Bayern need changes in Champions League semi against Real | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 28.04.2014
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Bayern need changes in Champions League semi against Real

They may have waltzed to the Bundesliga title, but Bayern Munich face a tough test when they meet Madrid in the semifinal of club football's top competition. To get through, they need to wipe out a first-leg deficit.

Bayern Munich only have three games that matter left this season and to get a chance to compete in the third one, the Champions League final on May 24 in Lisbon, they will need to negotiate a very tricky return leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.

After Bayern lost 1-0 last week to Real in Madrid, everyone from coach Pep Guardiola to captain Philipp Lahm to talismanic winger Arjen Robben eagerly pointed out that the result wasn't that bad. In truth, though, Munich failure to get an away goal means that if the Spaniards score in Allianz Arena, Bayern will need at least three goals to progress.

The Bavarians utterly dominated possession (72 percent) in the first leg, but their best chance at scoring came late in the match and was the result of a lucky deflection. Madrid, on the other hand, had a number of good looks at Manuel Neuer's goal and were arguably unlucky not to win by a larger margin.

And Real will buoyed by the return from illness of winger Gareth Bale. Last week, Bale had the flu, which restricted him to the role of late substitute.

After the 1-0 loss, Guardiola said he was "more optimistic" than before the match. But what has to change this time around to justify Pep's look-on-the-bright-side perspective?

Bayern hope for Ribery revival

Dante hugs Ribery

A good performance from Ribery is key if Bayern are to maximise their chances

Bayern's worst performer in the match in Madrid was their best player from last season, Franck Ribery. The fleet-footed Frenchman has turned in a series of tepid performances after returning from an operation to deal with a hematoma on one of his buttocks in February.

Against Real he was continually frustrated by Daniel Carvajal, who got used to playing against Bayern during his year-long loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen.

But in Bayern's 5-2 dress-rehearsal win against Bremen on Saturday, Ribery was Bayern's best player, scoring the Bavarians' first goal after sprinting through the middle of Werder's defense and nutmegging the keeper. On Tuesday, he'll have to show that he can do the same against Pepe and Iker Casillas- and not just Sebastian Prödl und Andreas Wolf.

It's crucial for Ribery to generate pressure up the left-hand side so that Real can't cheat on defense and block Robben's signature cut-inside moves on the right. If there is anything the previous two seasons have shown, it's that Bayern are more than doubly effective when their two superstar wingers are playing well together.

A bit more directness, a bit less tiki-taka

Mario Götze

Götze would be a more offensive midfield option

One of Guardiola's highest priorities has to be to get his team to create more shots on goal from promising positions, and if that comes by sacrificing some possession, so be it. In Madrid, Bayern at times looked like Barcelona minus Messi, and the very best teams in the world, of which Real are one, have figured out how to play against that style.

One of Bayern's best performances of this campaign was their 3-0 win in Dortmund in the first half of the Bundesliga season. In that match, Bayern got round their opponents' pressing and the threat they posed on quick counter-attacks, by lobbing precision long balls over Dortmund's leading defensive lines.

Tiki-taka it wasn't, effective it was. And that's what Bayern will need to best Real who, in Madrid, were content to sit deeper than the club had ever defended since the dawn of time.

Guardiola may also want to consider some personnel changes in midfield. In the first leg, the Philipp Lahm-Bastian Schweinsteiger-Toni Kross axis put the emphasis on stability. Giving Mario Götze a start might inject some pace that Real could find problematic.

And an unpredictable player like Thomas Müller, who does everything pretty well, could also help dislodge Real Madrid's surprisingly solid defense. Bayern need to score, obviously, and they could well need to score more than twice.

Dangers lurk everywhere

Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo

Bayern need to be especially wary of this four-armed monster

Bayern's biggest problem is that the result of the first leg plays into Real Madrid's likely plan of trying to catch Bayern out on the counter-attack. A single goal for the nine-time European champions in the Allianz Arena would leave the men from Munich with a mountain to climb.

With that in mind, Guardiola must be worried that his team conceded two breakaway goals on Saturday to Werder Bremen, a team in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table. If Bayern's back four can't stop the likes of Theodor Gebre Selassie and Aaron Hunt, what will they do if tested by Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria?

What's more, even if Munich shore up their back four, Real have two players capable of creating goals out of nothing. Bale's out-of-bounds run in the Copa del Rey final earlier this month has already become the stuff of Youtube legend. And Cristiano Ronaldo scored a pair of goals in Real's last Primera Division match, including one of the rub-your-eyes-in-disbelief variety.

Thus, Bayern need to be mentally prepared for the situation that they need to score three. More than anything, though, they need to ramp up their intensity to the levels it was at before they clinched the Bundesliga title in March.

Ironically, if Bayern fail to clear the hurdle of Real Madrid in their bid to repeat the triple, it may be because their record-quick domestic title whittled off a bit of the focus even the best teams need to prevail at the very top.

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