Bayern vs Madrid: La Bestia Negra (a tactical preview) 

miasanrot Separator April 29, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar

Madrid is comfortable not having the ball and sitting deep, by doing that, they will reduce Bayern’s chances to catch them on the break. On the other hand, Bayern is also comfortable with or without the ball, so they may invite Madrid to try and play their backline very high and keep possession, waiting for a mistake that may create numerical advantages and gaps to exploit on the counter.

Key duels

Against Arsenal, Bayern focused on defending the left flank, avoiding 1v1s vs Saka and Odegaard, where Gnabry played almost as a second left back in the defensive phase. In the second match against Arsenal, Tuchel addressed this situation from the beginning by playing a double fullback in the left flank, with Mazraoui and Guerreiro switching between LW-LWB-and LB constantly, doing both man and zonal marking depending upon the circumstances.

Against Madrid the situation will be the same, but with the main danger zone in defense being Bayern’s right flank instead of the left. Tuchel will have to adjust the defensive tactics to prevent 1v1 duels between Kimmich and Vinicius, so we may see a combination of Kimmich and Mazraoui on the right flank. If that is not possible, Tuchel could start Guerreiro and Mazraoui on the left, but forming a makeshift back five in the defensive phase, where De Ligt moves to the RB position, Kimmich RWB, and Dier as RCB, along with Maz and Guerreiro on the left. Whomever plays as the RCDM will have to form a defensive triangle with the RW and RB to create a numerical advantage against Vinicius.


We don’t know if Laimer or De Ligt will be available. Laimer could be replaced by Pavlovic and Kim may replace De Ligt. An issue that may come from these replacements is that Pavlovic is not as fast as Laimer (thinking about playing as a RCDM who has to help the RB and RW), but he is better in terms of distribution and in the build up. With Pavlovic, Bayern would be more balanced in possession but may struggle a bit more against Vinicius in the defensive phase. If Madrid scores, their chance creation will most likely come from Bayern’s right flank.

Kim is stronger and faster than De Ligt, which helps in 1v1s and in counter-attacks, but he has a tendency to jump at opponents, which, may get him caught out of position or force a defensive mistake like a foul or handball in the box.

It’s still not clear whether Sané and/or Gnabry will be available, but it’s probable that either one will start as a RW and most likely be substituted by the other one because neither would be fit to play a full match. When Bayern scores, the chance creation will come from that flank, because in transitions Musiala tends to drop deep, dribble, and pass to the RW, who will be able to either run into the box or provide an assist for players running into central spaces.

Possible formations

It’s unlikely that Bayern will jump out and try to press Madrid. A mid block during Madrid’s build up, and maybe even a low block in their attacking phase would be useful to create ideal situations for chance creating in transitions and counter attacks. In this match, it’s not convenient for Bayern to focus on possession, because Madrid only needs a smart run in behind by Vinicius and Rodrygo to win a match. Even if the game is played at the Allianz, Bayern should focus on keeping their defensive structures very tight and compact to prevent mistakes, but also, to be ready to trigger counter attacks via Musiala, Kane and Sané/Gnabry.

Build up and attack

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Bayern could play a 3-4-3 or 2-4-4 in the build up. With Neuer being like an additional CB in this phase, and Madrid’s mid block defensive structure, Bayern shouldn’t have much trouble in the build up. Dier and De Ligt (or Kim) will play very wide almost in line with Neuer, and it’s likely Laimer or Pavlovic will drop to the six position. If Madrid does press, Musiala could drop deep to help Laimer or Pavlovic, and Goretzka will most likely move to either halfspace because he is not very good in this phase.

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Bayern could attack in a 4-3-3 which is in reality a 2-3-5 or 3-2-5. If Pavlovic replaces Laimer, Bayern would be comfortable in this formation, but shouldn’t spend much time passing around Madrid’s box. The yellow areas are Madrid’s favored spots for the counter, and since Bayern’s backline is not the fastest, every single player should commit to tracking back and even be ready for tactical fouls. Madrid almost always defends in a 4-4-2 low block, with Vinicius and Bellingham or Rodrygo waiting for a long ball when they recover the ball.

Defense and transitions

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When Bayern is forced to track back and sit deep, it’s very likely they will do so in a 5-4-1 or 5-3-1-1/5-3-2 shape. Last match Valverde managed to score from the RW position, so the back five would at least provide numerical advantage against Madrid’s front four (Vini-Bellingham-Rodrygo-Valverde). Madrid usually attacks in a 2-4-4, with Valverde acting as a RW, or sometimes a 4-3-1-2 where Bellingham acts as a false nine and Vinicius and Rodrygo move into the halfspaces to act as a double number ten or a double striker partnership. Regardless of what Madrid does, it’s likely Bayern will drop into this back five formation and try to be compact in defense, shutting down central lanes to force Madrid into crossing the ball, avoiding 1v1s at all costs.

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Paradoxically, defending well may be Bayern’s secret weapon. If Bayern can invite Madrid to attack in their 2-4-4 or 4-3-1-2 shape, their flanks will be exposed to quick counter attacks. Here Musiala could drop deep into central spaces, to provide a quick switch pass to Sané or Gnabry on the RW position, with Kane, Guerreiro and Goretzka running into Madrid’s box. Here Mazraoui and Kim should invert and be close to Madrid’s wingers, in case Bayern loses the ball in transition. For this game, Bayern should play their six like a holding midfielder, even if it means sacrificing one man in the attacking phase.


This season has been humbling for Bayern as a club. For Tuchel, for the players and even for the board. The second leg against Arsenal was the best moment this team has had in the entire season and it came at the best possible time. I think right now the team’s morale is high, everyone is aware of the team’s weaknesses but also its main strengths, the squad is finally playing like a team and there seems to be more commitment both in quality and physical effort. We can be confident that the team will give it their best. It’s hard to make a prediction, but I think Bayern can make it to the final if they go out, focus, and play their best football.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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