Real Madrid's Midfield Show the Energy That Used to Symbolise Dortmund

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 02:  Isco of Real Madrid is closed down by Marco Reus (L) of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Real Madrid and Germany had some good news this week as Sami Khedira announced he isn't far from making a full recovery. The midfielder told AS: "I feel like a football player now, because I'm back on a football pitch. It's like being at home," via Sky Sports.

Khedira has been out for five months and now looks on course to make the World Cup finals. In partnership with Xabi Alonso, he uses his physical strength and tenacity to power Madrid from central areas.

With Carlo Ancelotti moving to a three-man midfield, their play has been a little more subtle than during the previous regime. Angel di Maria has been superb since his adaptation to a deeper role, but he was ruled out of this match through illness.

Since the change in formation, Ancelotti has found it difficult to get young Isco onto the pitch. He has previously been used as a "false nine" and in behind a striker. This was a chance for Isco to show his worth in central midfield.

These two sides met four times in total last season, but Jurgen Klopp's injury-ravaged team are currently a completely different prospect. The spine of the club that played in both legs of the semi-final wasn't available for Dortmund, and it was evident out on the pitch.

Their attacking threat was severely limited with Robert Lewandowski suspended and Mario Gotze having since departed for Bayern Munich. Neven Subotic, Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan were all missing, along with the energy and endeavour that characterised Dortmund.

Real Madrid was quick out the blocks as they looked to avenge the defeat of 12 months ago. Dortmund barely had time to settle before Gareth Bale poked home the opening goal. Dani Carvajal squared for the Welshman and Bale's first touch took him through one against one with Roman Weidenfeller.

It was all Madrid as they attacked from deep with speed and precision. Alonso then pressed Nuri Sahin and the ball fell kindly to Isco. The former Malaga midfielder struck a sweet shot just out the reach of Weidenfeller inside half-hour.

There were signs of recovery for Dortmund as they managed to muster a couple of chances, but nothing to the level that we became accustomed to.

In the second half, Luka Modric seized a loose pass from Lukasz Piszczek and then supplied Cristiano Ronaldo with a through ball. Ronaldo's clever footwork saw him put Madrid 3-0 up and one foot into the final four.

Los Blancos' three midfielders were quicker to the ball than their German counterparts. It was ironic as it was these sorts of interceptions that previously defined Klopp's team.

Modric was the game's top passer, completing 73 out of 80, via FourFourTwo Stats Zone. He attempted a number of defence-splitting passes that didn't come off, but his all-round ball retention was good.

It showed how Madrid now view Sahin as there was little concern about the player they still own coming up against them. Modric is a clear upgrade on Sahin and this was just further evidence.

The fact that the four successful tackles made by Alonso were all made in the opposition's half showed how he was pressing Dortmund into making mistakes.

Isco's running with the ball saw him glide past Dortmund midfielders with ease; his creativity in the final third saw him not misplace a single pass. It was a mature performance from the 21-year-old; he has already shown his ability at the Bernabeu, but now he is displaying flexibility.

Ancelotti has clearly worked with Isco to develop his game as a centre midfielder, both technically and tactically. He now provides numerous options depending on how the Italian wishes to line up.

Madrid take a commanding lead to Germany and if their midfield are as lively in the second leg, then Dortmund's Champions League dreams will be over for another year.