No one ever said that beating Real Madrid would be easy, and beating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, after going 2-1 down in the first leg? Well, that is perhaps one of the hardest things to do in football. Let’s not mince words here — Bayern Munich made a complete hash of the first leg, surrendering a lead and not taking their chances. Yet, it’s not over.
No matter how good this Real Madrid team are, no matter how dominant they may be at home in Europe, and no matter how unfancied Bayern may be for this tie — this is football, and there are still 90 minutes left to play. Bayern Munich can certainly overturn this tie, and here’s why:
#1: The tables have turned on the flanks
The first leg wasn’t great for Bayern, but it wasn’t amazing for Real Madrid either. Los Blancos got the win, but at a great cost — they lost Dani Carvajal. According to the official report, he will be out for the second leg. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich should get David Alaba back. Both players face each other on the same flank. Therefore, it’s a complete flip from the situation in the first leg.
As everyone knows, Franck Ribery when paired with David Alaba is a different beast. Their combination on the left is eye-candy, with the two having an almost telepathic understanding of each other. Ribery was already one of the most threatening players on the ball for Bayern in the first leg, and he should be even better in Madrid with his partner-in-crime back in tow.
Respect to Rafinha, he did a serviceable job in the first leg, but Alaba is simply better. He is better offensively, he has better chemistry with Ribery, and he likely wouldn’t have made the mistake that created Madrid’s second goal. Real Madrid will have to deal with this upgraded Bayern left flank without their star right back. All of Bayern’s best attacks in Munich came from the left, despite Real having Carvajal, and despite Bayern missing Alaba. It stands to reason that, in Madrid, the mismatch could prove to be the game-changer.
#2: Bayern Munich won’t have to use Plan B from the beginning
There was a reason things didn’t go so smoothly for Bayern in the first leg. Jupp Heynckes had a clear plan, which was to overwhelm Real Madrid with his wingers supplying Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski in the middle. However, Arjen Robben’s injury in the opening minutes of the game meant all that careful planning had to be put in the bin and a cold Thiago was brought on to replace him.
The effect on Bayern’s structure cannot be understated. Thomas Muller had to be shifted to the right, away from his preferred position at secondary striker, while James had to move further up-field. Thiago came into the game with minimal warmup (because Bayern were reduced to 10 men) and he needed time to get into his groove. Meanwhile, the squad’s tactics were thrown out of whack because it was a completely different formation from what they’d been training with in the buildup to the game.
It’s like if you studied History for your exam, but then the paper was Math. You aren’t going to get a good score. Well, for the second leg, Bayern are going to be prepared. Even if Jupp Heynckes starts an identical XI to what he played in the first leg, the added familiarity with the tactics alone should give Bayern a boost. Considering the team already dominated Real Madrid in the first leg with two huge handicaps (the xG chart proves it), the second leg doesn’t seem as scary anymore.
xG map for Bayern Munich - Real Madrid.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 25, 2018
Instead of asking, "do we want the threepeat" instead we should ask, "what does the threepeat want of us?" pic.twitter.com/D5ZWR1h4C2
#3: Bayern Munich know how to turn it on at the Bernabeu
Don’t believe me? Recall last year. Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern was a mess most of the time, but last year they really played out of their skins at the Bernabeu. The defense, the attack, the midfield — they all turned it on, after what was arguably an even more dismal showing in the first leg. That might not mean much on the surface, but the implication is massive. It means that Bayern Munich know how to respond after a setback. They know not to be intimidated by the atmosphere at the Bernabeu.
Madrid haven’t been as dominant at the Bernabeu as you might think. Juventus proved that in the quarter finals, where they beat them 3-1 (the one goal being a dubious penalty). If Bayern Munich go into the game with the right mentality, then the other advantages should be enough to clinch an aggregate victory over the reigning European champions. Make no mistake, it’s going to need a herculean effort.
However, if there’s any team that can do it, it’s Bayern Munich.