Finding the right balance is crucial for Jose Mourinho's side to overcome Bayern and Goal.com's experts give us their take on how the Spaniards should line up at homeDEBATE
Real Madrid welcome Bayern Munich to the Spanish capital on Wednesday evening for the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals as they aim to go all the way for the first time in a decade. But to achieve that, they first have to negotiate their fierce continental rivals.
After losing 2-1 in Munich in the first leg last week, Los Blancos will be banking on their phenomenal form and scoring record at the Santiago Bernabeu this season to turn the tie around against the Germans.
Jose Mourinho's men must score and are expected to find the back of the net generously, but they must also avoid leaking goals at the other end. Give the Bavarians more than one away goal and Madrid could find themselves with an uphill struggle.
So, how can Real overturn the deficit and gate-crash Bayern's final party at the Allianz Arena? Below, Goal.com's panel of experts give us their take on how Mourinho should line up his side.
|BENZEMA ON THE WING
Martin del Palacio Langer | Goal.com Spain Chief Editor
Mourinho needs goals and to get them he will have to rely on the most offensive starting XI he has used this season.
I don't think Fabio Coentrao is as bad as most of the media say - and he proved this in the Clasico - but Marcelo would be a better choice for a match in which Madrid need as much width and attacking creativity as possible.
The rest of the defence should be unchanged, with Sergio Ramos and Pepe anchoring the heart of the back line. However, in the right wing position, I think Mourinho should dispose of the inconsistent Angel Di Maria to make way for Karim Benzema.
The Portuguese coach deployed the Frenchman in that position in the league with excellent results, and that also helps free up the No. 9 spot for a pure striker such as Gonzalo Higuain, who could be the decisive weapon in a difficult match such as this. The Argentine will have the support of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil behind him to provide service.
|HIGUAIN TO LEAD THE CHARGE
Ben Hayward | Goal.com International Spain Football Editor
Coentrao - along with Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso - has played every minute of every Real Madrid defeat this season, featuring in the losses at Levante and Bayern, and in a trio of disappointments against Barcelona - in La Liga, the Spanish Supercopa and the Copa del Rey.
But the Portuguese full-back played perhaps his best game for the club as Madrid beat Barca 2-1 at Camp Nou on Saturday, as he stuck to his task with a disciplined display at left-back in the Clasico.
Coentrao was blamed by many for committing himself too early in the last minute in Munich and allowing Phillipp Lahm to cross for Mario Gomez to score a dramatic late winner at the Allianz Arena.
But he and his team-mates redeemed themselves on Saturday and after such a fine result, Mourinho could opt for the same side again on Wednesday. Coentrao in particular deserves his chance to make peace with the Bernabeu, while the adrenalin from the Clasico will keep tiredness at bay.
Kaka is an option after sitting out the last two games, but I would start with the more mobile Di Maria again, with the fresh legs of Gonzalo Higuain coming in for Benzema up front. The rest stay the same.
|IDENTICAL XI FROM FIRST LEG
Paul Macdonald | Goal.com International Deputy Editor
The left-back position is probably the most contentious; with Madrid required to employ an offensive outlook, Marcelo would at first seem to be the ideal option. However, the concession of an away goal would be nothing short of disastrous, and Coentrao's discipline, as witnessed in the Clasico, is the most assured alternative against the menace of Arjen Robben.
Furthermore, a dependable defensive option allows Ronaldo a degree of freedom on the left that the wandering Marcelo may not provide.
Benzema simply must start up front, and Di Maria, despite enduring an inauspicious week, should be preferred to utilising either Ozil or Benzema in a wide role. Very little came off for the Argentine against either Bayern or Barca, but he works extremely hard for the cause even if the match isn't going his way.
Leaving Franck Ribery isolated against Alvaro Arbeloa is a situation Madrid can't allow to happen too often; it must be remembered that while Madrid are behind, one goal sees them progress, and it is as important to remain compact defensively as it is to take the game to the Bavarians.
|MARCELO INSTEAD OF COENTRAO
KS Leong | Goal.com International Associate Editor
Against Barcelona on Saturday, Mourinho put his trust in the same XI he fielded in the 2-1 loss at Bayern Munich just four days earlier. This would suggest that the Portuguese tactician already has in mind his best line-up to take on the Bavarians at the Bernabeu.
The only change I would anticipate is the inclusion of Marcelo in place of Coentrao at left-back. This is not because of the former Benfica man's error-laden display at the Allianz Arena - which he more than made up for with a commendable performance in the Clasico - but because Madrid need goals in the second leg and Marcelo is more capable of providing the extra impetus in attack.
On the opposite flank, Arbeloa will be exposed by an in-form Ribery if he advances too far forward too frequently. This means Di Maria must be on top of his game to shoulder the attacking burden on his own, as well as help cover at the back.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Ozil, Ronaldo, Khedira and Alonso are all automatic starters, as are centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Benzema has been a regular for Real in the Champions League this term over Higuain, and should be given the nod to lead the frontline. The Frenchman has also been the better all-round performer in Europe, having chipped in with seven goals and five assists for Los Blancos.
|HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you agree with our panel? How should Mourinho line up his side to deal with the threat of Bayern and ensure Madrid secure their place in the Champions League final? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below!