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Carlo Ancelotti Recreating Real Madrid Midfield at Bayern Munich

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 04 Aug 2016

Bayern Munich slumped to a narrow defeat in the final match of their United States tour on Wednesday evening, a 1-0 loss to Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup at the Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The result marked the second time in three games that Carlo Ancelotti's side failed to come out victorious during their visit to the USA, the Bavarians having lost on penalties to AC Milan in July before overcoming Inter three days later.Yet, despite the disappointing result, there were some positives to take from Wednesday's action. To begin with, not much separated the two sides in a match in which Bayern were almost perpetually in control.Real's winner only came in an improbable manner, with full-back Danilo cutting inside on his weaker foot and firing a long-distance strike into the net with 11 minutes left to be played. There isn't much an opponent can do in situations like that, other than tip his hat and offer congratulations. The goal conceded should not be treated as a tactical deficiency from Bayern's perspective.Setting aside the goal, Bayern looked in charge throughout the match. The key to this end was in midfield, where Ancelotti's trio of Arturo Vidal, Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcantara worked in perfect synergy.Vidal, who perhaps could have used a reminder that the match was only a friendly, lived up to his nickname of "warrior." He closed down free space and flew into challenges. It was a bit disconcerting to see him risk limb so freely, especially for a player of his injury record and in a meaningless game. But Renato Sanches and Joshua Kimmich are capable deputies for the same role if need be.Alonso quarterbacked the attack, the veteran spraying the ball around the pitch with aplomb. With a capable ball-winner at his side, the Spaniard was covered well and was able to focus on doing what he did best, building up the attack from deep areas.Ahead of Alonso was Thiago, whose agility and keen footwork made him the right fit in the role of connecting midfield to attack. His clever body feints and close control were useful entering the congested attacking area, and although he didn't manage to carve out any real chances for his team-mates, the former Barcelona man was right for the job.Not everything was perfect in the Bayern midfield, as the only real chances of the game for the Bavarians came from set pieces. ButThiago and company simply didn't have the quality of strikers around them that will come when Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller return to the pitch.What's more telling is that counter-attacking giants Real were unable to create chances in transition. Sure, they lacked Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in their ranks, but James Rodriguez, Isco, Luka Modric and Alvaro Morata are no slouches. The fact that Bayern silenced their opponents in transition speaks well for the club, suggesting it has found the balance under Ancelotti that it had under Jupp Heynckes.During the last three years under Pep Guardiola, Bayern were rarely beaten. But when they were, they were victims of counter-attacks, particularly in the Champions League. The Bavarians couldn't cope with Ancelotti's Real in 2014 as they broke forward with pace.In 2015, they were lucky not to concede many more goals than the five they did against a Barcelona side that created chance after chance in transition. And this spring, Bayern lost to Atletico Madrid after Antoine Griezmann raced through the centre to beat Manuel Neuer one-on-one.Ancelotti is well aware of the weaknesses of Guardiola's Bayern, having exploited them in 2014. That season, the Italian trainer managed to create the world's best central midfield trio in Modric, Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria.The latter was a particularly inspired decision to play in central midfield, as he previously had only ever played on the wing. Yet he, with his partners, formed a triumvirate that could take on any midfield: Their combination was the exact set of skills needed to succeed.It's still early in his career at Bayern, but it appears that Ancelotti is trying to recreate the success he had with Real's midfield with different players at Bayern. Early indicators suggest he's doing a good job of it, with the way Wednesday's game played out showing complete dominance by the Bayern midfield.The only question mark is the status of Alonso, who turns 35 in November and probably won't last Ancelotti's full tenure as a starter. He's a difficult player to replace.At the same time, Vidal still has plenty of time in him, with a couple of top prospects as deputies and Thiago still to come into his prime. Ancelotti looks to have selected a midfield that will suit him much as Modric, Khedira and Di Maria did at Real and employed a tactical balance that has maintained Bayern's dominance of the ball whilst avoiding the pitfalls of being exposed on the counter-attack.The trainer has succeeded in winning the Champions League with Milan and Real: If he can repeat his success at Bayern, it will probably be with many thanks to his midfield.@Mr_Bundesliga
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