A Real chance?
In a few hours Spurs will be embarking on one of the biggest games in their recent history, a Champions League quarter final game against nine times champions Real Madrid. Not only do Real pack an assortment of world class stars but they are managed by arguably the best coach around in Jose Mourinho. It would be an utter disservice to not look at the tactical possibilities in this game so here we go….
The Mourinho Way
Mourinho’s teams are largely built from the defense, at Porto, Chelsea and then Inter the defense was the basis of where everything worked. However, for Real Madrid it has been a totally different story, with the players not of the required defensive attitude available to him Jose’s Real have become a very direct team breaking away from Mourinho’s ideal possession game of resting while on the ball. With the the need for wins in every game of La Liga it has seen Mourinho have to adapt his style of play and has resulted in a more counter attack based form of football with Ronaldo largely the figurehead for the team with more balls going to Ronaldo than any other player.
The Real defensive line
Mourinho’s teams generally play with a high line, keeping possession and suffocating teams, as Real play a more direct style the defensive line is not as high as would be expected of a Mourinho team and a lot of balls are cut out from the double pivot partnership of Alonso and whoever is partnering him on the day (Lass/Granero/Khierda).
The defensive line position for Real offers two possibilities for Spurs. If the line is high then it negates the effectiveness of Crouch as a lack of pace means he is unable to exploit the area left behind the defensive line but it plays into the hands of Lennon and Bale who have the pace to beat the high line and exploiting the high line on the wings is a tactic that has been used by quite a few of the Spanish clubs against Real.
If the defensive line is deep then Crouch becomes a massive problem for the centre back pairing of Real. It is hard to compete in the air with Crouch, his physical size makes any aerial ball a battle for the centre back to cover and the nearer to the box Crouch is the more devastating he is, not only as a scoring threat but playing in midfielders coming from deep especially Van der Vaart who has built up a good scoring relationship with Crouch.
Spurs on the defense
A half-fit Ronaldo could be an advantage for Spurs, if he is not as effective as he can be he is still seen as the figurehead for Real’s attacks and with more balls going to him than the other Real players it could be detrimental to have him on the pitch if he is unable to convert those balls into chances, however Ronaldo is always a threat and coming in off the left I expect he would be handled by Gallas and Corluka as he comes in on goal with Sandro also on that side of the pitch from his central midfield position.
Real are of course not a one man team, Lennon will have to track the runs of Marcelo and Sandro will have to be very aware of the position of Ozil, one of Madrid’s stand out players this year after a fantastic World Cup. Ramos at right back will bomb forward and will need to be tracked by Bale and Di Maria is likely to start from the right and cut inside so the centre of the field could be overwhelmed which would suggest Spurs may play more narrow than expected as they did against Arsenal last season at White Hart Lane and the second half of this seasons 2-3 game at the Emirates.
I would also imagine that Van der Vaart will be asked to pressure Alonso when he is on the ball. Every area of the pitch reflects an attacking opportunity for Real so Spurs will really need to be on their game to stop them scoring but thats not to say we don’t have a chance.
Spurs on the attack
With full backs that like to get forward it could leave space for the likes of Lennon and Bale to exploit the space they leave. Against Chelsea and Arsenal last season there was an obvious pattern of play that exploited both teams, upon an opposition attack breaking down Gomes would get the ball left as quickly as possible, either directly to Bale or to Modric who plays on the left of the central two in midfield, Modric would then in turn pick out Bale who would be running from deep and time and again the space on the oppositions right side was exposed. This can be seen again against Inter where Maicon had no cover in front of him, following an attack breaking down he was caught too high and alone on the pitch and Bale took advantage of that situation.
The front three of Real do not tend to come back and help out defensively either and it could gives Spurs the possibility to control the midfield in parts, especially if they are playing slightly more narrow than normal. With Ozil and Alonso part of their central three in midfield they may not pressure too much and it could give Modric the room he needs to operate in.
It will be a tough game but Spurs do have every chance of scoring a valuable away goal in the first leg. To Dare is To Do. COYS!!
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