In one of the most shocking results of the UEFA Champions League thus far, Real Madrid found themselves on the receiving end of a 4-1 beating at the hands of German side Borussia Dortmund, in the first leg of their semifinal clash.
While Dortmund's win wasn't surprising to savvy football fans, the margin of victory was surprising to virtually everyone and left Los Blancos reeling heading into next week's second leg back in Spain.
But, while Cristiano Ronaldo and company are in trouble, Madrid aren't out of this quite yet. They have a lot of work to do, but here's how Los Blancos can make up the deficit and shock the world with another Champions League final appearance.
This is crucial for any team hoping to make up a significant deficit, but for Madrid, it's even more important. In a match like this, you must score quickly and put the leading team on the defensive as soon as possible in the match, and Madrid will need to put Die Schwarzgelben on their heels early.
Jurgen Klopp's side is extremely young, particularly at the back. Typical central defenders Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic are both 24, while Marcel Schmelzer is 25. If Madrid score early, there's a good chance that Dortmund will concede again or lose their nerve. We know it doesn't take much for the Germans to lose their cool and their focus, evidenced by the cheap goal they conceded after not being awarded a penalty in Wednesday's match.
If they concede quickly at the Bernabeu, expect the delirious and raucous Madrid faithful to get into the Germans' heads a little bit, which could certainly make things more interesting.
Ramp Up the Offensive Attack
This may seem obvious, but given their play in the first leg, it's something that must be said. Manager Jose Mourinho must throw caution to the wind at the Bernabeu and go for broke, opening up what should be an explosive attack.
Even as their deficit increased more and more, Madrid seemed content to sit back and wait for counterattack opportunities that seldom came. Mourinho didn't seem to want to break from his usual stingy, defensive, counterattacking ways, but that has to change in the second leg. Passing the ball back and forth along the back line, like they seemed to do for much of the first leg, won't get the job done, and it won't get the team through to the final at Wembley.
Dortmund aren't likely to come out and sit back, especially in the early going, and if Mourinho has any interest in salvaging this tie, he has to get the offense clicking and firing at maximum capacity. That means pressuring the ball whenever possible and getting it into the attacking third as quickly as possible, while pushing the defense up to help keep it there. It's risky, but when you're staring a three-goal deficit in the face, it's a risk you have to take.
Turn Mesut Ozil Loose
If you had to point to one thing that stymied Real Madrid's attack in the first leg, using Ozil in a normal midfield role would probably be it. The attacking midfielder was not played in his usual No. 9 role, as Mourinho opted for the slick-passing Luka Modric in that spot instead.
The results were an offense that couldn't muster any kind of consistent attacking clout for most of the match and often couldn't get any kind of momentum through the middle. That has to change in the home leg if Los Blancos hope to beat the odds.
Ozil is a unique player, the type capable of opening up a defense with a single pass, who isn't afraid to take the attack to the opposing defense and put them back on their heels, opening up space and opportunity for the team's primary goalscorers. In other words, he's exactly the kind of player Madrid need in the middle of their attack. His creativity and vision are what keep this offense moving, and he'll need to be at his best.
It's not going to be easy, and even if Madrid accomplish all three of these things, there's a good chance they'll still head home. But, odds are good Los Blancos will provide a better showing at home than they did in the first leg if they manage to open up the offense.
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