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Talking football with Xabi Alonso

Bundesliga 7 days ago
Read
Apr 28, 2014

Bayern must score first or face panic at the Allianz

Large questions loom for Bayern Munich ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semifinal return tie against Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena. If Madrid get one past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Bayern will need three to go through to Lisbon.

A pair of recent domestic results has shown they can score goals once again, but those matches were against a midtable team in Werder Bremen and second-division side FC Kaiserslautern. It was telling in both those matches that Bayern were unable to keep a clean sheet -- and versus Bremen even needing to come back twice before eventually overwhelming the away side.

- Schaaf: Bullish Bayern warm up with win - Ancelotti: We'll attack

Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid are highly unlikely to park the bus defending their slim -- but important -- 1-0 lead from the first leg. History slightly favours Bayern, as they have overcome a first-tie deficit six times from 11 in the Champions League knockout stages.

What does Bayern coach Pep Guardiola need to change from the first match to the second? The most obvious answers lie in his personnel.

First, Rafinha must make way for Philipp Lahm's return to right-back. The diminutive Brazilian had plenty of trouble with Madrid's left side last week, and as he is serving a three-match suspension in the Bundesliga, he was unable to get time over the weekend against Bremen.

Captain Lahm was misused in Guardiola's attempts to rein in Cristiano Ronaldo last week; the Rafinha/Lahm double-team proved ineffective against the Portuguese forward. Bayern were lucky to concede just once as Ronaldo wasted a fair number of chances.

Javi Martinez must also start in midfield. He started in his preferred position over the weekend against Werder -- just the second time he's been used there in the Bundesliga's Rueckrunde -- but managed to do what he does best, controlling the tempo and winning balls while distributing neatly.

Elsewhere, Franck Ribery must have a big match. The French winger was back on form, finally, against the Green-Whites at the weekend, scoring the initial equaliser 20 minutes in after suffering a serious dip in form since his return from buttock surgery.

"He was playing angry against Bremen," Guardiola said of his star winger on Monday. "Franck needs this aggression. He needs to play angry. He keeps fighting, and that is why fans love him. He is one of the best players in Bayern history. He has always performed at the highest level, and we need the best Ribery."

There's no time like the present, Herr Guardiola, as a fighting Ribery spreads the defence, leaving Madrid unable to just concentrate on Bayern's most consistently excellent player this season, Arjen Robben.

If Mario Mandzukic starts as forward, he must spend some time in the box. Bayern monopolised possession at the Bernabeu last week, but when they finally unlocked Madrid's defence and put the ball into the box, nobody was there to be a threat. Mandzukic, while contributing well defensively, was absent for Bayern's attack at exactly the wrong time.

Bayern Munich must score first. It's a big ask, I know, but an opener from Real Madrid would put Pep's men in panic mode, knowing they would need three goals to go through. With such panic, the defence has a tendency to suffer.

Real Madrid come into the match following a 4-0 victory over Osasuna at the weekend, with Ronaldo scoring twice to up his goal total to 47 for the season while Gareth Bale should have recovered from the flu.

Both Thomas Mueller and Mario Goetze started the first tie on the bench, and it will be curious to see who gets the nod here. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos are available for the two spots (this is, of course, under the assumption that Martinez will start at the "six").

Normally, Bayern Munich players are allowed to stay at home with their loved ones the night before a match, but Guardiola has made an exception in this very important case. Instead, the team will be based at a hotel on Monday as Guardiola seeks to find the winning formula for this tie and keep his hopes of winning the trophy alive.