Santiago Solari has the option to go bold with Real Madrid formation against Ajax

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Santiago Solari might look to shake things up.

Real Madrid are in charge of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Ajax having won the first leg 2-1 away from home, but recent losses to Barcelona will have dented their confidence and could leave them vulnerable against the Dutch side.

Santiago Solari will have his work cut out to ensure the team which has won this competition for three years running doesn’t suffer a shock exit in front of its home fans.

Here’s a closer look at the tactics Solari could try as he looks to coax a better result from this Madrid side and seal a quarter-final berth. Check out our Ajax tactics piece here.

SOLARI CAN GO BOLD WITH FORMATION CHANGE

Solari hasn’t quite shown his tactical acumen during his time as Los Blancos boss, as he’s played it safe and stuck to tried-and-tested formations – the 4-3-3 mixed with the occasional 4-2-3-1.

But after two losses to Barcelona in four days, perhaps Solari has started to wonder if he should be doing anything different.

A radical option would be to switch to three at the back, drafting in young centre-back Javi Sanchez to play alongside Nacho, who will deputise for the suspended Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane.

That may be a step too far for Solari but what he could consider is a midfield diamond. Casemiro will be at the base, with Kroos and Modric the middle two.

And there is, of course, one player perfectly suited to the role at the tip of the diamond: Isco. The Spaniard made a surprise appearance off the bench on Saturday and perhaps Solari believes it’s finally time to give the playmaker a chance.

0304 Madrid Diamond

ASENSIO CAN EARN RIGHT WING SPOT

Vinicius Junior has made himself a first-choice player under Solari, with his displays so far in a Los Blancos shirt enough to become an automatic starter. But his emergence has created a problem for Marco Asensio, who also prefers playing on the left wing, a berth that Vinicius has made his own.

But perhaps it is time for Solari and Asensio both to look to a different position for the young Spaniard. Gareth Bale is likely to be dropped after his poor showing in El Clasico on Saturday, leaving the right winger’s spot open. Asensio has played on the left far more often than on the right, but in this era of inverted wingers, one wonders why that is the case.

Bale’s middling form means Asensio has the opportunity to make the right-sided attacking role his own, and thus force himself back into the first XI. That should begin with Tuesday’s fixture.

0304 Madrid Asensio

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Ajax boss should stick to attacking principles to script famous UCL win over Madrid

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Ajax boss Erik ten Hag.

Real Madrid are in charge of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Ajax having won the first leg 2-1 away from home, but recent losses to Barcelona will have dented their confidence and could leave them vulnerable against the Dutch side.

For Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, this game is a chance to truly make a mark. A loss is expected and as long as it’s by a respectable margin, no one at the club will suffer any consequences. But a famous win would show that the club should be counted among the European powers again.

Here’s a look at the tactics the Ajax manager could use to spring a shock.

AJAX SHOULD COMMIT TO 4-3-3

Under Ten Hag, Ajax switch between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 from game to game and indeed, often within a single game, with Dusan Tadic and Donny van de Beek afforded freedom that gives the team fluidity between the two formations. Van de Beek can switch between playing as a central midfielder and a No 10, and Tadic goes from false nine to a more orthodox striker’s position.

Perhaps, though, this is a game in which Ten Hag’s side should commit to one formation. The 4-3-3 provides more control, with Van de Beek and Lasse Schone sitting alongside Frenkie de Jong to let the star midfielder dictate the tempo of the game.

Van de Beek can still have the license to go forward when necessary, but in the meantime, those three can match up against Madrid’s own midfield trio and avoid the risk of being overrun in the middle of the park.

0304 Ajax Formation

ZIYECH, NERES SHOULD BE KEPT FORWARD

Real Madrid are blessed with plenty of attacking talent, but that can sometimes work against them as the defence is left short-handed with players pouring forward. Ajax should look to exploit this on Tuesday.

Full-backs Noussair Mazraoui and Nicolas Tagliafico are likely to have their hands full with Vinicius and whoever starts on the Madrid right. But if Ten Hag is feeling bold, he could trust Tagliafico and Mazraoui to handle their defensive duties without too much help, tasking his midfielders to provide some back-up for the duo defensively if necessary, and have his wide players stay forward instead of tracking back too often.

That way, the space between Madrid’s attack and defence on the flanks can be exploited, allowing David Neres and Hakim Ziyech to isolate Madrid’s own full-backs or get behind them and potentially run riot on the counter.

0304 Ajax Wide Players

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Tottenham v Borussia Dortmund key players as Jadon Sancho looks to dictate terms

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Jadon Sancho is in the England squad.

It’s advantage Tottenham as the second leg of the Champions League last-16 between Borussia Dortmund and Spurs draws near.

A tremendous first-leg performance churned out a 3-0 win for the hosts at the Wembley stadium three weeks ago and Mauricio Pochettino’s men are 90 minutes away from booking the elusive quarterfinals spot.

Both teams arrive to this fixture after enduring dark times in their respective league campaigns and will be looking to find advance further in Europe and get their rhythm back before the business end of the season.

Here, we look at three players who can potentially make the front pages on Wednesday morning.

Jadon Sancho

The boy wonder is the first name on our list. We have seen the likes of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele make a meal of the Spurs defence in the group stages this season. A safe assumption that players with quick acceleration and good dribbling and safe control have an advantage over their defence would point to the fact that Sancho will have a key role to play in this fixture.

The Englishman has dropped enough bodies and out-paced enough full-backs in Germany to give him a license to strike fear in the minds of the Spurs defenders.

It’s also worth noting that Davinson Sanchez is having a tough time after a disastrous performance against Arsenal in the North London derby on Saturday.

Sancho can target the Colombian early on, ensure that he has his confidence taken away and then lead the troops through the semi-opening in the Spurs defence.

Jadon Sancho will be key for BVB

Jadon Sancho will be key for Dortmund 

Son Heung-Min

This has been one of Son Heung-Min’s best seasons and he can take it a notch higher by guiding Spurs to a place in the last eight.

The South Korean is extremely dangerous on the counter, as exemplified by his solo goal against Chelsea earlier this season when he raced down the right wing, skipped past two players and then finished the move with a neat finish.

A 3-0 deficit would mean that Dortmund will be desperate to score goals right from the whistle and Spurs might have to resort to a deep defence.

Their best shot at goal would then come on the counter and who else to facilitate it but Son? Regardless of Dortmund’s intent of pushing for an early goal, Son’s pace will come handy as Dortmund play a high defensive line.

A goal for Spurs will leave Dortmund needing five strikes and unless the Spurs defence faces a massive collapse, they will be through. Son will hence need to be clinical and ensure that he gets that crucial away goal.

Son Heung-Min

Son Heung-Min

Manuel Akanji

It’s no coincidence that the Bundesliga leaders struggled exactly when Akanji was sidelined due to injury. The Swiss international’s presence in the first leg could probably have made a lot of difference to the score-line.

However, the 23-year-old still has a chance to stamp his name on the fixture as he prepares to face a lethal strike-force consisting of Harry Kane, Son and Christian Eriksen.

The defender has to be on the top of his game to deny Spurs from scoring a single goal. The way this tie is set up, one goal for Spurs can kill the tie and Akanji will have to do his best to lead the line and prevent any breakthrough.

Akanji might have to take a more conservative approach due to the threat Spurs pose on the counter. Also, the defender is probably aware of the fact that he’s not as fast as Son. He will have to turn to intelligent positioning and good spatial awareness to keep the South Korean at bay.

Manuel Akanji needs to come clutch for Dortmund.

Manuel Akanji needs to come clutch for Dortmund.

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