Preview: FC Bayern – Real Madrid
For this first big highlight of the season, we’ve invited another guest to be interviewed. Clemens tells us what has gone on at Real Madrid since the last meeting between the two sides, what he thinks of Zidane, his predictions for the coming matches and much more.
Hello Clemens, first of all I’d like you to introduce yourself to our readers a bit. How did you become a Real Madrid fan, and are the Galacticos the only team dear to you?
Hello. I’m 22 years old, and I’m currently studying political economy in Vienna. When other people talk about the ONE moment when they became a fan of their club, I always get a bit jealous. To be honest, I don’t know exactly how it happened anymore. Certainly I’d say it’s because of the 2002 team with Raúl and Ronaldo. Alongside Real Madrid I also support SK Rapid Wien (though that’s quite tough at the moment) and Borussia Dortmund.
Under Ancelotti, Real were known for finding their best form in the most important games. The Italian’s time there was very successful. Why did he have to go, and is he somewhat missed?
I think it’d be hard to find fans of the club who say they don’t miss Ancelotti at all – he didn’t polarise enough for that; he’s too charismatic for that. How much the ‘Mister’ is missed, though, would probably depend on how you assess the events after his departure.
I do think that the majority of fans were rather bemused that he had to leave after just two years, when in the previous season he had achieved a milestone in the history of the club, winning La Décima, our 10th Champions League title. His second year mostly went really well too. Real Madrid were top of the table for the most part of the season, and were probably playing the best football that I’ve ever seen them play. Because of not enough rotation and the injury to key players like Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, performances dipped badly towards the end of the season.
After Benítez was also dismissed relatively early on, in came Zidane. He even won the Champions League, but in spite of that some Madrileños don’t seem so pleased. Why not?
Opinions vary on Zidane, despite the fact that in terms of his results you can hardly reproach him. With an average of 2.42 points per game, he leaves Ancelotti’s Madrid and Pep’s Barca (both averaging 2.36 PPG) behind him.
For some he’s a pragmatic coach who, after the failed stint of Rafael Benítez, pulled the club out of a hole and won our eleventh Champions League title. Those who back him would say he deftly solved problems such as the poor coordination in defensive phases with the introduction of Casemiro as a key player.
Others, meanwhile, criticise that the football we see is far below the level that should be possible with such a strong, well-equipped squad. For them, the offensive play is too simple, with practically the only danger created with crosses and set pieces.
Real’s last league title was five years ago. Is that excusable because of the two Champions League trophies and the one cup victory, despite the high expectations?
No, of course not. When you see how much potential the club has – be that the current squad or the financial power – then that’s clearly not enough. Even with such strong competition in FC Barcelona and, in recent years, Atlético Madrid.
Real Madrid are lacking consistency, which goes for squad building as well as the manager position: new building blocks are laid down before the previous foundations have been moved aside. The latest saga around Ancelotti, Benítez and Zidane is the best example for that.
Let’s talk about right now. Once again there’s an unbelievably tight race with Barcelona. At the moment, Real are top, three points ahead of their rivals. How do you see your title chances?
This position isn’t bad, being three points clear and having the chance to make it six in our game in hand at Celta Vigo. But even that wouldn’t be the end of it, because we go head to head with Barcelona on the 23rd of April, and the remaining fixtures aren’t easy for either of the giants. Looking at the standings now, you’d perhaps favour Real, but anything is still possible.
Matches against FC Bayern may also be something special for Real Madrid fans. What was the first impression when the draw was made?
I was really happy about the draw, even if supposedly every other opponent would have been easier. It’s games like these that are, for me, the charm of the Champions League. FC Bayern and Real Madrid: that’s possibly the biggest rivalry that international club football has to offer.
Now that you’ve had some time to set everything straight, what kind of games do you expect and where do you see Bayern’s biggest weaknesses?
I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb by claiming that Real Madrid will go for a more passive approach in the first leg and put the focus on retaining a tight formation. On turnovers and counter-attacks I expect the wings to be particularly targeted. That’s in part obviously because of the players available, but as well I do personally think that it could exploit a weakness in this season’s Bayern side. Sure, they’re good at locking down the centre and pushing opponents out wide, but once they’re there, Bayern tend to shuffle across quite untidily and so they have problems in winning the ball back.
What kind of weaknesses have Real Madrid shown of late which could play into Bayern’s hands?
Most of the time, the collective effort against the ball leaves something to be desired. It’s not for nothing that Real Madrid under Zidane concede on average more than a goal per game. But because of the strategic approach that I at least expect in the first leg, it should be possible to limit that weakness partially. Should we come to a situation where Real Madrid have to score, then I can imagine that they could have problems. The structures in ball possession aren’t very good. They often end up with a U-shape, whereby the ball is circulated from one flank to the other, with the centre abandoned. As a result, lots of crosses are put in, which for a team of this level isn’t exactly the best method for generating chances consistently.
If you could choose a Bayern player to play for Real, who would it be and why?
Manuel Neuer. I do rate Thiago, Boateng and Müller very highly, but there are already good alternatives in their roles in our squad. I see the biggest gap in quality between the sticks, no doubt. Neuer’s timing when rushing out and his quality on the ball would be, for me, a big upgrade.
To finish, I’d like you to make a prediction for both games. Who will make it into the next round and why?
I’ve rarely found it more difficult than now to make a prognosis for the result of a tie, but all in all I’d say Bayern are slight favourites. They have more of the balance often cited by Ancelotti, show fewer weaknesses and in total simply play the better football, though I rate Real Madrid’s squad somewhat more highly.
2-1 in the first leg, 2-2 in the second.