Bayern Central roundtable: recipes to shock Real Madrid

FC Bayern have a 1:2 deficit to overcome in their Champions League semi against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Seven Bayern Central writers suggest ideas to get the job done.

Edward Prempeh

I see a very straightforward and pragmatic solution to Bayern’s predicament. In modern football, certain things sometimes are made to be more convoluted than they really should be. Almost every single team that has faced Zinédine Zidane’s side has been afforded two or more goal-scoring opportunities. A few take these chances (Barcelona in the last El Clasico) while most do not (Bayern Munich last week). This is what leads to the fabled notion that Zidane’s team play better than their opponents.
Real Madrid are a “scrape through the mess” side who do not play sophisticated football at this moment. Bayern Munich had chances to bury them last year, at a time when the team was not even playing as well as it is now. Arturo Vidal spurned a penalty that could have given the tie a different outcome, and we saw shades of that last Wednesday. You cannot put six goals past Bayer Leverkusen and shortly after, have a right-back as your hero against Real Madrid. Bayern can forget about winning a treble if they cannot be clinical against a team that blesses them with several chances. Really, what more could they want?
As a fan, I am so tired of “what could have been” everytime the team gets wasteful at a crucial part of the season. I trust Jupp Heynckes as a better coach than Zinedine Zidane is, and I trust Bayern as a team that plays better football than Real Madrid. I do not care about the famed “luck or spirit” that the Spaniards possess in this competition. All I want to see is the ball being placed in the back of the net when the chances arrive, because they will arrive.
Inasmuch as I would love to see Sandro Wagner in the team, it makes little difference if he also goes to Madrid and bottle his chances. The solution to me is not who is selected, but how well the selected players deliver in goals, because the quality of everyone in the squad is undoubtedly affirmed.
Even with Injury FC having returned, it is no excuse. Bayern have about 40% of their starters unavailable as of the time of this writing, but the players who are ready to play still can beat Madrid. At least five teams have gone to pick up wins against them at their so-called fortress, and this Bayern team should be able to, at least, take the tie to a penalty shootout. Nothing less. I am highly confident of beating them on Wednesday, but if the boys cannot bring their shooting boots to the party, then there’s no point even watching the match.

Juan Pablo González

By now, we know what Bayern’s main and most frustrating problem was at the Allianz Arena last Wednesday. The team failed to capitalise on every clear chance they got before and after Joshua Kimmich’s goal. To me, the predicament is simple. Sandro Wagner has to play. Whether that involves pairing him up with Robert Lewandowski or not is another issue.
There is an old saying in Colombian football culture that goes “el que no los hace, los ve hacer”. This roughly translates to “if you don’t score, you’ll see the other team score”. This sums up the first leg.
Everyone, from Lewandowski to Thomas Müller to Mats Hummels will have to be on tip-top concentration to take every chance they get. Keylor Navas is a fantastic keeper, but only Franck Ribéry challenged him veritably in München. That has to change if the team is to have even a shade of a chance of turning this around. Juventus proved this is possible.
I agree with Shubham (see viewpoint below) that Bayern’s wingplay was slightly less overwhelming than it should have been. That can no doubt be attributed to Arjen Robben’s early injury. With Daniel Carvajal out of contention for the second leg, Bayern would be wise to focus on the wings more.
However, I recoil at the thought of having Juan Bernat defend against Marcelo. I have gone on record defending Bernat over the past few seasons, but this year I can defend him no longer. I will remind you of the 0:3 defeat at the Camp Nou in 2014-15. Bernat was not suited to play against Barcelona then, and he is even less suited to play against Real Madrid now. I would rather sacrifice pace than see him play. If Madrid score before Bayern do, we are doomed.

Manaan Gandhi

In order to win against Real Madrid, there are a lot of strategies, tactics and player names thrown in, but I will not talk about any of those.
For me, the most important aspect of the game is the mentality that the players go in with. Bayern need go with absolute ruthlessness and intensity. I am sorry but the first leg missed the intensity that we are used to seeing throughout. It came in patches but did not sustain.
Players need to know that whether Arjen Robben or Jérôme Boateng goes out injured, the team must not drop their shoulders. Killer instinct will definitely be the key difference between the two teams. Bayern have nothing to lose and must go all out in terms of effort. This is the way to push Madrid on the back foot.

Matthew Büning

Bayern have found themselves in a situation where they have to score at least two goals in Madrid in order to go through to the next round. The only way to pull it off is to exploit Real Madrid’s weaknesses and go after them where they most concede.
To do this we only need to look at Juventus. A lot of their attacks in their “almost” come back came from crosses from the wings.
It has been said before in this piece and I will say it again; Bayern should overload the wings as best as they can and try and get the ball to whoever plays striker.
For me, this means two things. First is that either Robert Lewandowski needs to suddenly become world-class in the air or that Sandro Wagner will have to play at some point. Wagner is a player who can handle the physicality of being in the box and take advantage of chances in the air. I do not know if Jupp Heynckes will sub on Wagner or if he will play him with Lewandowski, but he has to play.
I also think that while James will not and probably should not start on the wings, he should be given the freedom to roam there. The Colombian is one of the best crossers in the game, if not the best. He loses some effectiveness on the wings but if he is given the opportunity to drift out wide to offer support to Joshua Kimmich and whoever starts on the wings, he might create some vital chances.
This might also be a game to bring Corentin Tolisso in early, if he is not starting as well. The Frenchman is a dynamic player who can tackle and create chances. He even scores some goals too. He may lack experience at this level but he can add some much needed physicality to the midfield that can help contain Toni Kroos and Luca Modric.
Lastly, the defense will need to work harder then ever. They cannot concede and they cannot make silly mistakes. With Jérôme Boateng out for the match Bayern have the reliable Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels as their starting centre-back pairing. However, they need to be careful not to have any bad giveaways, or perhaps more importantly, no dumb tackles that can give Madrid a penalty.
This is a winnable game but it is not an easy one. Bayern will have to play a nearly flawless match, and the best way to do this is to take advantage of Real Madrid’s pre-existing weaknesses.

Michael Philander

I am extremely optimistic of Bayern going to the Madrid and getting a win. In the first leg Bayern was responsible for not getting it done against Real Madrid with a host of missed chances due to poor finishing. Real Madrid did not show that they were a side that would dominate the second leg.
The fact that Cristiano Ronaldo was kept quiet throughout the first leg is a very promising sign. Bayern’s defence will only get stronger due to David Alaba being fit for the second leg. Boateng will be missed but Niklas Süle has shown that he is more than capable of filling that role.
I anticipate that Karim Benzema will start the match, but due to lack of form, he may not have the confidence to motivate Real Madrid. This is a similar story with Gareth Bale. Bayern Munich will be up for it, trying the remove the demons of the last four seasons and will be working hard to give Jupp Heynckes a good second send-off.
There are a lot of frailties that can be exposed with the Real Madrid side this is almost exclusively related to their wing play. Bayern were significantly hampered due to Real’s overloading of central defence.
What Bayern will need to do is go a bit wider on the wings to drag players out of position. Franck Ribéry will be even more effective at this, with Dani Carvajal missing for this fixture, since Lucas Vasquez will likely fill in this position. The match I believe will be won or loss at the wings.
There will still be a required improvement from players like Thiago Alcântara, but once Bayern can finish their chances Real will be put to bed.

Michel Munger

I am more pessimistic than most of my colleagues here. Scoring two goals at the Bernabeu is doable, but the margin of error is extremely thin.
FC Bayern have to play a perfect match on hostile territory. If motivated, they can do it. However, each bad pass or mistimed challenge can easily lead to either a straight goal or a penalty to the hosts. Given their usual luck, the odds are against the Reds from the start.
In order to win with a smaller squad than usual, Jupp Heynckes has to dare with his selection and tactics. Real have a problem defending against crosses although their central defenders are good in the air. This means playing with a wide setup to invade the wings and get the ball into the penalty area.
However, sending the ball in will not be enough. The team requires a finisher in that space. It requires a genuine striker who may not be the flashiest, but who can convert in tight space. This is why I advocate starting Sandro Wagner. If Jupp refuses to drop Lewandowski, he should then field a formation such as a 4-4-2 with Wagner as the main target man, and with Lewandowski in a slightly withdrawn role.
In that setup, Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller and full-backs have to work the wings. Either they lift the ball to target Wagner’s head or they cross it on the ground for a withdrawn Lewy to make plays.
Real are not that impressive defensively, but very opportunistic up front. Bayern have to exploit the weaknesses, to be clinical and to run a tight ship at the back. This requires mental strength which we have not seen in the first leg.

Shubham Ahuja

Apart from the dismal finishing, one key issue in Bayern’s game for me was the lack of penetration on the wings. The team felt the absence of David Alaba and then Arjen Robben. Franck Ribéry played his heart out but really, we should not depend on one player to create most of the chances.
Keeping this in mind, I will advocate a possibly controversial move to start Juan Bernat ahead of Rafinha if Alaba is not fit come second leg. The Spaniard will provide much-needed pace and width on the left wing, allowing Franck to play in the half-space.
It is more a case of him being more suited to the requirements rather than axing Rafinha, whom I do not blame in the slightest despite his goal-conceding mistake.
The two-striker setup does not seem a bad idea either, especially if Robben is out. With three midfielders behind the forwards, Joshua Kimmich and Alaba/Bernat as wing-backs and a defensive trio of Mats Hummels, Javi Martínez and Niklas Süle, the system suits Bayern’s compact, midfield-heavy but slightly static style of play. It also allows a role for Sandro Wagner, maybe even a start.