José Mourinho must play Mesut Ozil in the middle and hope his team plays at a higher intensity than in the 4-1 first-leg defeat
José Mourinho complained that his team played the first leg "as if it was a friendly". "We only do licit things," he said. "We're so pure, so innocent, so naive that [Robert] Lewandowski scored four and we didn't commit a single foul on him." While the idea of Mourinho's Madrid being pure, innocent and naive is pretty comic, it is true that there was a lack of intensity about them in the first leg and Pepe didn't commit a single foul. Yet it was not so much about Lewandowski, it was all over the pitch: Madrid were slower to every ball.
Before the first leg Mourinho claimed that every one of the four goals Borussia Dortmund had scored against Real Madrid in the Champions League could be attributed to individual mistakes. After the first leg, Mourinho claimed that every one of the four goals that Dortmund scored against Real Madrid could be attributed to individual mistakes. Eight from eight, then. Which is really just Mourinho shorthand for: "It's not my fault, it's theirs." Allowing for the exaggeration and the self-interested shifting of blame, and allowing for the fact that focus and attitude are a manager's responsibility too, there was nonetheless an element of truth in what he said. The first goal began with a wayward Xabi Alonso pass, the second with unconvincing defending, and the fourth was a penalty. Intensity and concentration are key.
Angel di María only arrived in Germany on the morning of the first leg, flying into Dusseldorf and travelling by road from there to Dortmund after the premature birth of his daughter. Mourinho decided that he was not ready to play so had to find a replacement (or perhaps, who knows, he always planned to make a change?). By opting for Luka Modric he did not just swap personnel, he swapped system. Mesut Ozil, the player who has done most to give Madrid creativity and fluidity this season, who plays and makes others play, was exiled on the right wing. From where his influence was zero.
In the absence of Alvaro Arbeloa and Michael Essien, playing Sergio Ramos at right-back was natural enough. He was, after all, a world and European champion at full-back. But it is over a year now since he has played there regularly and moving him also meant bringing Pepe into the middle. That, too, looked logical enough. But Ramos looked like what he was: a man out of position. Meanwhile Pepe performed poorly – both in footballing terms, which was more or less predictable, and defensively, which came as a greater surprise. Ramos's absence from the middle also meant that Madrid found it harder than ever to bring the ball out from the back, forcing Alonso back, although he has tended to drop ever deeper this season anyway, and distancing him from his midfield colleagues.
The talk is always of how to stop Ronaldo but Jürgen Klopp insisted that the real key to defeating Real Madrid is to close down Xabi Alonso and prevent him from providing the passes that release Ronaldo. It may be that the inclusion of Modric in the first leg was designed to release the tension on the former Liverpool midfielder, giving Dortmund someone else to close down, but it did not work. Ronaldo was rarely given the ball and Alonso, who looked sluggish when he did get possession and found Sami Khedira even further away from him than normal, was closed down swiftly, unable to play any of the diagonal balls that are so often the starting gun for Madrid's attacks. He needs protection to play and more options to hit.