By Peter Staunton
Bayern Munich's league form has dipped considerably since winning the Bundesliga on March 25 against Hertha Berlin, with Saturday's 3-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund extending their title hangover to two defeats and a draw.
The last time they were beaten by a three-goal margin was at the end of the 2011-12 season when Dortmund embarrassed them in the DFB Pokal final. They have now fallen 1-0 behind in their last five games, having previously not been on a run of conceding goals like this since 2001.
There is only so much allowance that can be made for Bayern's poor performances in light of winning the Bundesliga. They are suffering an alarming pattern of negative results and it is not easy to simply switch on the habit of winning as they will need to do in the Champions League.
There was much more to this BVB win than Bayern simply not being bothered. Jurgen Klopp prepared his side better than any of Bayern's opponents this season for a one-off game. His game plan was then executed perfectly. Of course we will never know whether or not Dortmund would have won this game with anything riding on it, but on this evidence Klopp might just have Pep Guardiola's number.
If Carlo Ancelotti happened to be paying attention, he will have discovered a formula for beating Bayern ahead of the Champions League semi-finals. It was built on a bedrock of stout defending, firm concentration and valour when chances to attack presented themselves.
Dortmund scarcely placed a player in the centre-forward position once all evening. There were barely any crosses to speak of because Dortmund never sought to put pressure on Bayern in that area.
|MATCH FACTS | BAYERN 0-3 BVB
Instead, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus played mostly in the middle third. Aubameyang stretched the Bayern backline, popping up on both flanks, and his searing pace out wide was the focal point of Dortmund's rampaging counter-attacks. Real have similar weapons.
Reus, instead, operated as an extra midfielder. He ensured that Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger struggled to construct purposeful possession. Admittedly, Reus is a player whose attributes or form cannot be imitated easily. But in Isco, Madrid do possess an attacking midfielder with imagination, dribbling skills and finishing ability.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan played in the centre when Dortmund did not have the ball and looked to release his forwards with his clever passes. He was rewarded for a diligent display with a goal.
There was unquestionable bravery in Dortmund's attacking play despite their scant possession of the ball. That is something Manchester United did not do over two legs in the quarter-finals, but will have emboldened Real, whose defence cannot be relied upon for a clean sheet.
Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller spoke of the importance his side's mentality and courage had in their win over the Bavarian giants. "Everything is possible," he told reporters after the game. "We have shown that today.
"We took the risks, we fought a lot and we did it well. That was a great effort today. It shows what team spirit gives to us. Not only Bayern were surprised by that."
The visitors preyed on Bayern's inattentiveness with quick throw-ins and free-kicks - one of which yielded the opener. When they attacked they did so in big numbers and that is something that will be second nature to Real Madrid.
Jonas Hofmann's goal resulted from a long ball which missed out Bayern's midfield area altogether. It punished the champions' ultra-high defensive line. With capable long passers like Xabi Alonso and willing runners from deep like Angel Di Maria, Madrid can unsettle Bayern's ponderous defenders like Dortmund did on Saturday.
This match also proved that BVB can cope with life after Robert Lewandowski. A central striker like the Poland international would have impeded this type of strategy from the outset - which was winning football against the best team in Europe.
Ancelotti, take note.