The four semifinalists of the Champions League battled it out in the first leg of the matches last week. While Atletico Madrid and Chelsea ended up drawing 0-0, Real Madrid edged one over Bayern Munich to earn a 1-0 victory. There now only stands one more leg between these four teams and the finalists. While two teams will earn tickets to the final in Lisbon, Portugal, two teams will face the agony of defeat.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Real Madrid managed to pick up a 1-0 win at home with a goal from their Frenchman, Karim Benzema. Although this will certainly provide an advantage for Madrid going into the second leg, Bayern Munich still have it in them to see off their opposition, especially since they will be playing at home. Some may be wondering how come Bayern Munich, who managed to score seven goals against Barcelona just a year ago, is now struggling to find chances against Real Madrid. The difference is in the different strategies that last year’s manager, Jupp Heynckes, and their current manager, Pep Guardiola use.
Heynckes’ Bayern Munich was much more dynamic and stronger on the attack, always pushing forward and looking to create chances. Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, has always valued possession above anything else in soccer. His Barcelona had perfected the tiki-taka style of play, and he’s trying to employ the same thing with Bayern Munich.
His strategy is working to an extent — he managed to win the Bundesliga with seven games to go. He’s also come this far in the Champions League, and his side did maintain most of the possession in the game against Real Madrid. Where his strategy fails is when it comes to actually attacking. With so much effort put into to the building up plays, his Bayern Munich really can’t create chances.
Thus, he’s received criticism from Bayern Munich’s honorary president and former German superstar player, Franz Beckenbauer. Beckenbauer has expressed his disappointment in Bayern Munich’s failure to attack against Real Madrid. This perhaps is simply not a disappointment in the semifinal match, but Bayern’s general style in the Champions League thus far. They struggled against Arsenal even when Arsenal were down to ten men. Furthermore, they struggled against one of the worst Manchester United squads in recent history.
Guardiola is accustomed to valuing possession and control over dynamic attacking and chance creation. Perhaps his perfected tiki-taka system is the ideal form of what Europeans call “total football”, but in modern day soccer, the tiki-taka does not work as effectively as it once did, as teams have now started finding ways to work around the strategy.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, make full use of their attacking powers and do not mind not keeping the ball all that often. Their style is based in counter-attacking soccer, but they can also create chances quickly in an organized manner. Thus, they are quick on the attack and able to get a relatively good amount of chances with less possession.
Real Madrid will go into this match with an advantage, and they will be fine with a 0-0 draw. Bayern, on the other hand, will have to score. Guardiola must part with his possession-based soccer to some extent if he wants to make use of players like Ribery and Robben and the dynamism they can bring on the pitch. Otherwise, his possession-based soccer will make it look like Real Madrid defended really well. However, it is apparent that if one brings a little bit of pressure and looks to create chances, then Real Madrid has flaws in its defense that can easily be exploited.
One last point to make about this match is related to the passing of Tito Vilanova, who died at age 45 on April 25 after a battle with throat cancer. Tito Vilanova was Guardiola’s assistant at Barcelona, and the two have always been close. Everyone could expect that Guardiola would be grief-stricken with the passing of his good friend, however, he may be filled with more grief than we’d expect.
In Bayern’s match with Werder Bremen this week in the Bundesliga, the cameras showed a gloomy and thoughtful Pep Guardiola after his team scored a goal to take the league. His demeanor was enough to sadden anyone watching the game. Guardiola will need to bounce back from his emotional loss — otherwise, Real Madrid will have the upper hand. Nevertheless, the 5-2 win over Werder Bremen will surely boost the confidence of the Bayern Munich players.
This draw is far from settled. Whichever way it goes all depends on Guardiola and how he will control his Bayern Munich. Just a little bit of dynamism will be enough to tilt the tie in their favor.
Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid
While Real Madrid and Bayern Munich battled it out in what was an enjoyable game, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea bored soccer fans. This was mainly due to Jose Mourinho’s tactics as he “parked the bus,” meaning that he had Chelsea solely focus on defending without even considering attacking. Mourinho and Chelsea came to Atletico’s home ground, knowing that Atletico had not lost there this Champions League.
They also knew that Atletico only conceded 5 goals in 10 matches and were lethal on the attack. Mourinho is known to play extremely defensive soccer when necessary, and that is what he exactly did. He knew that even one goal that Atletico would score on Chelsea would provide an extreme advantage for them, as Atletico is known to defend and press on the ball really well. Thus, the rematch would be extremely difficult, as Chelsea would have to dig themselves out of a hole.
Now, they go into the rematch on a level playing field. This means that Chelsea will be more willing to attack and get a goal, but they will still be cautious.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, will continue playing the soccer they’ve been playing all season long. They will look to pressure Chelsea and score. However, they might be more cautious in this leg than they were in the first leg, as Chelsea will look to create at least some chances. One thing that Simeone should focus on is finding that opening against teams who defend really well.
Atletico struggled to get in good chances for the most part of the first leg, and they generally tried getting in crosses, but to no avail. They have to figure out some way of opening up tight defenses. The solution to this problem will most likely be using their Turkish star, Arda Turan. Once Arda Turan came on for Diego Ribas in the first leg, Atletico suddenly had more dynamism and newfound energy as they started creating more chances and piling up on Chelsea. Simeone should work to center Atletico’s attacks around Arda Turan.
The second leg of this draw will be more exciting than the first, but there might not be a victor at the end of 90 minutes. But the 90 minutes will definitely be filled with the two teams battling it out with everything they have. It is extremely likely that this match will go into penalty kicks.
Bayern Munich will be playing Real Madrid on April 29 and Chelsea will be facing Atletico Madrid on April 30. Don’t miss out on the second leg of the semifinals!