Pep Guardiola and CSKA Moscow boss Leonid Slutsky have one strikingly similar item on their resumes: both coached sides defeated by Jose Mourinho's Internazionale Milan squad on their way to the 2010 UEFA Champions League title. Inter defeated CSKA 2-0 on aggregate in the Quarterfinals to set up their monumental Semifinal clash with Barcelona.
Obviously, times have changed and the sides involved in tomorrow's match are different. However, I think the fact that a tactician as shrewd and exacting as Mourinho--who has recent experience and success playing chess against the CSKA boss in nearly this exact context--will be an advantage for Real Madrid.
Firstly, Mourinho will have working knowledge of Slutsky's match-day tendencies and a window into Slutsky's technical thinking and vice versa. Of course, Slutsky's working knowledge will be offset slightly by Mourinho's appearance with Real Madrid, a radically different team than the one Slutsky battled in 2010.
One of the key weaknesses Mourinho will seek to exploit is CSKA's vulnerability at right back, due in part to the continuous injury woes of Kirill Nababkin. For example, does Mourinho select Marcelo at left back and allow him license to attack as freely as he did against Racing, helping Cristiano Ronaldo wreak havoc down the left?
I thought Marcelo's performance against Racing on Saturday (albeit an admittedly weak side) was phenomenal. He was instinctive on when to press the attack, made relentless runs forward and provided excellent service. Los blancos strength and fluidity on the left side of the pitch looks to provide a tremendous advantage in this tie.
Another intriguing question heading into the match is the status of Fabio Coentrao. As Lucas noted in the previous post, Coentrao addressed the media, which is usually a sign that a player will be included. But, if selected, what position will he play? Mourinho has taken advantage of Coentrao's versatility numerous times this year, slotting him in the midfield and even at right back. An option for this match is to use Coentrao in midfield where he could potentially form an exceedingly dangerous triangle on the left with Marcelo and Ronaldo.
Harvey Burgess, the Inverted Winger, provided an excellent diagram and tactical explanation of how this triangle worked with ruthless efficiency earlier this season against Real Zaragoza. Burgess noted, among other things, the ease with which Coentrao was able to drop back into his natural position to provide cover for Marcelo's marauding runs down the flank. It will be interesting to see if Mourinho is tempted to pursue an attacking strategy like this since CSKA appear particularly susceptible to it.
Slutsky, whose team is coming off their winter break, will also have to contend with the absence of injured Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and the loss of his replacement, Vladimir Gubolov, to Anzhi. CSKA will likely face the daunting Real Madrid attack with Sergei Chepchugov in between the sticks. This is a keeper characterized by Yahoo Eurosport as having "mostly played in the second division." Despite all of the adversity and questions swirling around CSKA, Slutsky remains confident and ambitious.
Dennis posed some intriguing questions in this installment of Coach's Corner. Give Managing Madrid some answers by liking our facebook page, tweeting us @managingmadrid, and sending your comments to our weekly podcast on iTunes.