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Ancelotti Vs Zidane: The master takes on his apprentice

Written by: Srinivasan

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As the two European heavyweights do battle in the Champions League, Khel Now looks at the tussle on the sidelines that pits the former Galacticos boss against the man he schooled for the job...

The script could not have been written any better for Carlo Ancelotti. Leading a side against whom he masterminded a 5-0 demolition job in 2014 against the team he led to a historical 10th Champions League title, Ancelotti is sure to feel mixed emotions. Even for the humble Italian, the chance to make Real Madrid pay for the way they dismissed him would surely be a sweet reminder to Blancos president Florentino Perez of what could have been done, in retrospect.

The former Milan boss will see his Bayern Munich side take on Real Madrid who are now under the tutelage of former Real Madrid legend and assistant coach under Ancelotti, Zinedine Zidane. Both coaches are in their first full season in charge of their clubs and are set to clash in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Zidane learnt a lot under Ancelotti as the Italian led Real Madrid to their 10th Champions League title

Zidane has had a whirlwind start to his Real Madrid managerial career, delivering the Champions League and bringing back the attacking football the fans and the players craved, a feature reminiscent of Ancelotti’s teams during his 2-year stint at Real Madrid. Having been relieved of the strait-jacketed approach of Rafael Benitez, Zidane’s emphasis on expansive football brought the best out of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. 

In addition, Zidane’s ability to manage the egos within a squad that is filled with superstars is a testament to the learning curve he had under Ancelotti who has managed many names and owners in his illustrious career across four countries. Having recruited lightly over the summer by Real Madrid’s usual standards, Zidane has banked on retaining the core of the squad with the exception of minor tweaks such as the addition of Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio. 

The result is a 2-point lead over fierce rivals Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table and with a game in hand to boot. While they suffered a minor scare in the return leg at Napoli in the Round of 16, the 11-time champions showed great character to see off a team that threatened to derail their title defence at a very early stage. 

Ancelotti's exodus from Real Madrid wasn't dealt too happily amongst fans and the veteran coach will be looking for sweet revenge against Fiorentino Perez

The squad has no shortage of leaders with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Ronaldo and Kroos stepping up when the team needed it the most and they will play a huge part in the reunion with their former boss at the Allianz Arena.

For someone with his pedigree, one wonders how club owners contemplated letting Ancelotti go. With the exception of PSG, the 58-year old Italian has borne the brunt of over-intrusive and impatient owners, not to mention the shoddy manner in which he was relieved of his duties. However, he is finally at a club which is run by former greats of the game and those who have an eternal association with the team.

Having missed out on the finals for 3 years running to the top 3 teams in Spain, Ancelotti was brought in not for his domestic credentials but to bring back Big Ears to Sabener Strasse. Having established his reputation as a superb man manager, Ancelotti’s methods have seeped into the team. Just like Zidane, he freed his players from the tactical overdose that was a feature of Pep Guardiola’s reign in Munich and replaced it with a fluid 4-4-2 which morphs into a 4-3-3, a system that worked well at Madrid. 

The likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben have rediscovered their form of old in addition to a greater emphasis on Arturo Vidal’s role in the team. Having established a solid 10-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, Ancelotti’s focus is solely on ensuring that Die Roten take the pitch at Cardiff in the UEFA Finals. While Pep’s teams at Bayern were a sight to behold in terms of tactical innovation and work rate, the approach under the Italian has been less intense with an emphasis on game management.

Scrappy wins over teams in the Bundesliga have been a feature of Carlo’s time at Munich. But they have been compensated by buccaneering wins in the Champions League which include a 10-2 aggregate victory over familiar rivals Arsenal. With Robert Lewandowski firing on all cylinders and a backline marshalled by the prolific pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, the Germans have every reason to believe that they can erase the ghosts of 2014 where their manager exposed the flaws in the Guardiola project at Munich in a ruthless manner.

With Mats Hummels out with an injury, Jerome Boateng will have the added onus to stop the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo

While Pep’s teams at Bayern were a sight to behold in terms of tactical innovation and work rate, the approach under the Italian has been less intense with an emphasis on game management. Scrappy wins over teams in the Bundesliga have been a feature of Carlo’s time at Munich. The team has been compensated by buccaneering wins in the Champions League which include a 10-2 aggregate victory over familiar rivals Arsenal.

With Robert Lewandowski firing on all cylinders and a backline marshalled by the prolific pairing of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, the Germans have every reason to believe that they can erase the ghosts of 2014 where their manager exposed the flaws in the Guardiola project at Munich in a ruthless manner.

They will hope that he can help the 5-time European champions repay the favour against a team where is still adored by fans and players alike.  

Published: Tue Apr 11, 2017 08:59 PM IST

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