Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund: Counterattack Will Decide UCL Semifinal

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 06: Mats Hummels (L) of Borussia Dortmund fouls Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 6, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp would be smart to follow the blueprint Bayern Munich used to destroy Barcelona on Tuesday night.

The Bavarians sat back, pressed at the right times and didn't let Barca get possession too deep in the attacking third. Barcelona had the lion's share of possession, thus denying the club any chance of getting out on the break themselves.

That should be the game plan for Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid has the best counterattack in the world. Los Blancos have speed on the wings with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria to go with midfielders like Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric, who are all capable of threading a deadly through ball.

It's a thing of beauty to see how quickly Madrid can transition from defending to attacking. Your club has an attempt on goal foiled—three or four passes later, Madrid has a goal.

Dortmund would be foolish to take the game to Madrid from the outset. Ajax tried that in its Champions League fixture with Los Blancos back in December and had 60 percent possession but lost 4-1. The Dutch side was killed on the counterattack. Granted, Ajax is not the quality of Dortmund, but the principle still holds.

Over the past couple of seasons, opposing managers have thought going right at Madrid and holding on to the ball would be the best plan of attack.

That belief has changed.

This season, opposing teams have had a lot of success against Madrid by ceding possession, sitting back and letting the Spanish side dictate the pace of the game.

Klopp has already seen how well it can work out.

In Dortmund's two meetings with Madrid this season, the German club has not had the majority of possession. Borussia Dortmund only had the ball for 35 percent of the time in a 2-2 draw in Madrid and 43 percent of the time in a 2-1 win in the Westfalenstadion.

Jose Mourinho will be perfectly aware that the secret is out.

Dortmund is going to play ultra-defensive football, bunkering in its back four and offering little in the attack.

Sending players forward too much leaves the door open for Madrid to hit on the counter. If Klopp is smart, he will have told his players to only move forward at the right time, thus negating Madrid's quick break.

It might seem foolish to let Madrid have the majority of possession. However, the alternative is to spend the most time on the attack, thus opening yourself up to be exploited again and again on the counter.

The team that controls the counter will win this match. If Ronaldo gets out in the open, Dortmund will be toast. If Dortmund's defenders can shackle Ronaldo and Madrid's attacking options, the Germans will be successful.

Away goals are critical in European knockout ties, so Dortmund doesn't want to be looking at a two- or three-goal hole going into the second leg.

Prior to Tuesday night, you'd have thought Bayern would have no chance to win by keeping the ball against Barcelona just 34 percent of the time. Instead, the club used that strategy to massive success.

You don't get points for holding on to the ball for the majority of the match—just ask Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers. The best chance Dortmund has in the first leg is to sit back and let Madrid run right at them.