Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid, Tues 19:45
While their title rivals Barcelona are intent on pressing high up the pitch in every game, Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs approach without the ball is a lot more varied, with Jose Mourinho implementing different strategies depending on the opposition.
It will be interesting to see what Mourinho does away at Bayern Munich tonight. In many ways, Bayern have moved towards the style of football Barcelona play over the past couple of years, with a possession-based approach very much the default strategy, rather than the quicker, more counter-attacking football that got them to the final two years ago.
One of the major changes has been at the back, where Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng now form a decent centre-back partnership. Both would have been considered full-backs a couple of years ago Ã¢ÂÂ Badstuber when breaking through at Bayern, and Boateng at Hamburg Ã¢ÂÂ and theyÃ¢ÂÂve brought good technical quality on the ball to their new position.
Both are confident in playing square passes across the back, but can lose the ball when hurried into forward passes, as the diagram below demonstrates. Mourinho might ask his forwards to provoke them into playing an ambitious forward pass, while closing down the likes of Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, to break up BayernÃ¢ÂÂs passing game.
Many eyebrows were raised when Mourinho bought Hamit Altintop from Bayern Munich last summer. The versatile midfielder didnÃ¢ÂÂt seem to fit into the Real Madrid side, and he hasnÃ¢ÂÂt featured a great deal this season Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs only started one league game all season.
But he did start RealÃ¢ÂÂs last Champions League game, a 5-2 thrashing of APOEL. Although this was primarily because Real took a three-goal lead into that tie and were relatively sure of progress, it also hinted that Mourinho might want to use him as a tactical weapon later in the campaign.
Mourinho often likes to experiment in games that have already been won, ahead of tricky upcoming matches. For example, a couple of weeks before his Inter side famously parked the bus at the Nou Camp to hold on for a 3-2 aggregate win in 2010, Mourinho had shifted to a (rather unnecessary) 5-4-1 in an away cup tie at Fiorentina, where the players barely left their own third of the pitch, despite having controlled the game until then.
Altintop could be a useful option for three reasons Ã¢ÂÂ first, he is versatile, which means he could be used on either flank according to how Bayern set up. Second, he is against his former club, and knows the Bayern players better than any of his teammates. Third, he is more secure defensively than Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo, and could help double up against Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. If Mourinho has a surprise in store, this might be it.
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