Real Madrid face the daunting task of taking on AC Milan at the San Siro tonight as they try to get their Champions League campaign back on track sans Cristiano Ronaldo.
Having watched the last game at the Bernabeu and how Real Madrid failed to hold on and beat a relatively old, but collectively-strong AC Milan, I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on the return fixture and how Los Blancos can win it. There are four (4) key areas where Real Madrid will need to improve – have a read and discuss (after the jump).
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1. Bench Raul, think objectively, be fair, and start with Higuain upfront
It doesn’t matter if Raul is the captain or Perez’ girlfriend, If he isn’t performing well (which is the case now), he needs to be benched. The rubbish talk of Raul being the leader who instructs and helps others on the field is just plain useless.
Start Gonzalo Higuain instead. Not because he scored two goals against Getafe, but because he has some characteristics (which Raul doesn’t have) that can exhaust Milan’s Nesta and his friends. Pace and powerful shooting are just two. Dribbling? Yes sir, he got that. The only unique thing about Raul though, is his experience and good-positioning, but for this game, Higuain is the right man.
I know you might be asking, who should be playing with Higuain in attack? That depends on how Pellegrini wants to play, but I would add Van Nistelrooy If I wanted a great finisher and someone with experience.
Benzema is a good option too, but he is under-performing. Still, I would prefer him over Raul. No, I don’t hate Raul, it is just that Benzema can do well against Milan, the captain can’t. Period.
2. A strong and EFFECTIVE midfield is the key
Alonso, Lass and Kaka. Who else do you need? That looks like FIFA 10, but for Pellegrini, it is real. The problem though is apart from Lass, Kaka and Alonso haven’t been that great, at least they haven’t been Alonso and Kaka yet. Just their shadows.
Kaka knows Milan well. OK, that’s rubbish. He needs to use what he knows on the pitch. It is undeniable that Kaka is a great player, but he needs to step up his game and this is a good chance to improve. He loves spaces, but I doubt he will get many if Milan play their game, which bring us to the next point.
3. Play your game and force Milan to adapt to it
I think Barca is more than a night club, but I do like them because they do their own thing, play their game and FORCE you to adapt to it. They are just really good at that, and that’s why they usually win.
Real needs to control the tempo of the game. Alonso has to do it. Lass will be there to help out, but it will mainly depend on Alonso. When Real plays with style, dominate and force Milan to react to it, it will be very easy for Los Blancos to win.
They sort of managed to dominate in the first half of the first leg, but they lacked effectiveness in front of goal. But with Higuain or Van Nistelrooy upfront, scoring goals shouldn’t be a hurdle If you can assist them.
4. Communication and proper organization at the back is essential
Here is the other difficult part (in addition to playing with style and dominating). Since we sold Cannavaro, we have been missing a leader in the back. Pepe isn’t one. And Ramos needs who leads him. I can only think of Casillas, but we need a defender who shouts as loud as he can, who can awake Marcelo and Ramos from their day dreams, and who can organize and lead his teammates.
There is no quick and perfect solution at the moment, but Pellegrini needs to address this issue to his defenders. We’ve conceded off set-pieces, counter-attacks and even corners in a silly way. Sevilla scored two silly goals, Pato got away with a sneaky one and who knows If we don’t figure it out tomorrow night how Pato will get way with another one.
We need to be organized and awake all the time. We also need to be strong. Ramos on the right, Pepe and Albiol in the center is fine, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing Marcelo or Drenthe on the left. I would prefer to play Arbeloa out of his position and put him there. Pellegrini experimented with him against Getafe and the former Liverpool man did a good job. What do we have to lose anyway?