Jose Mourinho will need all his tactical nous to turn their Champions League semi-final tie with Barcelona around.
Press and provoke and Real Madrid could pull off a shock
After two moments of brilliance earned Barcelona a 2-0 win in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg, Jose Mourinho needs to summon all his tactical genius if he is to emerge victorious in tonight's return in the Catalan capital.
If Real Madrid are to achieve a shock win, here are a few pointers on how the self-proclaimed "Special One" could pull it off.
Mourinho could exploit Barca's instinctive commitment to attacking football. Even with a 2-0 lead, it is not in their nature to sit back and "park the bus" in front of their goal, therefore the hosts are likely to give Real opportunities on the break which they must be ready to seize.
Cliched and obvious, but in this case particularly relevant. With a cushion, Barca will be comfortable and keep the ball all night with Real chasing shadows. However, with 2-0 leads notoriously the most dangerous, a fast start and an early goal for the visitors would put the hosts on edge and could disrupt their possession game.
Mourinho is absolutely committed to defending from deep and playing on the counter. But his best tactic could be a more energetic pressing game, not dissimilar to Barca's, defending from the front by pushing forward and harrying the opposition defence.
This can be particularly effective against Barca, who build patiently from the back and are dangerous when allowed time on the ball.
While Lionel Messi's temperament seems impossible to upset, the likes of Sergio Busquets, Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano all have red-mist moments. Mourinho's genius lies in his psychological warfare as much as his tactical nous and if his players can win their own mind games rather than losing the plot, they could secure numerical advantages of their own.
There is hope for Real Madrid
If Real Madrid are looking for inspiration tonight as they aim to pull off the near impossible and beat Barcelona at least 2-0 at Camp Nou, then they should look back to the last time the teams faced off in the Champions League.
At the same semi-final stage in 2001/02, Real’s Galacticos travelled to Barcelona and achieved just the result that would send tonight’s game into extra time – a 2-0 win.
The goals game from the great Zinedine Zidane and the English winger Steve McManaman. After a 1-1 draw in the second leg in Madrid, Real cruised into the final where a screaming Zidane volley helped them beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 and lift their ninth European Cup.