We're a little over a week from the Champions League final pitting Los Blancos versus town rivals Atlético Madrid. And as we build towards that day in Milan it's time to take a look at three keys to the match that Real Madrid should to do in order to walk away with the Undécima. And nothing would be sweeter than not only winning La Decima against them, but the Undécima as well.
#1 Press, Press, Press
Did I mention they should press?
I hinted at this in part of Managing Madrid's Champions League preview round-table. The Royal Whites when they put their minds to it, press like no other team in Europe. But it's also been shown that Zidane at times, likes to back off and give the opponent enough rope to hang themselves with - though this isn't one of those times.
They need to come out of the gate pressing and pressing hard. I think this immediately puts Athleti on their back foot. With particular focus on Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres (who seems to be finding the back of the net at the right time, though he was left of Spain's roster for the Euros). Which means they'll have to lean a bit more on their midfield where we can really clog things up.
Which leads us to #2.
This cannot be stressed enough and it's not like it's something Real Madrid can't do. But combine that and pressing and you've got a weapon on your hand. The more possession and a high line and the more opportunities you should create. This is why I think, while my heart says play Casemiro - this one time I'm going to advocate against this. I know, I know - I can't believe I'm saying this myself.
If I were putting together the midfield it would look like this:
Toni Kroos as the pivot. This is key.
Kroos is one of the most consistent midfielders that Zidane has at his disposal. This is a crucial thing when it comes to slicing Atlético Madrid's defense wide open to keep possession with precision passing. The more they have the ball, the more frustrated Atleti is going to get. They can be broken down, and once the Death Star's shields are down it's time for the trench run.
With Kroos quarterbacking the midfield and distributing to the forwards who can swoop in from the wings and center splitting their defense three different ways - you make it a game. I spent a long time mulling over the fact I want Kroos to start over Casemiro - but I had to detach what my heart told me - to what my brain was telling me. This one time I think Kroos is the better option, especially against a team like Atleti. Any other time Casemiro would be my first choice hands down.
But let's face it, Kroos is a passer on a different planet from Casemiro, and in playing a possession heavy game plan, Kroos is going to make those passes in tight spaces. Though you will miss a bit of Casemiro's defense by the switch. But he has played there before - so he's no stranger to the position.
This is one of the most important keys. Patience is going to be what breaks down their defense, couple with possession and pressing both offensively and defensively they're bound to break or at the least show of a chink in their armor that can be exploited.
This means not rushing passes, good clearances.