Bayern-bound Götze still key to Dortmund exploiting Madrid's weak spot

STATS ZONE OVER EUROPE: FourFourTwo's award-winning FREE app now also covers the top flights in Italy, Spain, France and Germany (as well as England, Champions League and Europa League). Michael Cox uses it to help demostrate how Dortmund can attack Real Madrid's weak link…   

The shock news of Mario Götze’s imminent transfer to Bayern Munich was a disastrous way for Borussia Dortmund to prepare for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid. Götze was clearly crucial to Dortmund’s plans for the next couple of seasons – and he was also pivotal in Dortmund’s 2-1 victory over Real earlier in the season.

Real went into that match with an injury crisis at left-back. They arguably have better options there than any other club in Europe, with Fabio Coentrao and Marcelo both excellent at bombing down the touchline to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to cut inside, and Alvaro Arbeloa capable of switching sides to provide a solid defensive presence. However, all three were unavailable for Real’s previous trip to the Westfalenstadion, so Michael Essien was forced to deputise at left-back.

That was far from an ideal situation – Jose Mourinho has happily played Essien at right-back, both for Chelsea and Real, but on his weaker side Essien performed poorly. One of his major problems, as it happens, was Ronaldo – he stayed extremely high up the pitch and offered little defensive support.

Jurgen Klopp clearly instructed Dortmund to target Essien. Throughout the game, it was obvious how many of Dortmund’s attacks were flowing down the right.

Marco Reus started on the flank and Götze in the middle, but they interchanged position and both drifted to the flank, overloading Essien. Götze was the key part of the side – he was involved in Dortmund’s most frequent two passing combinations, knocking the ball back to Lukasz Piszczek, or playing the ball to Reus.

The forward charges from right-back Piszczek were also invaluable – he was brave with his positioning, confident that the centre-back pairing of Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels would be able to cope with Ronaldo on the break. Sometimes, Essien was forced to defend against Götze, Reus and Piszczek all in his zone at the same time.

Of course, Essien won’t play at left-back tonight. He’s unavailable through injury. Marcelo is also out, while Arbeloa is suspended, which means Coentrao will play behind Ronaldo.

The Portuguese left-back is far from a weak link, of course, but he hasn’t started for Real since the 3-2 defeat away to Galatasaray, when Real threatened to throw away a considerable first leg advantage in a nervy period midway through the second half.

Real’s problem in that game was, once again, at left-back. With Ronaldo staying high up the pitch, Emmanuel Eboue charged forward to overload Coentrao, and the majority of Galatasaray’s chances came from that flank. The best chance they squandered – Wesley Sneijder’s inexplicable miss from eight yards – came after Coentrao panicked and blindly cleared the ball across his own area, straight to the Dutchman.

Galatasaray caused particular problems when coach Fatih Terim introduced Sabri Sarioglu down the right in the second half – he’s primarily a right-back, but he’s a clever dribbler and teamed up well with Eboue. Both consistently received possession in the opposition half, and combined effectively in the space between Ronaldo and Coentrao.

The situation was so problematic that Mourinho ended up taking Ronaldo away from the left flank, instead using the more defensively aware Angel di Maria for the final 20 minutes. Real’s lucky break came when Eboue was forced off injured, however – Galatasaray didn’t have an appropriate replacement having already used their substitute right-back, and Real eventually scored the tie’s final goal.

On the basis of those two matches – Real’s previous trip to Dortmund, and their previous Champions League match – their weakness is at left-back. Klopp is an intelligent, studious coach that will have noticed Real’s problems against Galatasaray, as well as against his own side. Coentrao is set for a big test, and Ronaldo must ensure his ruthlessness on the break compensates for his lack of defensive work.

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