Did Jose Mourinho Get His Tactics Wrong in 4-1 Defeat to Borussia Dortmund?

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 20:  Head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid sits on the bench during the la Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Betis Balompie at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 20, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Jose Mourinho's earned the reputation that precedes him.

He's won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan and, for the third successive season, has led Real Madrid to the semifinals.

Not everyone will agree with his own analysis that he is "The Special One," but it takes a stubborn man to dispute the achievements of the Portuguese coach.

Everyone makes mistakes, though, and after the 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund—Mourinho's biggest defeat in 106 European Cup matches as manager—a fine-tooth comb will be run through how he approached the match.

Sergio Ramos at right-back was the first big decision, and one that was largely taken out of his hands.

With Alvaro Arbeloa, Michael Essien and Marcelo all absent, Mourinho was left with a lack of options to fill the full back roles. Fabio Coentrao was an instant pick at left-back, which left Ramos, Pepe, Raphael Varane, Raul Albiol and young Nacho Fernandez.

Hindsight offers the chance to reflect on what a miss Ramos was to the centre of defense—the spine of a side is important and, as an ever present, that is where the 27-year-old should have played. 


He was also the best option at right-back, though, and, in Pepe and Varane, Los Blancos' back four didn't look like an obvious weakness before kickoff.

Mourinho certainly wasn't to know that Robert Lewandowski would, as Jamie Redknapp put it on Sky Sports, put his centre-backs through the "tumble dryer."

Attention then focused on the triumvirate in front of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira. Luka Modric replaced Angel Di Maria in what would be considered Mourinho's favored trio: Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Di Maria. 

It was again a decision largely taken from his hands—Di Maria only arrived in Germany six hours before the match following the birth of his child in Madrid.

The problem with replacing him with Modric meant that Ozil was shifted to a wide left position. As such, the German—so often a factor in Madrid's success—was nullified back on his return to his homeland, while Modric's work was often done away from the final third.

As the No. 9 in the Madrid system, Gonzalo Higuain—who's anticipation laid on Ronaldo's goal—was preferred to Karim Benzema. Again, though, the Frenchman had come into the match carrying a slight injury.

“I think [Dortmund] were the best team by far,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “They won every individual battle. They were more aggressive. They deserved to win."

He is, of course, right.

Given a second chance, he would no doubt name the same personnel, given the circumstances which transpired against him. He could have been more proactive and creative with his changes, though.

The worrying thing for the Real Madrid manager though is not whether or not he got his tactics wrong. It's how much better Jurgen Klopp's were.


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