Real Madrid scouting report: What lies in wait for Manchester City
21:39 GMT, 17 September 2012
Real Madrid’s season has not started well. Two La Liga defeats have left them eight points behind Barcelona and prompted Jose Mourinho to declare, rather dramatically: ‘I don’t have a team.’ On Tuesday we will discover how deep their problems run…
THE BACK DOOR LOOKS OPEN
Madrid fans are used to teams that place defending way down their list of priorities. But Mourinho is no offensive gambler and this is why his team’s current problems are troubling him so much. They have kept only one clean sheet from seven games this season and in Saturday’s defeat at Sevilla they looked remarkably porous.
Dodgy defending: Sergio Ramos has struggled at the back for Real Madrid
The central partnership of Sergio Ramos and Pepe was far from secure as Madrid conceded in the second minute, Piotr Trochowski scoring unmarked from a corner, and was not helped by Marcelo’s difficulties with basic defensive duties down the left side. Madrid play with two holding midfielders but neither Xabi Alonso nor Sami Khedira are particularly defence-minded, meaning that Mourinho’s back four were often left exposed.
City will spend large amounts of time without the ball but when they do have it they will hope to push numbers up the field quickly to expose their opponents.
BEWARE THE QUARTERBACK
There is not much we don’t know about Alonso after his years with Liverpool but consider this: he is getting better with age. On Saturday, Alonso was one of the few players to emerge with any kind of credit. He will be 31 in November but his football is only maturing and much of what Madrid do that is good stems from or involves him.
Midfield maestro: Xabi Alonso (front) will be crucial to Real Madrid
Madrid’s attacking width is provided largely by their full backs, Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria tend to work in and around central striker Gonzalo Higuain. It will be Alonso’s job to feed the runs from the full backs, so the one thing City cannot afford to do is give him time to pop off his passes.
Responsibility will fall not only on City’s midfielders but on their own centre forward, in all likelihood Carlos Tevez. Not shy of hard work, Tevez — or indeed Sergio Aguero — must drop off quickly when Madrid build their attacks and be busy around the deep areas Alonso likes to work in.
ANOTHER BOMBING BRAZILIAN
After 11 years of Roberto Carlos, Madrid have another left back cut from the same cloth. Marcelo was given a difficult time on Saturday but the 24-year-old is dangerous when Madrid have the ball.
Bombing Brazilian: Marcelo (second right) will hope to feature on Tuesday
There was talk here that he may lose his place to Fabio Coentrao. If he does play, though, Marcelo will fly forward on to City’s right back at every chance and will be one of their greatest attacking threats. He likes to go to ground, too, and will think nothing of pushing the ball into dangerous areas and falling over outstretched legs. Mancini will think hard about who he chooses on the right side of his own midfield as, whoever Madrid’s left back is, the chances are they will have to help out defensively.
Micah Richards and Samir Nasri had a shocking time against Franck Ribery and Phillip Lahm in Munich a year ago and Mancini will not want that to happen again. Step forward James Milner
FEEL THE PRESSURE
Intimidation runs through this Madrid team and the pressure they place on referee Damir Skomina will be immense. The Slovenian will find himself dealing with a team feeling the strain and City will need to be ready for their opponents to hit the deck regularly. Against dead-ball technicians like Ronaldo and Alonso, City will not wish to give set-pieces away.