After their disappointing defeat in the revierderby, Dortmund will be looking to bounce back straight away in their big Champions League clash against Real Madrid. Dortmund were unlucky not to beat Man City last time out and their performance showed how far they have come in their second year in the Champions League. Unlike their opponents last time who were also in their second year in the Champions League Real is a different proposition. Madrid had a field day against Ajax, running out 4-1 winners and already topping the group with 6 points. Should Dortmund defeat Madrid, they would go top with 7 but this could very well be Jürgen Klopp’s biggest challenge yet in charge.
A pivotal part to the way Real Madrid play is Karim Benzema who almost acts as a number 10 and frequently participates in the build up play. It allows Madrid to outnumber most team’s midfields and with his ability to finish from in or out of the box adds a great deal of flexibility and versatility to their attack. When Benzema drops back it pulls defenders out of place and sets up runs from Ronaldo amongst others. Was this the reason behind Klopps experiment in the derby against Schalke? If Dortmund play essentially five at the back with 3 centre backs and 2 wing backs it allows one of the centre backs to be more fluid in marking free players around the box not just in it. The problem against Schalke was the wing backs had too much licence to roam whereas in the Madrid game they will almost certainly be pinned back to LB and RB positions.
If Dortmund are to get anything from this match, especially considering the amount of noticeable absences, their game plan must revolve around the midfield which was their biggest Achilles heel against Schalke. It’s where most of Madrid’s goals come from and where almost all of Dortmund’s goals are made. Madrid will probably have more of the ball but it’s what Dortmund do off it that will decide how they fare. Their game will hinge on the form of their two holding midfielders. If they play well Dortmund will play well. It’s looking more likely that pairing will be Kehl and Bender as Gündogan didn’t train at all yesterday and will remain out for the foreseeable future. Those two will need to ensure that they are industrious in everything they do, from being first to every ball to not turning it over when they do regain possession.
Madrid also exploit the wings in a way which is difficult to defend against. As has been the case often with Madrid’s opponents, if a team is hard to break down through the middle or there isn’t much opportunity to counter attack they will pass it laterally to Ronaldo or Di Maria on the wings whose pace and technique can beat defenders readily to cut in and shoot. Their speed will be especially dangerous with Dortmund’s usual high backline. Bender and Kehl will need to be alert to this and make sure they help out their full backs and pressure the ball on the wings as one covers in the middle to cut out the option of the ball being cut back and shot or passed to the middle and shot from there. With Khedira, Alonso and Modric, Madrid will have no shortage of options who will make runs out of the back to have a go at goal. This is how Madrid scored all of their goals against a defensive City and if Dortmund can stop Madrid playing this way, their chances of getting a results could improve drastically.
When Dortmund do have the ball however Reus and Goetze should look to get forward whenever possible. If there is one weakness in this Madrid squad it’s its’ defense and Reus coupled with Goetze should cause them serious problems. Pepe should be a prime target for Dortmund with his volatility and aggression. Klopp should look to sacrifice Lewandowski’s involvement in the game and use him as bait for Ramos who is clearly the better of the two Madrid centre backs in the air. Using Lewandowski as a target man would allow him to take pressure off the back four and to also maybe produce a knock down or a pass to one of Geotze or Reus’ oncoming runs. With Marcelo, Coentrao and Arbeloa all definitely out of the game Madrid face a full back crisis and Reus and Gotze should also look to capitalise on that rotating between LM and AM not allowing Pepe or a makeshift RB to get a moments rest. In that sense, the flanks could well turn out to be Dortmund’s best avenues of attack.
The way in which Dortmund controlled City and took the game to them suggests that Klopp has learned from last year’s Champions League experience and his showing in their last league game against Schalke shows that he certainly is willing to experiment tactically which is encouraging for the progress and development of this team. It remains to be seen what he has in store against the mighty Madrid but whatever his tactics may be you can expect Klopp to play for the win and stay true to his convictions.
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