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Graham Hunter: Why Real Madrid may lose the battle but win the war with Bayern Munich

La Liga expert and all-round good guy Graham Hunter on why Real Madrid can do enough to get past Bayern Munich tonight and book their place in the Champions League final.

by Graham Hunter | April 29, 2014

Real Madrid’s record in Germany is just so atrocious that you’d forgive the hoteliers, bar owners and restaurateurs in Lisbon for getting ahead of the game and laying in stocks of Deutsche phrase-books, lagoons of lager and a herd of sausage meat.

Big spending, bouncy, brash, hungry and thirsty Bavarians are coming to town. Right?

But dispensing with the lies and damn lies and heading straight for statistics there’s at least some data to suggest that the reigning European champions have a chunky task on their hands tonight (7.45pm).

While Los Blancos have lost five and drawn only one of their last six visits to Munich every single one of those last six results (a quintet of 2-1’s and a 1-1 draw) would serve to qualify Madrid for the final if it were reproduced this evening.

The last time Madrid failed to score in Bavaria one of the main protagonists of the war of words around last week’s tie, Franz Beckenbauer, was wearing short trousers and boots and Los Blancos’ midfield play was being run by a certain tall, skinny Vicente Del Bosque. (April, 1976, if you feel the need to know).

Franz Beckenbaeur 840

More heat than light

The heat generated over the first leg had a lot to do with tactics, philosophy, internal warring, possession and ‘sterility’.

Within Spain, certainly within the Santiago Bernabéu there was no frothing at the mouth about the fact that the nine time European champions decided, in advance, not to compete for possession and chose a strategy of counter-attack football.

Some of the Bayern players, Thomas Müller in particular, scoffed a little at the tactic – amazed that it flew so brazenly in the face of Madrid’s history, and in the knowledge that it would be unforgiveable at Bayern.

The ‘row’ factor centred on just that Bavarian philosophy. They are, by nature, a ‘sturm und drang‘ club – conflict, desire, antagonism, stress, hunger, pressure.

They play intelligent football, talented football – but not percentage football.

If they were a driver they’d be Ayrton Senna, if they were a flavour they’d be tabasco. If they were music they’d be AC/DC.

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Pep Guardiola840

On the (counter) attack

Guardiola was criticised (again) by Beckenbauer. L’Equipe splashed it’s next edition with the headline ‘Real Politik’ stating that Bayern had been taught a lesson in ‘real’ life and efficacy.

Guardiola’s possession football was mocked.

I thought that there was a dreadful, ill informed reaction to how Bayern played to the exclusion of proper analysis of what actually happened in the first leg – ie how close the German champions were to doing something special.

However, I think there has also been some confusion emanating from the first leg about Real Madrid and what brand of football they espouse.

Three of the Champions League semi-final teams last week played on the counter attack. But I’d argue that there was a clear difference between what Real Madrid chose to do and Chelsea’s (understandable) parking of the bus at the Calderon.

Madrid don’t revoke possession – it’s just that they are extremely effective with what they have.

ronaldo_freekick

You’re very Possessive

Take their Champions League record this season as proof.

Away to Copenhagen they won 2-0 (with 59% possession). A home to Galatasaray they won 4-1 (50%). A way to Juve they drew 2-2 (52%). At home to Juve they won 2-1 (52%). At home to Copenhagen they won 4-0 (58%). Away to Galatasaray they won 6-1 (50%).

In the first knock-out round they beat Schalke 6-1 away (57%) and at home 3-1 (55%). Then they beat Dortmund in the first quarter final 3-0 (58%) and lost to them away 2-0 (49%).

They compete for the ball, they don’t sit and speculate, waiting on the Mourinho doctrine that the more the other side has possession the more likely it is they’ll make a mistake.

But Madrid are quite confident that if they have somewhere near a fair share of the ball then they’ll outscore the opposition – sometimes heavily.

They are startlingly effective as evidenced by their 12 goals away to Galatasaray and Schalke on an average 53.5% possession shows.

It’s part of the reason that Guardiola, in the build up to this second leg, has been emphasising that he expects to require three goals from his men in order to go through.

The case for the defence

Instinct tells me that it’s worth looking at Madrid’s two central defenders.

During the three previous semi finals which Los Blancos have reached consecutively Pepe, for all his football ability, has been a ‘sleeper’.

Sent off in the first (home) leg against Barcelona – Leo Messi’s two goals followed instantly.

Two years ago against Bayern he foolishly and needlessly gave away the penalty from which Arjen Robben squared the tie at 3-3 in the second leg.

Last season he was, utterly ruthlessly, exposed by Marko Reus and Robert Lewandowski. The striker gave Pepe a lesson in clinical penalty box football and should have sent him a bouquet of flowers and an apology for humiliation when the dust settled.

Can he amend that besmirched record tonight?

Then there’s Ramos.

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Ramos 840

Wounded pride

Two seasons ago he was mocked, mercilessly, for his crucial penalty miss, skied over the bar, at the decisive moment in the shoot-out to reach the final at the Allianz Arena.

He was so furious, this Errol Flynn footballer, at the cruelty of the reception to that moment (people portrayed his shot hitting Felix Baumgartner’s head as he was preparing to jump out of Red Bull Stratos and the video went viral) that he decided to even the score by ‘Panenka-chipping’ the Portugal keeper in the European Championship semi final during 2012.

On Saturday, he was rampaging forward and tried to get on the end of two Ronaldo crosses against Osasuna before finally heading home on the hour.

He’s on the verge of missing the final, should they qualify, given that he’s on a booking. But his attitude and actions were those of a man (in my knowledge of him) who’s still got a thorn in his side.

Weakness or strength – the rampaging, Boys-Own, ‘I can do anything if I try’ attitude which makes Ramos such an attractive footballer to watch? (Albeit with Real Madrid’s record red card total)

You decide. All I know is that I’ll be riveted to the game.

Off the fence

The odds and the sane, calm part of my brain says: Bayern, at home, only one goal to overcome – they HAVE to do it.

The Sergio Ramos, hot-blooded, Celtic part of my brain (the 95% part) says … it’s Madrid to go through on a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.

La Decima beckons?

  • For Madrid to go through on aggregate 2-2 means they get beaten 2-1 tonight by Munich @ 7/1.
  • Ramos is 25/1 to score the first goal or 8/1 to score at anytime over the 90 minutes tonight.

 You can follow Graham Hunter on Twitter on @BumperGraham

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