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Passing tactics

Boss orders Reds to keep it on the ground

After Bayern’s relentless but ultimately futile barrage of crosses, shots and drives at the Frankfurt goal last Saturday, Ottmar Hitzfeld pointed the finger at a “lack of precision,“ as too many attempted lay-ups were easily headed away from the danger zone by the first defender. “It’s an area where we have to improve,” he declared after the goalless draw.

Crosses were on Tuesday’s training agenda as the Reds gear up for Thursday’s challenging UEFA Cup meeting with Bolton Wanderers. The side currently lying second from bottom of the English Premier League favour robust and compact defensive tactics, with long balls played up to the forwards. Hitzfeld has personally watched the Trotters twice and has also received detailed reports from Bayern Chief Scout Wolfgang Dremmler.

Keep it on the floor

The Munich boss made one significant observation regarding the Bolton defence. “As is so often the case in England, they have some very big men at the back.“ The back four for last Sunday’s 1-1 draw away to West Ham United boasted an average height of 1.85m / 6 ft 1 in, and included towering individuals Andrew O’Brien and Lubomír Michalík at 1.91m / 6 ft 3 in.

For this reason, Hitzfeld ordered up training routines “where we kept the ball on the floor and sent over low crosses, because that should cause more problems for the less agile defenders.“ The coach has also told his men to bypass the centre of the Bolton defence with fast passes and one-twos.

Ribery expecting two markers

Hitzfeld is hoping it will be a good night for Franck Ribéry. The France star returned from a two-week lay-off against Frankfurt, but looked understandably short of match sharpness. “I was totally satisfied with my performances before the injury, but then I didn’t train for ten days and the interruption did me no favours,” Ribéry explained on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old pointed out that opponents have begun to alter their tactics when dealing with him. “I don’t know how noticeable it is, but there are fewer crunching tackles now. Instead, they’re putting two or three markers on my side of the field,” Ribéry explained. However, the gifted player said he had no intention of changing his style of play, and his pacy dribbling into the box from midfield could be a decisive factor in unpicking the Bolton defence.