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Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich head to head: How the most-played Champions League rivalry has panned out

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The 2023/24 UEFA Champions League semifinals pitted two of Europe’s most decorated sides against one another for another seismic clash.

In the white corner were Real Madrid, 14-time champions. No one has won Europe’s top competition more often and it’s not particularly close at the top of the all-time rankings.

In the red corner, six-time winners Bayern Munich, who are prominent among the best of the rest. 

Both clubs have done plenty to cement the pre-eminence of the competition, from Madrid’s historic five wins in the first five editions of the European Cup to Bayern’s three in a row between 1973/74 and 1975/76 inspired by the imperious Franz Beckenbauer.

Madrid and Bayern have played one another more often in the Champions League than any other pairing. This will be their eighth semifinal alone.

The Sporting News looks back at the history of this matchup between the most successful team in the competition’s history and the six-time winners they have played more often than any other side on this stage.

MORE: The 2023/24 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal and semifinal draw in full

Bayern and Madrid’s collective history began sparingly, with one tie in the 1970s and then two in back-to-back seasons in the mid-to-late 1980s.

In the 21st century, bringing a greater concentration of wealth, resources and elite players among a small group of the superclubs, it has truly blossomed into a rivalry, although the forthcoming semifinal is their first meeting for six years.

In total, these teams have met 26 times in this competition. Real Madrid shade the head-to-head stats with 12 wins to Bayern’s 11, with three draws.

Even in terms of goals scored, Madrid’s advantage is particularly narrow with a cumulative scoreline of 41-39 spanning five decades. 

Below, we run through some of the most memorable encounters over the course of the rivalry.

MORE: Teams with the most UEFA Champions League titles

Madrid might have made the European Cup their personal stomping ground in the 1950s but by the 1970s, this was Bayern’s competition.

Led by transformative captain Beckenbauer, Bayern’s first meeting with Los Blancos came en route to a third consecutive title.

The Spanish giants took an early lead at the Santiago Bernabeu through Roberto Martinez but they then suffered a fate familiar to most opponents to Bayern or West Germany in this era: Gerd Muller happened. The master goalscorer ensured a 1-1 draw in the away leg before scoring both goals as Bayern won 2-0 in the return at Munich’s Olympiastadion.

This meeting came amid a relatively fallow period for Madrid. They were six-time European champions at this point but 12 years removed from their most recent success and still a decade away from title number seven. But Los Blancos tapped into a trait that would become familiar during their most recent dominant period: the stirring comeback.

Against a Bayern side that had beaten them 4-2 on aggregate during the previous season’s semifinals, Madrid were 3-0 down in Munich as the first leg entered its final five minutes. Goals from star forwards Emiliano Butragueno and Hugo Sanchez changed the entire complexion of the tie.

Back at the Bernabeu, first-half goals from Milan Jankovic and Michel were enough to secure a 2-0 win. The draw appeared to have opened up for Madrid, only for them to be knocked out on away goals by eventual winners PSV in the semis.

It’s well-documented that Bayern were left cursing their Champions League luck in 1999, having entered injury time in the final at Camp Nou 1-0 up against Manchester United before promptly losing 2-1. The following year, everyone involved with the club must have sworn off walking under ladders.

The 1999/00 edition of the Champions League featured the short-lived second group stage. Bayern were drawn alongside Madrid in Group C and hammered them twice, 4-2 at the Bernabeu and 4-1 back in Munich. 

That counted for nothing when Nicolas Anelka scored early to set up a 2-0 win in Madrid when the sides reconvened for the semis. The enigmatic French striker poached an away goal in the return to effectively put the tie beyond Bayern, who won 2-1 on the night. They beat Madrid three times in the Champions League after Christmas in 1999/00 and were still knocked out by them.

Bayern had designs on winning the 2011/12 Champions League on home turf at the Allianz Arena but Madrid pushed them to the limit in a thrilling semi.

A late Mario Gomez goal gave Jupp Heynckes’ side a 2-1 lead after their home leg but a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty got Madrid off to a flier in the return and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had overturned the deficit inside 14 minutes.

Arjen Robben levelled the tie with a penalty before the half-hour and almost 100 minutes of tense goalless football followed before penalties. This time Ronaldo was denied by Manuel Neuer, as was Kaka. Iker Casillas saved from Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm to give Madrid hope but Sergio Ramos skied their fourth kick and Bastian Schweinsteiger sent Bayern through. They wouldn’t fare so well when the final against Chelsea went to spot-kicks.

After winning two Champions Leagues with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola found himself up against familiar foes in his first season at Bayern. With the Bundesliga already sewn up in quick time, Die Roten headed to the Bernabeu confident of retaining their European crown. Karim Benzema scoring the only goal of the first leg wasn’t a disaster in footballing terms. What followed certainly was.

“I got it wrong, man. I got it totally wrong. It’s a monumental f***-up,” Guardiola told his biographer Marti Perarnau after a 4-0 capitulation to Madrid at the Allianz. “A total mess. The biggest f***-uk of my life as a coach.”

Ramos and Ronaldo each scored twice as Bayern’s set-piece defending capitulated and Guardiola’s gamble on an ultra-aggressive approach backfired as his team were brutally exposed to the counter-attack. Madrid went on to win their 10th European title, securing La Decima with an extra-time triumph over Atletico Madrid. Guardiola would endure a good deal more pain and wait 10 more years for the third Champions League of his coaching career.

The 2014 success began an unbroken run of three successive knockout triumphs in the rivalry for Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti was in the other dugout in 2017 when his Bayern were beaten 2-1 by a Ronaldo brace in the quarterfinal first leg, where Javi Martinez was sent off.

A tense return in Madrid was goalless until Robert Lewandowski dispatched a 53rd-minute penalty. Ronaldo was on target inside the final 15 minutes before a Ramos own-goal forced extra time.

Bayern were somewhat compromised by Arturo Vidal receiving a red card six minutes from the end of regulation and Ronaldo turned the screw during the additional period, completing a hat-trick before Marco Asensio made certain of Madrid’s progress towards a 4-1 final victory over Juventus in Cardiff.

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