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

Justin Separator April 17, 2017

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.


Under Guardiola the expectation level was huge. This time Champions League coach Ancelotti faces elimination.

Carlo Ancelotti was signed with the Champions League in mind and he isn’t regarded as a coach to develop a team.
Would a quarter-final elimination against Real Madrid be considered as a disappointment?

Steffen: I didn’t expect the public discussion to be as volatile under Ancelotti as during Guardiola’s time in Munich. At first, he lifted the team from Guardiola’s chains, the he trained to little, then he is the genius who focuses everything on the second part of the season and now he is the big dummy again? This really gets on my nerves. Real is strong. They lead the league in Spain. Of course, he will be evaluated based on the top games.

An elimination would not be a failing of his unspectacular, but solid work. With Bayern also playing some good football under Ancelotti as well (Leipzig, Arsenal, BVB, 1st half against Madrid). Nevertheless, a certain simplification in Bayern’s game plan or how the team (didn’t) react to being one man down in the first leg are well worth criticizing. And that’s what I’ll continue to do.

Tobi: No. Be it round-of-sixteen or final, being defeated by Real Madrid is always possible. The amount of luck with the draw should not have an influence on the assessment of the coach.

It’s not Ancelotti’s fault that the club chose a scenario by signing Ancelotti that is aimed at having immediate success. He does, what he was signed for. The mid- and long-team development of a team is something a coach can focus on, but he doesn’t have to. This obligation lies in the hands of the management.

Chris: The recurring success in the Bundesliga devalues every additional title and strengthens the expectations for the Champions League. That’s paradox. The team plays solidly and has the chance to write another chapter in the history book of the Bundesliga. Every additional league title is little harder due to the natural saturation. Until now, this is not visible yet. Also under Ancelotti the players look motivated. In the Champions League, there are eight to ten teams competing on the level to win the title. People tend to forget that. A quarter-final exit is not a success and also not a failure, but a sign for the realistic level of performance of the team.

Felix: Pep Guardiola was evaluated based on his results in the Champions League and Carlo Ancelotti will be evaluated on the outcome of this competition – publicly. Hopefully the internal evaluation is based on a broader assessment, but it’s understandable that the public opinion of the global FC Bayern fanbase is very closely related to the Champions League results.

The editorial team agrees: The evaluation of Carlo Ancelotti is too complex to only rely on the Champions League as a measuring stick.
(Photo: Stuart Franklin / Bongarts / Getty Images)

How do you think the game will unfold and what will be the end result?

Tobi: The first minutes could be similar to the return leg in 2014. Bayern attacking and Real dropping deep and getting into the rhythm of the game. The course of the first 15 minutes will have a major impact on the rest of the game. For Bayern, it will be important to find the right balance and not to let motivation turn into hastiness. For Real it will be important to not become to defensive and to use their counter-attack chances.

If I would be forced to make a prediction: Real Madrid will win again with 2-1.

Chris: I can imagine Ancelotti taking on a more reserved approach and trying to turn the game over the whole course of the game. It’s only 2 goals in 90 minutes. Only one goal per half. The question remains, whether the team will take its time. In the last years, many players have overshoot in these situations and taken on too much risk. The semi-final games against Real and Barcelona are good examples. In both games something was forced, what wasn’t possible.

I have the feeling of a 2-2 being a realistic prediction. I wish, I could make a bolder prediction.

Felix: I love to make optimistic predictions – there’s enough time for being sad after the game. I think the game will be total revenge for 2014, Lahm, Alonso, Robben and Lewandowski will burn the house down and we win it 5-1.

Steffen: I hope the score line will be 1-1 or even 1-0 for Bayern for a long time. When there will be the chance to advance to the next round by scoring one goal in the last 20 minutes, I will have full confidence in the team.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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