5 Areas for Real Madrid to Improve Before Champions League Semifinals

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IApril 9, 2013

5 Areas for Real Madrid to Improve Before Champions League Semifinals

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    Real Madrid progressed to the Champions League final as expected against Galatasaray, but not before some major hiccups along the way in a 3-2 away defeat in Istanbul.

    Los Merengues were indebted to Cristiano Ronaldo once more, as the Portuguese striker struck a fine brace to ensure that the Turkish challenge was resisted.

    But overall, Real Madrid were far from convincing.

    Jose Mourinho and his side, though, will now move onto a semifinal clash where a number of top European sides could await. The two-time Champions League winning manager will know his side must do much better on that occasion.

    But which areas must Real Madrid seek to improve their performance on Tuesday evening?

Defensive Errors Must Be Eradicated

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    When Cristiano Ronaldo scored to give Real Madrid a 4-0 lead on aggregate in the first half, it should have been the end of the tie as a contest.

    However, three second half goals from the Turkish side brought the tie to life. And had it not been for a woeful miss from Wesley Sneijder, the situation could have been a lot worse.

    Mourinho was forced into a change by bringing on Alvaro Arbeloa for Michael Essien after half an hour, but the change of personnel cannot be used as an excuse.

    Neither can the absence of Sergio Ramos through suspension.

    For Eboue's goal, the central midfielders failed to get into position to prevent the cutback before the Ivorian's magical finish. And Sneijder ran off the back of Di Maria before breezing past Varane for his effort.

    Just moments later, it was individual errors that led to Drogba's goal. Noureddine Amrabat beat Pepe with startling ease on the right of the box before crossing for his colleague to flick home.

    A player of Pepe's quality will have to improve his play against better opponents.

Keep the Ball Better

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    Regarding possession statistics, Real Madrid were comfortably second best on the night.

    However, given their plan to counter attack as the away side, that is to be expected.

    But this does not excuse their performance later in the game. When they had taken the lead on the night and secured an away goal that would mean that the hosts would have needed to score five to progress, they should have kept possession better.

    Retaining the ball for long periods would have demoralised Galatasaray. This should have been emphasised following Eboue's equaliser.

    A pass completion rate of 78 percent is not good enough for a player like Sami Khedira, neither is his total of just 27 passes on the night. In fact, only Pepe and goalkeeper Diego Lopez touched the ball less than the German central midfielder.

    Khedira was far from alone in being disappointing in this respect.

Get Tighter in Midfield

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    In a continuation from the last slide, Real Madrid must also look to be more assertive in midfield when outside of possession. The absence of Xabi Alonso cannot be understated in this respect.

    As well as a fine passer of a football, Alonso also contributes to the defensive effort far more than any other of Real's midfield players. His willingness to hassle opponents and track runners was greatly missed on the night.

    Sneijder and his fellow Galatasaray midfield players were afforded time on the ball too often. And while it is acceptable to sit back and soak up pressure, the Spanish side started inviting pressure by not closing their opponents down.

    Despite being out of possession 57 percent of the time, midfielders Modric and Khedira made just one tackle each all game. The Croatian chipped in with three interceptions, but Khedira once more tallied just one in that respect.

    The game was made too easy for the Turkish hosts. Mourinho, the master of soaking up pressure away from home, will know that his side needs to restrict the midfield play of their semifinal opponents.

Take Chances When Presented

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    Despite their 3-2 loss on the night, it was all smiles in the end for Real Madrid.

    But it had threatened to turn sour as Galatasaray pressed forward in the second half before Ronaldo added his second of the night.

    The game should have been over as a contest. It had looked as though it was anyway, but Real Madrid had opportunities to ram home their advantage.

    In the opening minutes, following a poor clearance from Fernando Muslera, Di Maria had the opportunity to shoot at what was effectively an empty net from 25 yards. But the Argentine's snapshot was poor.

    In the second half, with the score at 1-0, Ronaldo should have doubled Los Merengues' advantage. Instead, the Portuguese fluffed his lines from just five yards.

    It is tough to be critical of Ronaldo, having scored two on the night, but these are chances that may be critical in a semifinal.

    Real Madrid will know that chances in big games are like gold dust. Any opportunities like those presented in Istanbul must be taken.

Offer More Protection to the Full-Backs

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    Galatasaray gave Real Madrid a real fright in the second half. It was particularly pronounced due to their joy at attacking the Spanish side in wide areas.

    We have spoken of Madrid's failings in central midfield, but there was also an issue of opposition full-backs being allowed to progress forward unhindered and create overlaps on both flanks.

    It was a situation that became particularly pronounced after the introduction of right-back Sabri Sarioglu for forward Umut Bulut on the hour mark. Sabri offered a dual threat with Emmanuel Eboue on the right wing.

    Full-backs Eboue and Albert Riera were a nightmare for Real Madrid to deal with in the second half. And with Sneijder also drifting wide, both Coentrao and Arbeloa were frequently left floundering.

    It was a weakness caused by the disinterest of both Real wide players Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil in defending, but compounded by the space afforded to those spreading play in central areas.

    It is an area Mourinho must look to address ahead of a semifinal clash with one of Europe's truly great sides.