Not impossible, but difficult. FC Bayern München have to pull off an upset on Tuesday to defeat Real Madrid in the Champions League quarters, second leg.
Playing at home in the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Real lead by a 2:1 scoreline that includes a pair of away goals. Die Bayern need to win 2:0 or 3:1 to go through.
In the news, Gareth Bale is out, Robert Lewandowski returns and Javi Martínez serves a suspension after picking up a red card on double yellow. Each element will have an impact on lineups and potentially tactics.
Restoring the D in defense
The Bavarians need a small favour from the football gods. Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng have to be healthy enough to play, otherwise the defense will be too weak. Coach Carlo Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference that there was a good chance they would play. Good.
In that case, the most important player in the back four would be Hummels. His performances have been superior to Boateng’s this season and a return would be very timely. He could be the CB who would disrupt Madrid’s midfield. Jérôme would stand back to make Bayern’s own third safe.
At full-back, you have to go with reputation when picking David Alaba and Philipp Lahm. Their respective partnerships with Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben must work to trouble Real’s back line, which is weaker on the flanks than in the middle. Overlapping runs and position changes are required.
Bale’s absence could make it possible to focus on shutting down Cristiano Ronaldo. Lahm and Boateng would need a little help from Arturo Vidal to do that.
Javi’s suspension comes at a terrible time. It would have been nice to push him up in the midfield to have a true defensive midfielder and send Thiago up to the no. 10 position. For the time being, I recommend having Vidal and Thiago Alcântara as double six, leaving Xabi Alonso on the bench.
Vidal has to play his best game of the season for FCB to beat Madrid. He has to dominate the middle of the park in the hostile environment that the Bernabeu can be. Meanwhile, Thiago should be on distribution duties to feed the wings and take an occasional shot at the penalty area.
The A in attack
A weakness is not a weakness if not exploited. That is exactly what we saw in the first leg, when Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben did little damage against Real’s defense. They have to be fired up and play as well as they did against Borussia Dortmund a week and a half ago.
At number 10, Thomas Müller would return to his best position and renew his partnership with Robert Lewandowski. The Pole’s absence hurt more than we expected in the first leg. His contribution could make a difference between going to the semis and going down in flames.
This second leg is as massive a test as the quarters against Juventus a year ago. We know what solved the problem when Die Bayern were down: direct football with inspiration, without hesitation. If the Bavarians pussyfoot their way around the Bernabeu, they will fail. Carlo Ancelotti will deserve harsh criticism for not providing the motivation and tactics he is supposed to bring to Munich.
A wounded animal is dangerous, but it has to bite to ensure survival.