Bayern – Madrid: 2nd leg tactical preview

miasanrot Separator May 8, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar


We can’t expect anything crazy from either coach, but we already know what they like their teams to do. Last match Madrid was at times defending with six players (wingers dropping next to the fullbacks) and Bayern was attacking with six or seven players consistently.

On Madrid’s side, their biggest weakness is coincidentally, Bayern’s biggest threat; Fullbacks vs wingers. Lucas Vásquez will struggle against Sané and/or Musiala on the left wing. If Gnabry starts on the left and Sané on the right, the scenario will most likely be the same. On Madrid’s left flank Mendy is not as reliable as he was in his best days, and last game Sané’s banger came from that flank.

Tuchel made several observations from last match, and will likely try to keep targeting Madrid’s fullbacks. In the first leg Bayern was tactically superior to Madrid, creating more chances and always keeping a numerical advantage in the defensive phase, but individual errors allowed Madrid to score. With De Ligt back, it’s likely that the defensive line will be more solid and confident, and not as prone to jumping at attackers but rather focusing on positioning and containing Madrid’s attacks. With Pavlovic starting instead of Goretzka, Laimer will have more freedom to roam around, press and attack, while Pavlovic acts as a holding midfielder in defense and a deep lying play-maker in the build up and attack phases.

During the first match, Tuchel made adjustments in the half-time, asking the team to play wider to target Madrid’s wide players but also to create wider gaps between defenders. He subbed out Goretzka and brought in Guerreiro, so that Guerreiro and Musiala could attack the halfspaces. With Guerreiro’s absence and the prediction that Pavlovic will start instead of Goretzka, Laimer and Musiala will attack the halfspaces and Pavlovic will stay deeper.

Bayern will create chances out of direct attacks on possession, and counter-attacks in transition. Possession will continue to be irrelevant on it’s own, and it will most likely be divided 50/50 again, as both teams are comfortable off the ball and like to exploit transitions and gaps in the opponent’s defense. Horse shoeing around the opponent’s box doesn’t benefit either coach, but in that scenario, Bayern having Kimmich as an inverted fullback could create a threat coming from early crosses from Bayern’s right halfspace.

Bayern’s tactical set-up

Based on absences, returns, and observations from yesterday’s training, all points to Bayern starting with Pavlovic instead of Goretzka, and Gnabry instead of Müller. This will be one of the few matches where Tuchel will have most of his preferred players in the starting XI, so he will be able to play more physically demanding tactics, even if the general approach remains the same.

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Bayern’s base formation will be the 4-2-3-1, although it will most likely behave like a 4-3-3 (2-3-2-3) in the build up and a 4-4-2 or even 5-3-2 in the defensive phase.


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Bayern attacks in a 2-3-5 where either the wingers or fullbacks become very wide, leaving the other to occupy the halfspaces. We may see Sané and Gnabry both playing very wide, but also inverting and switching with the fullbacks. Kimmich has a tendency to invert, so in that flank it’s likely that the winger will take on Mendy 1v1, while Kimmich stays more central, keeping an eye on Vinicius. On the left flank, Mazraoui has proved he is comfortable both overlapping and inverting, which could create interesting situations if he switches positions with Musiala. Musiala has actually been more dangerous when he overlaps, so Mazraoui could occupy the left halfspace, with Musiala playing wide in order to dribble and shoot or assist from that position.


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Despite Tuchel’s reputation for being defensive (especially in big games) his defensive approach is quite radical, because he often ends up attacking with seven players. Tomorrow’s game will be all about partnerships and flexibility by Bayern; Musiala should be able to roam free in attack and possession, but his most important contribution will be by dropping deep to help in the build-up and in transitions. With Kane as a very flexible CF, who can play as a target man for long balls, or who can drop deep or occupy the flanks to allow his teammates to move centrally, Madrid’s back line will be very busy, so it’s likely they will yet again defend with a 4-4-2 that in extreme situations becomes almost like a 6-3-1.

Defense (Bayern’s not so secret weapon)

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While Bayern will attack and is not likely to sit deep to allow Madrid to play, this team is very good in transitions. This is, when Bayern defends and Madrid loses the ball, is when Bayern will be the most dangerous. It’s better to let Madrid move forward and leave spaces in behind than pressing them intensely, so Bayern may defend in a 4-4-2, or a makeshift 5-3-2 where depending upon the circumstances either winger or one of the DMs drops into the backline to provide support. It wouldn’t be suprising if Bayern scores from a transition; Pavlovic can play the ball to Musiala or Kane, who will drop deep to help, or he could play a long pass to either winger. On both flanks, Bayern’s wingers are better than Madrid’s fullbacks, so those spaces should be Bayern’s focal point in transitions. Bayern has a signature transition move where they play quick passes through the middle/center, only to release the wingers who will shoot or assist.


I’m rationally optimistic. Tuchel has defeated Madrid in the UCL at the Bernabeu. This team has players that have won a sextuple, but that have also been humbled all season by so called “smaller” clubs, so they’re good enough to win and now humble enough to know that they also have to defend and play as a unit. For me Tuchel is a better tactician than Ancelotti, as we saw in the first leg, and we can expect Bayern to be better tactically than Madrid (again). Either way, tactics are only a guide and everything will come down to who makes mistakes and who is more efficient when attacking. These matches are magical and I for one think that we have the ideal tactician in the bench, and players who will be thirsty to prove everyone wrong; some to win again, and some to shine for the first time in this competition. Regardless of the result, Bayern will give us a great performance, and possibly the best game in this year’s UCL; the final awaits, but for me this Madrid-Bayern match is as big as the final.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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