Champions League preview: Bayern look to find Kroos control at the Bernabéu

ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox uses the StatsZone app – from FFT & Opta, available now – to preview Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second-leg...

Bayern Munich’s main men ahead of the trip to Real Madrid are, as usual, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. But there’ll be even more focus than usual on the duo, after they reportedly came to blows at half-time of the first leg.

According to German daily Bild, Robben refused to allow Ribery to take a 40th minute free-kick, leading to a dressing room row which saw Ribery punch Robben and earn a €50,000 fine.

Nevertheless, both are expected to be in the starting line-up at the Bernabeu, offering an attacking threat down either flank. In theory, they play in a similar fashion – getting the ball on the flanks and then cutting inside onto their stronger foot. But there is a big difference in the way they pick up the ball – Franck Ribery drops deep into his own half, drifting away from his full-back and collecting the ball in deep positions before driving at the defence.

Arjen Robben, on the other hand, is more of a wide forward. Unlike Ribery, he never collects the ball directly from a Manuel Neuer pass, and instead stays wide in the final third, hoping to get possession when the opposition left-back has moved narrow, leaving space on the flank.

Real Madrid’s full-backs are actually badly-suited to playing against this threat. Alvaro Arbeloa is a defensive-minded right-back who doesn’t like moving too high up the pitch and tracking his opponent. Their left-back will be Marcelo or Fabio Coentrao, naturally more attacking, but likely to be forced to stay deep by Robben’s high positioning.

The key battle in the first leg at the Allianz Arena was the players used as the attacking midfielder on either side. Mesut Ozil was Real Madrid’s choice – he stayed high up the pitch, drifted to the right, and although he didn’t see a great deal of the ball, he did pop up in the box for Real’s equaliser.

Toni Kroos played that position for Bayern, but came much deeper, playing short passes in and around the centre circle and helping Bayern dominate possession.

The two are likely to start in the same positions again - Ozil will be high up playing the final pass, while Kroos will be in deep positions trying to prompt breaks.

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