Bringing their creative class
The creative talents of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been essential to Real Madrid's successes over the past couple of years. When they are firing on all cylinders, there are few midfielders to touch them, and it is they who, having shown positive signs in recent games, will have a fundamental bearing on Los Merengues' technical play in tonight's Champions League first leg against Juventus.
The link-up between Modric and Kroos, who are both more at home in a 4-4-2, is key to Real's transition from defence to attack. If one of the two drops deep to get the team's move going, the other either steps into a more advanced position to offer the next forward option, or makes himself available for a horizontal pass. In last season's final against the Vecchia Signora, Real Madrid were thankful to the duo time and time again when bringing the ball out from the back.
Finding space to direct the play
In Cardiff, Juventus sought to squeeze the pitch's central corridor, so by drifting further towards the flanks Modric and Kroos were able to receive the ball in space and weave triangles with the full-backs and Isco. The two midfielders conducted the team's play from these positions, a pattern they repeated this term in Real's Champions League last-16 opener against Paris Saint-Germain.
After leading the combination play in the initial stages of the move, Modric and Kroos then get forward into areas closer to the opposing penalty box, where they are also of vital importance. Between them, the fluidity they bring to the team is crucial.
As ball winners
The positioning of Modric and Kroos either side of Casemiro, who sits behind them and keeps an eye on the pitch's central channel, is a major element of Real Madrid's pressing, which paid so many dividends against Juve in June. Between them, the pair won the ball back 20 times and, in the second half, neutralised Miralem Pjanic, whose absence today is a significant blow for the Italians.
Their perseverance in the work Real do without the ball will be vital against a side such as Massimiliano Allegri's, who are characterised by their tactical diversity. This term, they have settled into a 4-3-3, but are comfortable shifting their formation as the game unfolds. Against AC Milan in Serie A on Saturday, they began with a 3-5-2, then changed to a 4-3-3, before finishing the 3-1 victory in a 4-4-2.