Bayern Munich is widely recognized as the most dominant team in European soccer but Real Madrid is the team with their best chance of stopping Bayern Munich from winning back-to-back UEFA Champions League titles.
When Pep Guardiola took charge at Bayern Munich, there wasn’t much he could do to make Bayern more intimidating than they already were. Jupp Heynckes had led them to a perfect and splendid treble season last year in an emphatic style. However, Guardiola has pushed all the right buttons to make the Big Red Machine truly invincible.
Under the Spaniard, the Bavarians dominate high possession and overwhelm teams with its sheer number in the attacking third, reminiscent of the Barcelona way but not without a distinct twist. But if you had to pick a team in soccer today that has been tailor-made to attack their few weaknesses with precision, then it’s Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are perfectly equipped to not only thwart Bayern’s advances but retaliate to good effect as well, as they arguably stand the most devastating counter-attacking team on the planet. The two teams who play on Wednesday night have various different elements to the game, while the fixture looks to be treated like a typical clash which was seen between Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid a couple of years ago.
Bayern has reached further with Guardiola
Towards the end of Guardiola’s Barcelona stint, he tried to devise a ‘Plan B’ but didn’t have the necessary players to succeed in his attempt. The ones he had were phenomenal technicians, but they remained slaves to the brand of soccer that was instilled in them through the uncompromising philosophy preached at La Masia.
But Bayern aren’t all about the tiki-taka style of soccer. The German outfit under Guardiola has remained far more flexible with his systems that have made him a more proactive manager as well. Bayern have the ability to cycle through formations with ease and are capable of taking a more direct route as well. This season, they have started operating three different systems during the course of a single game.
Likewise, Real Madrid has been transformed by Carlo Ancelotti and what’s admirable is that he did so while maintaining and perhaps even honing their best feature which is their threat on the counter-attack. With the emergence of Jese Rodriguez and the arrival of Gareth Bale, Madrid boosted their pace in attack this season, although Rodriguez has been sidelined due to injury and the Welshman remains a doubt for the fixture.
Madrid has adequate tools to hurt Bayern
For all the shortcomings that lead to his recent termination as Manchester United manager, David Moyes did a great job of exposing Bayern’s vulnerability on the break even if the ploy wasn’t executed expertly and finally ended in defeat.
Danny Welback’s pace was a real and continuous threat to Bayern from the left flank and one can imagine the havoc Ronaldo could wreck if allowed similar opportunities. Madrid will not have to sit as deep as Manchester United did, as they also have pace across their back four. Madrid will even make a much better use of the ball when they get a hold of it as there is no question that their midfield is far superior to the one Bayern faced against United.
Madrid has weaknesses in their team as well. Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Pepe did struggle against Borussia Dortmund’s movement through the middle in the second leg of their quarter-final tie. However, Bayern hasn’t been playing with the same frantic pace as their approach is based on control and that should help Ancelotti’s men to some extent.
Angel Di Maria has been a revelation
Ancelotti suffered early setbacks in the domestic league, as he didn’t begin his time without hiccups at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. However, he quickly altered their system from a 4-2-3-1 to a more flexible and fluid 4-3-3. His utilization of Angel Di Maria has been excellent in particular. Xabi Alonso operates in a withdrawn role while Di Maria has featured in central midfield more often than not alongside Luka Modric.
Di Maria has poured a lot of energy into their midfield and often covers for Cristiano Ronaldo down the left flank. It is his energy and mobility that also brings the best out of Modric and will be very essential when they play against Bayern Munich.
Considering these reasons, Bale’s recovery from illness is very crucial to Madrid’s chances as Di Maria would have to take Bale’s place on the right flank if he remains unavailable, with Isco being drafted into midfield.
The aforementioned arguments don’t see Madrid as favorites, not in the least bit. However, they do render them the most capable of toppling the Bundesliga giants.