Make no mistake about it, the 2nd leg showdown between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu was epic football, truly magnificent in almost every way. We say almost because this modern classic between two European giants was marred by poor refereeing, not just once, but three blatant times.
There’s a feeling Bayern’s 4-2 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday was only made possible due to referee Viktor Kassai and his linesmen’s poor calls or lack thereof. Arturo Vidals’s second yellow for a clean tackle (upon replay) was where this nearly perfect match, filled with mouthwatering action, went lost.
Everywhere you looked there seemed to be something worth taking notice. Arjen Robben’s ability to cut in with his left foot for every dribble yet never looking figured out, Marcelo’s two goal line clearances, Manuel Neuer and Keylor Navas’ excellent sweeping displays, Bayern’s excellent play out the back, and Madrid’s backbreaking counter attacks were on display for all to see.
Unfortunately, the match highlights above won’t be spoken of in-depth, and what should be considered one of the greatest modern matches in Champions League history will now be remembered for questionable officiating, and not the actual football. However, we at Eat Sleep Drink leave the controversial discussions to other outlets and focus on the tactics.
So, read below and get the in-depth details on what was, despite the refereeing, a really good match to watch.
Bayern’s Initial Possession Build-up Formation
Carlo Ancelotti’s outfit is still very much a possession football side despite Pep Guardiola’s departure to the Premier League. On Ancelotti’s arrival, it was quite obvious the Italian manager was going to try and help them patch things up at the back, especially defending counters, but he also brought a direct approach and put a renewed trust in Franck Ribery’s powerful dynamic down the left side.
However, as the Bavarian giants’ campaign has gone on, we have seen an outfit that still knows exactly what to do in the most dangerous areas of the pitch, they use the width cleverly with Ribery, Robben, and Philipp Lahm as the wide outlets, and they use their technical prowess with superb vertical passing.
In the first leg, the Germans were superior at the Allianz arena in possession but headed to the Bernabeu with a 2-1 deficit to overcome. In the opening 20 minutes, though, Ancelotti’s side picked up where they left off in terms of their love affair with the ball, and below you can see their initial 4-2-3-1 is set up to build the play out of their own zone.
Bayern’s superb zonal understanding in possession
Once Bayern is comfortable in the opposition half, they’ll then push numbers forward and begin their cerebral thinking and passing magic.
For instance, to stretch a team out of position, the team with the ball must have an excellent understanding of the zones and how leaving a certain area of the pitch without any passing outlets (players) can allow for, three or four passes down the line, to open up other more dangerous areas to exploit.
In the video below, we see that Bayern Munich’s passing formation allows for two four-player groups, in opposite areas of the pitch, to be linked together only by Hummels and Boateng.
Bayern Munich essentially left a certain area of the pitch open and wanted Real Madrid to push them back so that the open space could open up even more due to the nature of pressing. They then forced the ball back up the right flank and were able to draw Modric and Casemiro away from Vidal and Ribery.
Furthermore, below you can also see a brief video showcasing the Bavarian giants’ excellent vertical and horizontal one-touch passing.
Real Madrid’s counter-attacking prowess due to pace and technical ability
Real Madrid is certainly a side that lacks an identity at times, and they often win games without looking cohesive or even resembling anything close to a team. However, they do boast incredible depth, technical talent, and pace which is a recipe for a successful counter.
Below, we see how Benzema, Ronaldo, and Marcelo initiate the first three passes together while in close proximity to one another to draw Bayern’s defenders in and free up space elsewhere. Benzema’s awareness and counter-attacking IQ is incredible in the play.
Bayern’s excellent play out the back
When Real Madrid saw fit, they ditched their compact defending and counter-attacking game plan and high-pressed when possible with Ronaldo and Benzema leading the line.
Despite Madrid’s eagerness to not always sit back, they rarely were successful in stopping Bayern’s momentum out the back. Boateng and Hummels are arguably the best ball-playing centre-back pairing in Europe and they have superb one-touch accuracy.
Below, we see how Real Madrid’s press was broken by one incredibly timed and accurate Hummels pass.
Boateng and Hummels’ confidence as a ball-playing centre-back pairing
Blood and guts defenders are hard to come by nowadays, and although Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci’s recent defensive masterclass has sparked an interest in excellent tacklers and readers again, ball-playing centre-backs are still vital to possession football.
Below, you can see how Hummels and Boateng are calm and composed when playing to each other under pressure. They showcase their ability to comfortably read their options while maintaining composure in their passes.
This game showcased a lot about what is great about these two giant Spanish and German outfits; they’re filled with difference makers and are brilliant to watch in many different ways. The officiating was questionable at best, but the tactical battle on display was top-draw football.
Bayern’s 6-3 aggregate defeat and exit hurt due to the circumstances in which it happened, but they still managed to show a brilliant possession masterclass, and we at Eat Sleep Drink love them for it.