Real Madrid v Bayern: Jonathan Wilson's Tactical Preview


Robert Lewandowksi should return after his shoulder injury for Bayern Munich, having missed out on the first leg, but they will still be without the two central defenders, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, while Javi Martinez is suspended. Pepe misses out for Real Madrid with a broken rib, while Raphael Varane is doubtful with a thigh injury and Gareth Bale has a calf problem.



Real Madrid have won nine and drawn two of their last 11 games as they’ve taken charge of the title race in Spain, but their progress in that run has been far from serene. They’ve gone behind in eight of their last 13 games but lost only one of them, a statistic that suggests both great character and perhaps a lack of tactical nous.

This is Madrid’s seventh successive Champions League quarter-final and they could become the first team to defend the European title since AC Milan in 1990 but it would be hard to make a case that they are anywhere near the level of Arrigo Sacchi’s side. Bayern, having gone 20 games unbeaten as they established a commanding lead at the top of the Bundesliga, have won only one of their last four, a run that includes the defeat to Madrid, but also a reverse against Hoffenheim and Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Bayern Leverkusen.



This is the most played of all European ties as the sides meet for the 24th time. Bayern hold an 11-10 lead, but have won just two of 11 meetings in Madrid. Only twice before in the Champions League have a side lost the home leg and gone on to overturn the deficit away. There is a sense, though, that these are not two normal teams and this is not a normal tie. The first leg could be read in a number of ways.

Given how it turned out, the tendency was to regard it as Madrid’s best performance of the year and to ask whether Bayern, yet again in Europe, had lacked the necessary wherewithal when it came to the crunch. Yet, had Arturo Vidal converted that penalty (which probably shouldn’t have been awarded), Bayern would have led 2-0 and it might all have looked very different.



With Javi Martinez, Boateng and Hummels probably all out, Bayern have major issues in the centre of their defence. Under Pep Guardiola they might perhaps have resolved that by going to a back three, but Carlo Ancelotti has historically always preferred a four. It’s not at all obvious who comes in, although it was perhaps significant that for the final 18 minutes of Saturday’s game against Leverkusen, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba played together at the heart of the defence. That, though, could render Bayern vulnerable to crosses, particularly given the aerial strength of Cristaino Ronaldo and, from set-plays, Sergio Ramos.



Both Dani Carvajal and Marcelo had fine games for Madrid in the first leg and Bayern must find a way of preventing them from getting forward to the same extent. That means Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery doing rather more in the way of defensive work. There may be an argument for leaving out Ribery altogether and bringing in either Kingsley Coman or Douglas Costa, or even using Joshua Kimmich in a more advanced role, specifically for his defensive qualities. If there is an issue in terms of aerial ability at the heart of the Bayern side, of course then it becomes all the more important to cut off the supply from wide.



It has always been the case that when Cristaino Ronaldo isn’t being brilliant, he isn’t doing much at all, which means that he can be a liability against the very best opposition (and, of course, can also be the match-winner). In the first leg, apart from scoring the two goals and drawing the two yellow cards that saw Javi Martinez sent off, he hardly did anything. In a sense, that’s a ludicrous criticism – Ronaldo was the reason Madrid won the game – but it also should offer encouragement. Bayern can use Ronaldo’s lack of engagement with the team unit to vermin in other areas. That means left-back becomes a key area, which, if Alaba does play centrally, places great onus on Juan Bernat.



The tie, clearly, is very much in Madrid’s favour but that statistic about only two sides having lost the first leg at home and still gone through is perhaps less significant in this instance than it might be.

There simply aren’t many previous examples like this. Bayern to win at 2.80 looks reasonable value, although here must also be a temptation to back Sergio Ramos to score the first goal at 16.00 given both his record from set-plays this season and Bayern’s likely vulnerability in the air at the back.