Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso says that clever play, not aimless possession, will be key for his side in Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Bayern Munich.
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In the recent Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, Madrid had much less of the ball than their opponents, but created by far the better chances on the counter-attack and were good value for their 2-1 win.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are expected to take a similar approach against Bayern, particularly as former Blaugrana coach Pep Guardiola is now in charge at the Bundesliga club.
And Blancos lynchpin Alonso told the prematch news conference that he and his teammates have no desire to keep the ball ineffectively.
“We have to play a complete match,” Alonso said. “Possession is a relative statistic and having it just for the sake of it is pointless. You have to know how to read the game and how to harm them. We are feeling good after our last Copa game. Motivation and drive are essential tomorrow.”
Guardiola won five and drew two of his seven visits to the Bernabeu as Barca coach, but Alonso said he expected Bayern -- who won the competition last season under former boss Jupp Heynckes -- to be a different proposition to Pep’s previous side.
“They are very different,” he said. “Just the coach is the same. It's not worth making the comparison, we just have to recognise that Bayern is a great team. Guardiola has given his players a different system with more flexibility. The foundations of the team are similar, but during the match there is more variation and more depth. Last year they had a great team too, making history with Heynckes.”
Madrid may start the game without both their biggest stars, given Cristiano Ronaldo's fitness remains an issue after three weeks out with a mixture of knee and thigh muscle problems, and Gareth Bale was sent home from the team hotel due to a “stomach problem” on Tuesday night.
Whoever starts the game will have to be ready to put in a full shift in both defence and attack, Alonso said.
“We need the whole team to be involved because we know that it is important to attack and defend as a unit,” he added. “If we are not all together helping each other we can lose out in midfield, but we know them very well, we know what they are like. We need all XI players to work together to get through the tie. On the pitch we have to lift the crowd and get the people in the stands to do their part.”