Der Klassiker will be won or lost on the wings
As expected of a Spanish side, Atletico Madrid were set up to play a narrow game, while Borussia Dortmund did the typical German thing of attacking on the wings. Diego Simeone likely anticipated this and chose to set his team up in a solid 4-4-2 formation, with defensively strong wingers and fullbacks guarding the flanks.
With the likes of Juanfran and Angel Correa on the right and Filipe Luis and Saul Niguez on the left, the Spaniards managed to shut down service to Dortmund’s forwards. Dortmund dominated possession but Madrid’s fullbacks were like a wall they couldn’t overcome.
Paco Alcacer cut a lonely figure in the box as he was completely deprived of any kind of service. By the time he was subbed off for Mario Gotze, he had managed to register only 14 touches and zero shots. It was so bad that he could probably exchange horror stories with Robert Lewandowski over a cup of coffee. Marco Reus, who played as an attacking midfielder, struggled to get involved in the buildup.
Defensively, whenever Atletico’s fullbacks got forward to join the attack and provide some width, Dortmund really struggled to deal with them. Atletico’s first goal was scored by Saul and assisted by Luis — both of whom played out wide. As we all know, Bayern Munich like to play on the wings, so this is a little bit of good news for us. However, we lack the ability to set up a strong 4-4-2 to shut down wing play from our opponents, so that’s going to be something BVB can exploit.
Considering the playstyle of both teams, the wings will be the ultimate battleground on Saturday. Whichever team capitalize in the wide areas will win Der Klassiker.
Joshua Kimmich had better watch out
Juanfran and Correa had to work very hard on the right flank to keep Dortmund at bay. Favre lined up with Jadon Sancho as the left winger and Achraf Hakimi as the left back, and both of them combined well to get the ball up the pitch and into the box. Fast and technical dribblers are something Kimmich struggles with, and in the Klassiker he might have to deal with two of them in Sancho and Hakimi.
The big problem Bayern may face is crosses. As previously documented, Bayern Munich have been struggling to deal with crosses delivered into the box this season, and the likes of Sancho and Hakimi were very good at it. Even Juanfran, who is a very good defensive right back, couldn’t stop them completely.
Axel Witsel is going to be a problem
While Borussia Dortmund were completely shut down by Atletico, Axel Witsel was the reason why they managed to completely dominate the possession throughout the game. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he’s the best midfielder they’ve have in years. With both Thiago Alcantara and Corentin Tolisso injured, the Belgian could be the one to tip the midfield balance in Dortmund’s favor.
Unlike Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich don’t like being off the ball very much, so figuring out how to neutralize Witsel should be at the top of Niko Kovac’s priorities. Losing the midfield at the Signal Iduna Park could spell the end of Bayern Munich’s title hopes this season. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that.