Miasanrot Roundtable: Five questions for the return leg against Real Madrid

The personnel problems and success factors


FC Bayern are with their back against the wall, but not all is lost. In our Miasanrot roundtable four authors answer the most important questions regarding the game against Real Madrid. Author: Justin • Translator: Dennis

At the table: Felix, Chris, Tobi and Steffen. They discuss the personnel problems in central defence and analyse the biggest success factors the clash against Real.

FC Bayern faces huge problems at the centre back position. Martinez is still suspended, Boateng and Hummels are still questionable. In case both players won’t make it, who should start in the back-four and how to compensate the deficit against Real?

Tobi: In this constellation David Alaba is a safe bet to start as centre-back. The place next to him will be filled either by Xabi Alonso or Joshua Kimmich. Personally, I would favour Kimmich due to his mobility, but a decision pro Alonso would be no surprise either.

Besides the individual strength in duel situations, the lacking height for aerial duels would be a clear disadvantage. Without a seasoned centre-back, the always existing risk against Ronaldo, Benzema and Ramos only increases. Two things could lower the danger: filling the own box in defence and avoiding unnecessary fouls in the own third of the pitch. If these factors are managed like in the first leg, goals for Real are almost unavoidable.

Chris: Ich agree with Tobi in almost all points, but I think Kimmich will start next to Alaba, if Boateng and Hummels won’t make it. At least they have played alongside each other a couple of times. Alonso is probably too slow, to play in the back-four. Here, the “quicker” Alaba and Kimmich do make more sense.

I don’t only see a weakness in this constellation. Boateng still isn’t his old self after his injury. This was visible in many small errors in the game against the BVB as well as in the first leg. The build-up play could benefit. All of Martinez’ long balls went to Real last Wednesday. Boateng only found a teammate with every second ball. A disadvantage remains in aerial duels. Here Bayern relies on a speedy recovery by Lewandowski or every dead ball for Real will become very dangerous.

Felix: I still set my hopes on seeing Boateng or Hummels in the starting XI, but I also don’t see the main problem in a centre-back duo Kimmich/Alaba. The solution to the “goal after cross” problem doesn’t lie in the centre, but on the wings. As long as crosses can be prevented, we stand a chance. Last season against Juventus Turin we had similar worries – and still survived against Chiellini, Bonucci, Mandzukic and Co.

Steffen: It won’t happen, but in case everyone remains questionable, I would put Vidal in the back-four. He is the strongest player in 1v1 situations, has a lot of power for headers and would put his back into such a task. Between Kimmich and Alonso, I clearly prefer Kimmich. All options without Boateng or Hummels give me headaches, but Kimmich and Vidal are more mobile and faster than Alonso. More important is the offensive play on Tuesday. With almost any back-four we will need three or four Bayern goals to advance to the next round in Madrid.

Even with eleven men Bayern ceased the control over midfield, despite a good start. What can Ancelotti do, to improve in this area for the 90 (or more) minutes on Tuesday?

Felix: “What can Ancelotti do” is the right question, but I fear he will do very little. Carlo will put his trust in the things he has put his trust all season long, which makes it even more important for Thiago, Vidal, and Alonso to reach their top level. Every time when that was the case, Ancelotti’s rather simple tactical structure will function perfectly due to the class of the individual players.

Chris: Very good questions. Honestly, I don’t have an easy answer, only the simple and obvious one to lower the number of errors. Ribery and Robben looked rather tired and were lost in individual actions after the 50′ minute. Alonso was another player who misplaced some easy passes. That has to stop. Sound trivial, but will be essential in Bernabeu. Every lost ball in build-up could mean the direct knock-out. It will be vital, to find the right balance between offence and defence.

Tobi: Only a good preparation and timely adaptions during the game will help. The team needs to be ready for emerging dynamics, in case the team can’t react on their own, with positional changes or substitutions. Moreover, the mental set-up will be important, to accept these games as a challenge on the road to success and not as an opportunity to fail. Similar to last year, the team wasn’t able to mentally overcome a missed penalty.

Steffen: I hope Bayern won’t storm on the pitch as over-motivated as in the 0-4 in Munich or in some away games in Madrid in the games with Kahn. Especially with the changes in the build-up play out of central defence, it will be vital to gain control and have patience and then move the ball vertically when good opportunities arise. I would try to limit the risk of pushing too far up the pitch in the beginning at any cost.

It will also be decisive to hinder the interactions between Kroos and Modric, but without taking too much risk. In 2013 against Juventus Turin it was Thomas Müller who took Andrea Pirlo out of the game single-handedly. I would assign him to take on Kroos. He has to pushed into deeper positions and into movements, thus making him less effective and limiting his ability to bypass Real’s midfield.

Head-to-head of both teams in the Champions League.

Which other points will be important for FC Bayern to turn the game around on Tuesday?

Chris: FC Bayern needs to get Robert Lewandowski in shooting situations. Plus, he must create more pressure in the centre. Zidane will again try to take Ribery and Robben out of the game, the way he managed to do over long stretches in the first leg. He more pressure coming from the centre is vital. Thomas Müller could be an alternative. This would give Thiago more space for his build-up game coming from a number 6 positon. In München he was often taken out of the game by Modric an Casemiro.

Another point I already mentioned above: No individual errors. Bayern had too many of those all season long. Also in the games against BVB, against Arsenal and even against Leipzig Bayern gave away too much. Real is too clever and too strong, to not use these errors. Reaching the next round will most likely only be possible with a clean sheet.

Tobi: Being clever – you can’t win the game in the first 15 minutes – and luck. Especially due to the away goal rule champions league knock-out stages are often decided by small individual errors. Whoever can make the most of these human errors will have the needed luck.

Being able to make tactical and personnel adjustments would be welcome, but enough has been said about that issue in the last days.

Felix: After being a team that succeeded as a unit, FC Bayern has transformed into a collection of individuals. Thus, it’s clear that a lot will come down to these individuals (Robben, Lewandowski, Ribery, Cost) and their ability to “deliver” on Tuesday. In case they play up to their full potential, anything is possible. Real beat FC Bayern with this concept 4-0 in Munich in 2014.

Steffen: All that has been said is correct. I only want to add: Concentration and conviction in front of the goal. Again: Three or four goals will be necessary. 10 high-level chances are unrealistic. Probably five and each one will have to count. No time for second guessing in front of the goal, like Müller against Leverkusen last Saturday. The team needs a clear mindset that every chance will have to be played to the end.

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