Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp has said the key to beating Real Madrid is not stopping goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo but taking playmaker Xabi Alonso out of the game.
Dortmund beat Madrid 2-1 at home and drew 2-2 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu during this season's Champions League group stages, when an 89th-minute Mesut Ozil free-kick was needed to get just a point for Jose Mourinho's side.
Speaking to El Pais in the run-up to Madrid's last-16 first leg against Manchester United at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening, the Borussia boss said his tactics for the games against Madrid had revolved around making sure Alonso did not have the time and space to launch his more attacking team-mates, including Ronaldo, into space with long accurate passes.
"We knew where they would send their passes, how they look for Cristiano," Klopp said. "Our plan was to take Xabi [Alonso] out of the game. Because if Alonso can play as he wants it is impossible to defend against Madrid. And [Mario] Gotze covered him. We knew that if our full-backs, [Lukasz] Piszczek and [Marcel] Schmelzer, moved around a lot, the advantage would be on our side against Cristiano. If you block Xabi, you make it so Pepe always has the ball. That is a big difference."
Klopp, whose Dortmund side have impressed many observers with their smart tactics and athleticism, said he had been inspired as a rookie coach by Madrid's 'Galacticos' side of Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, David Beckham et al of a decade back, while the current Barca side had similar attacking ideas but better defensive solidity.
"[My biggest inspiration was] the white ballet, Real Madrid of a few years back," he said. "Then I thought: If you take this footballing potential and add a defensive plan … you would have the perfect team. And Barca did that."
Dortmund face Shakhtar Donetsk away in their last-16 first leg on Wednesday night. Klopp said he was proud that his club, almost bankrupt in 2005, was now punching above its financial weight and one of the very few teams who could compete at the top European level.
"We are talking about [a budget of] €60 or €65 million," he said. "Even Tottenham pays much more. But we are one of the six teams in Europe who can win trophies. In Spain, Barca and Madrid. In England, United, Chelsea and City. In Italy, just Juve. Our youngsters know that they could earn more money in another place. But here they can make history."