This draw was the first Classico in 17 years that the two teams met and lost their last match in the league. Cadiz’s defeat was tough for Real Madrid as they were beaten by Shakhtar Donetsk, meaning crisis talks are raging everywhere as they face a side from Barcelona who have spent months in turmoil and overwhelmed by Getafe’s weekly defeats. their rivals before the game.
Real Madrid got off to the perfect start when Fede Valverde opened the scoring and Ansu Fati immediately reacted to a start that was much more open and explosive than expected. Penalties from Sergio Ramos and a third from Luka Modric sealed the win.
This El Clásico tactical analysis will examine Barcelona’s tactics by Ronald Coman and Real Madrid by Zinedine Zidane. The analysis will highlight the key factors that led to the guests winning and give them a clear lead over their La Liga counterparts in the title race.
Koeman played with his team of choice as a consistent, if not spectacular, player such as Sergi Roberto and Antoine Griezmann crashed out when Jordi Alba resigned following his release and Sergio Dest made his first start in his preferred right-back role following his move. from Ajax. Neto kept his place on the doorstep when Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet were selected as defenders. The form of the midfield changed from 4-2-3-1, as has been seen so far this season, to 4-4-2, giving Ansu Fati more freedom to enter from behind while Lionel Messi dropped lower. This system is not very suitable for Messi, as will be seen later, as Philippe Coutinho and Pedry are in the center area ahead of Sergio Busquets and Frankie De Jong. However, the title remains the choice of two 17-year-old players for the Classico for the first time since 1947.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are sticking to what Zidane knows. Thibaut Courtois had requested a solid door defense ahead of the match, so there was good news that captain Sergio Ramos was in position after being forced against Cadiz and missing Shakhtar Donetsk’s defeat. He played with Rafael Varane in the center, with Ferland supporting Mandy’s defensive streak, Marcelo on the left and Nacho filling in for the injured Danny Carvajal on the right. In midfield, Valverde nodded at Tony Kroos and Casemiro in front of Modric. Youngest top 3 Vinicius Junior, Marcos Asensio and Karim Benzema retain their places in 4-3-3 and 4-1 formations. 4-1 of them.
Dominant in midfield
The earliest stages of the game are dominated by the way the game goes through the midfield. With defensive weaknesses, as will be highlighted later, quick transitions and long passes would almost pull both midfielders out of the equation for the first 10 minutes. The desire to stabilize and slow down is evident in the 19.8% drop in the number of passes in the second 15 minutes of the draw compared to the first 15 minutes, meaning that the midfield is getting more and more even, Real Madrid is fit on the pitch.
The first way that Real Madrid does this is to do a close-three in the center, which would effectively block Barcelona’s central trio – De Jong, Busquets and Fati or Coutinho in the lead role. Casemiro will take on the more offensive man, and Kroos and Valverde take on the other two players. This allowed Vinicius and Asensio to lift their wings and protect Nacho or Lucas Vazquez and Mendi. This allowed Real Madrid to form deep defensive blocks in two rows but continued to press Barcelona to prevent them from progressing. Not after the defeat of Manchester City in the Champions League there was a higher recovery rate in the low block of 54.5%, but it was incorporated into Real Madrid’s approach which allowed Barcelona to stay in possession of the ball until the final period was reached. .
This structure extends to the point where Barcelona are still going numerically. Casemiro will fall into central defense, especially if Ramos steps up to push, and Kroos or Valverde will repeat the same role, pushing a little higher to push and cancel before he can advance. Vinicius and Asensio’s lows left Barcelona unable to find a way and, despite dominating early in the second half, hit 63%.
On the ball, Real Madrid managed to use it for them. One-on-one in midfield and with Casemiro relieved from too much pressure, they can play quickly and get past the trio in midfield. Past Busquets and De Jong, Real Madrid managed to join Napoli and Bayern Munich. It was the third team to beat Barcelona in 2020. They effectively moved the ball over large areas where quick feedback or the ball could be managed. will return to a central role where midfield can again dictate play.
Real Madrid’s initial problems in defense
Dominance in midfield is important and necessary for Zidane’s response. It came as a result of the first few minutes and much of the first half when Nacho looked particularly vulnerable. This reflects how Real Madrid initially struggled to cope with Barcelona’s speed and energy, especially over a wide area. Koeman is clearly trying to focus on Nacho on the right of the Real Madrid defense, as did Cadiz the week before, with 45.9% of positional attacks coming from the left flank. Jordi Alba leads here and pushes at speed while Coutinho, Fati or Pedry will force Nacho or midfielder to step forward. De Jong was very effective at this, taking a deep position and inviting Nacho to strengthen himself.
Once he did, Jordi Alba would explode on the left and Fatty would look carefully to explode. At first, it hit Real Madrid, especially Ramos, who tried to take a step back and tackle the 17-year-old. This means that Jordi Alba can do his best, attack with one move, then withdraw from the ranks and have Fati join forces after leaving Ramos and even Varane dead.
This is an indication of how Barcelona looks to exploit Nacho and his role on the right side of Real Madrid’s defense. With Ramos unable to keep up with Fati’s speed, the team immediately used the game with a deeper defensive line to limit the young man’s attacking ability to medium speed. The attack was still on the side, but it wasn’t as clinical as was the case when Fatty collided with the defender’s wall instead of being in space for easy chances.
Lucas Vazquez replaces Nacho
Another big turning point in the draw has been Vazquez’s performance. He was never the most reliable choice in defense, appearing more as a defender than a defender, but displaying great discipline against Barcelona. He maintained his position very well and participated in nine defensive duels, surpassed only by Kroos and Kazemiro, even though he did not play for most of the first half. What’s more impressive is that only Ramos and Varane had a higher success rate of 56%.
Apart from Vazquez’s modest appearance, Zidane changed his team’s approach. The team also appeared to be overloading their right flank when Barcelona tried to move the ball to the left. With the support of Valverde and Asensio, often aided by further attacking support, they wanted to keep the attack from going beyond Barcelona’s midfield. He denied Jordi Alba a place that would fill the gap and significantly delay Barcelona’s transition. This disappointed Barcelona, forcing them to make the transition more slowly and turning the ball over to the right.
But just discussing Real Madrid’s structure in Vazquez’s inclusion would be detrimental to him. He has responded well despite his lack of experience at right-back, which has only required 893 minutes, or 0.07% of his playing time, in that position since joining Real Madrid in 2015. If Barcelona can still find a seat on the left, when space opens up , when Asensio is tired and not keeping up, it will occasionally improve before returning, as in the example above. He identified where he would leave Coutinho or Jordi Alba and would sit back low and allow one of the relegated midfielders to take on current Barcelona rivals from the center.
Barcelona’s back is struggling
Ironically, many of the problems Barcelona seem to be causing Real Madrid are also evident in their own defense. When Alba does push-ups to counter attacks, or just push ups, at will with a high-pressure approach, open spaces that Asensio and Benzema want to attack. In this way, Barcelona’s defense will be affected because Lenglet was forced into hiding and Pique was also forced to take Benzema. When Dest was busy covering Vinicius and walking on the wings, it meant there was open space in the center area.
Real Madrid seemed to be passing quickly, as did Barcelona. At this early stage it was easy because neither De Jong nor Busquets could keep up with Valverde’s central run. This means that when Asensio Lenglet pulls away and takes on Pique Benzema, there is a place in the middle for Valverde that Busquets cannot follow. With two easy passes, from Nacho to Benzema and then from Benzema midway through Valverde, Real Madrid have moved from their own defensive positions to one-on-one against Neto.
These spaces are kept open during the draw. Real Madrid didn’t use it late into the night when Rodrigo Goes was brought on as it seemed to slow the pace of play and dominate through possession or just allow Barcelona to have the ball. Space continues to open and Valverde continues to capitalize on, but he has become more conservative, preferring to be part of the defensive structure or avoiding risks rather than betting on a breakthrough in Barcelona’s form.
The anonymity of Pedry and Messi
As mentioned, most of Barcelona’s threats come from the left. However, very little comes through Pedry. Jordi Alba needed space to run down the left flank, forcing Pedry to go further and cutting into a position that was no more comfortable for him. Such a role would be more natural for Griezmann, but he only has one last game against a team that, at this point in the game, have sat very low and left him no room to move.
When Real Madrid built the structure it only served to silence it further and only touched the ball twice on the pitch. Barcelona wants to keep the left flank as clean as possible so that Jordi Alba can make use of whatever space it opens up. This leaves Pedry in the field dead zone, as shown below. When he receives the ball and has the difficult task of beating Vinicius at speed while Kroos supports him, he will not find a place to collide even if he has shown how tight Real Madrid’s defensive line is and Messi and Fati are floating. also in the space between the two rows.
This is also partly behind Messi’s role. Calmer than ever, he has 0 assists expected for the fifth time in 2020 and just 0.43 xG – his lowest score in five games. Real Madrid has no place to work hard and silence him, neither does Pedry. When Pedry deviates to the right and Coutinho does the same, only to add to the mess and make Messi’s most natural areas even more difficult. That role, which could no longer be used as naturally as before in high-speed counters and transitions, now falls to Fati, and in this case Messi is not given the place to influence his play as a playmaker.
It was a return to Zidane’s basic approach while Koeman sat down. This bet is changing. Real Madrid are confident and committed to their approach while Barcelona seem at times to lose their place to make room in the right zone and it becomes predictable when it comes to going left or right via quick counter-attacks, in case the Game should be canceled.
As such, Real Madrid has an easy task to defend against Barcelona. It’s easy for them to make room for counter-attacks and open up the Barcelona defense. Busquets’ lack of mobility and speed left the defense exposed to runs and midfielders in midfield, which could make room for others.
However, what effectively determines a draw is the reaction of each coach. As can be seen from this analysis, Zidane learned from Real Madrid’s early mistakes by taking the defense deeper and weighing on the right wing by bringing in Vazquez. Even after that, aware of Barcelona’s lack of open space and tiring defenses, he lured Rodrigo to the attack that the team originally had, with Modric Valverde drawing the line. This is what happened to the third goal. Instead, Koeman made changes in the 82nd minute. At that time, Real Madrid had scored and led three goals. This change was too late and did nothing to fix the problems with the Barcelona system. The result was a convincing win for Real Madrid.