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Tactical Analysis

Bayern Munich 0-4 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis | Set Pieces & lack of penetration

This is the time of the year when the going gets tough, and the teams that eventually go on to claim the honours in May, really take their game to a different level. The Champions League semi final is a match that needs not only preparation and hard work in training, but also a bit of luck, and some performances that are at another level. Last season, Lewandowski stole the show against Real, and Bayern’s collective brilliance was too much for Barcelona. This season though, the tables have been turned on Bayern Munich, as Real Madrid, led by Carlo Ancelotti, executed a devastating counter attacking plan to leave Bayern on the wrong end of a 5-0 aggregate score line. Guardiola’s possession based approach, which has certainly had it’s day, now looks like a bit outmoded.

Bayern Munich 0-4 Real Madrid

Bayern 0- 4 Real



Bayern Munich: Neuer; Lahm; Boateng; Dante; Alaba; Kroos; Schweinsteiger; Robben; Ribery (Gotze, 72); Muller (Pizzaro, 72); Mandzukic (Javi Martinez, 45).

Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal; Pepe; Sergio Ramos (Varane, 75); Coentrao; Modric; Alonso; Di Maria (Casemiro, 84); Bale; Ronaldo; Benzema (Izco, 80).


In the first leg, Bayern played the game at a very slow tempo, and very heavily criticised for it. Playing a slower tempo allowed them to dominate ball possession and dictate the game. Guardiola generally prefers playing this away away from home. This supreme control of possession, and an away goal satisfies him, and he ends up with a lot of 1-1 draws away. At home though, Guardiola looks to step it up and score goals to seal the tie. This game wasn’t very different, with Bayern Munich starting the game at a higher tempo, and moving the ball considerably quicker. Where Phillipp Lahm was in charge of the distribution from the back last week, this leg saw Toni Kroos tasked with the same job. The German international midfielder played a little deeper than Schweinsteiger, and did well to play a lot of good vertical passes out to his attackers.

Toni Kroos passing in the first half. via

Toni Kroos passing in the first half.

As you can see in the image above, a lot of Kroos’ passes in the first half are made from deeper positions in the central area, and a lot of these are forward vertical passes to his attackers. Most of his square passes come a little higher up the pitch. Using Kroos to force the tempo wasn’t a bad move from Pep, but Kroos’s attacking abilities were overshadowed by his defensive deficiencies. His inability to protect his centre backs cost Bayern dear. The first Ronaldo goal came after Bale ran right through the heart of where the Bayern midfield should have been, unchecked.


Under Guardiola, Bayern have evolved into a team that pass the ball around a lot more, and look to create their patterns and get into a rhythm. This is especially true of the players at the back, closer to their own goal. Here, Bayern have a few set patterns of moving the ball out. Last night for example, Bayern were looking to find Kroos in the deep areas with almost everything. The key to controlling Bayern isn’t staying deep. They have the wide men and a target man forward that can cause damage. The key, as Real showed last night is to disrupt their passing rhythm from the back. Last night, Bayern had their best chances when Real were getting deep.

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Real were quite fearless with respect to attacking Bayern off the ball, leaving a number of players pretty high up the pitch. This was particularly evident on goal kicks, with Neuer lacking passes to make around his own area. They forced him into playing longer passes, not something he’s used to doing. This passing style was a bit unsettling for Bayern, and they couldn’t really dominate the ball as they did in Madrid.

Even a bit higher up the pitch, Bayern, with their higher tempo, but slightly lower numbers in front, were a bit hard pressed for pass completion, and a lot of their moves broke down just beyond midfield.

The band of interceptions just beyond the midfield. via

The band of interceptions just beyond the midfield.

As you can see in the image above, Real made a number of interceptions in the highlighted region, just beyond midfield. These were made as a result of the good work that the Real Madrid forwards did high up the pitch and in midfield. The deeper players were able to cut off the Bayern attacks on a number of occasions due to this work.


Since 2008, Pep Guardiola has established himself as one the best managers in world football. His teams have been playing fantastic football, and getting result after result. However, one of his weaknesses as a coach was exposed quite brutally last night. Of the 4 goals that Real Madrid scored last night, 2 came off the head of Sergio Ramos, as the Spaniard took his goals tally past his red cards for the season. There is a clear pattern to how these goals were scored, and 2 weaknesses in the Bayern organisation for set pieces were revealed.

At corners one could see the position of the Bayern players just before Real corners, one of which resulted in Ramos’ first goal. Real players were on the run as they’re getting to the ball. The Bayern defence seemed to be back in position, and ready to deal with the threat Real had to offer. However, the Real players made late runs into the box, and unfortunately for Guardiola, his players fell asleep and forgot to mark their counterparts. You can see that the defence is well organised, and there is no dearth of numbers from a Bayern perspective. Guardiola needed to ensure that his players were tighter in their marking to stop this goal from going in.

For the second goal, Bayern made a fundamental mistake with respect to their organisation. Usually, one looks to maintain a defensive line that is a little high, so as to allow the keeper ample space to charge out, but at the same time, it cannot be too high, or the defenders will not be able to attack the ball.

The Bayern defensive line was positioned just inside the box for Ramos’ second, after the Real kick taker has moved to take the free kick. They were just outside the box to start off with. This left a lot of space for Real to deliver the ball into, and importantly, it was too far out for Neuer to come and get. The margin of error for the set piece taker was large enough for Real to attack it comfortably. Secondly, the high line meant that the defence was always moving backwards. This motion isn’t conducive to winning headers, and indeed, we have all seen a number of own goals scored by defenders running towards their own goal. Ideally, the Bayern line needed to be a little deeper.


Once they got their goals, Real were quite pleased to set up 2 disciplined banks of 4 and sit back and wait for Bayern. Obviously, playing through the middle became much harder, as the Galacticos worked very hard to stifle the passing from there. Therefore, Bayern, after calming down a little at half time, started getting the ball into wide areas a lot more, and tried passing the ball in from here. It wasn’t meaningless crosses floated into the box, but deliberate play aimed at creating cut back situations. Lahm and Robben on the right hand side did well, but ultimately, it was a case of too little too late for the now dethroned champions of Europe.


Real Madrid are within touching distance of La Decima after conquering La Bestia Negra after a superb victory, that scoreline of Bayern Munich 0-4 Real Madrid will be long talked about. Bayern have traditionally had the better of Real, but the Galacticos can be proud of beating the reigning European Champions. They now await the final, and surely have huge motivation to win it. As for Bayern, Guardiola spoke a while ago of the attention he gets when Bayern lose, and now he is surely going to be a subject of a lot of discussion. Bayern have a lot of players who are very opinionated, and what is evidently a regression will not be looked upon kindly. One does feel Guardiola might need to add a few tricks to his bag if he is to dominate Europe like he once did.

For more Tactical Analysis of the biggest games, head this way.

Vishal Patel


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