and Javier Mascherano made a vital last-ditch block to ensure Barcelona returned to winning ways in a 2-1 victory at home to Athletic at Camp Nou.

Rafinha was superb for Celta in the Galicians’ 4-2 win at Almeria, while Fabian Orellana was also excellent and sealed the victory with the fourth goal. Vitolo impressed and hit the third for Sevilla in their 4-0 success at home to Granada, while Sergio Canales was on target as Real Sociedad beat Espanyol.

In attack, Kevin Gameiro continued his impressive form with another goal for Sevilla, while Nolito hit two for Celta and Carlos Vela struck the last-gasp winner for Real Sociedad at home to Espanyol.

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04 2014
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