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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 -2 Borussia Dortmund

Real Madrid finish 2nd in Group F

Real Madrid CF v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Some notes from today’s 2-2 draw against Borussia Dortmund

The 4-3-3 that never was

What unfolded throughout the game was a complete deviation from what we were shown on paper. When I saw the initial line-up, I was concerned about James’ role, but it was quickly apparent what Zidane rolled out today wasn’t one that would stifle him.

This formation wasn’t stagnant. It was ever-shifting - which is always tricky for defenders to deal with. James was often more advanced than Lucas Vazquez, and both would play an interchangeable role on the flanks on counter-attacks, while doing a solid job of defending the half-spaces without the ball.

That looping cross to Karim on Real’s 2nd was pure brilliance, and it’s not entirely unique to what James can do. Like we’ve chirped plenty of times before - the Colombian’s strength is dissecting backlines from positions high up the pitch, and his sweet spot is in-and-around the 18-yard box.

Another ‘problem’ for Zidane to deal with within an infinitely deep depth chart.

A bi-polar defensive line

It takes a lot to tame a Dortmund offense. It also takes a lot to tame Ousmane Dembele (bravo, Sergio Ramos), and just a bit more to tame Aubamayeng (bravo, Raphael Varane).

For the most part.

The defensive line was good, all around, but it had its lapses. Casemiro - who easily played his best game of the season - was everywhere, making some key tackles to regain possession for Real Madrid. He gambled a couple times too (twice, to be exact), which left Real Madrid exposed on the counter. Neither of those gambles directly cost Real Madrid - ditto dribbling into three players mid-way through the 2nd half.

Again - it was fine overall. Even Modric had his customary ‘shockingly bad giveaway’ in the first half which Real Madrid were able to dodge. The two central midfielders worked hard while James and Lucas drifted through channels. But they also pressed high, and Dortmund created chances in-behind the space left behind.

On Auba’s first goal, Carvajal fell asleep on the cutter and Weigl picked the team apart. On Reus’ goal, Dortmund once again took advantage of a high defensive line with a splitting pass.

Overall, the transition defense suffered the most.


  • Is anyone seriously still worried about Karim Benzema? As the narrative on our last podcast went, ‘he’s fine!’.
  • Time flew. What a relief it was to see Kroos and Morata back.
  • Onto the next. Champions League winners don’t tend to finish 2nd in their respective groups, but finishing first in this scenario wasn’t going to move the needle much anyway in terms of carving out an ‘easy’ path. We’ll touch on this more in our post-game pod. Send us your questions.

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