Real Madrid cruised past Turkish champions Galatasaray in a rematch of last year’s Champions League quarterfinals.
Angel Di Maria and Alvaro Arbeloa returned to Carlo Ancelotti’s starting eleven, after Saturday’s thrilling draw against Villareal. Di Maria formed an attacking three that sat behind Karim Benzema with Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco. Luka Modric and Sami Khedira played in the double pivot, while Arbeloa started at left back.
Fatih Terim assembled his side in a 4-3-1-2 that saw Didier Drogba and Burak Yilmaz form a strike partnership. Wesley Sneijder played behind the two strikers, while Engin Baytar, Felipe Melo and Selcuk Inan formed a midfield three.
Galatasaray started the match well, but a change of shape in the second half opened up space for Ancelotti’s men to exploit.
Galatasaray enjoyed a decent amount of possession in the opening minutes, and Madrid’s shape without the ball was interesting. Ancelotti’s men dropped into two banks of four without the ball, with Isco drifting to the left flank and Di Maria sitting narrow to make up the numbers in midfield. It’s a typical approach to make in a traditional 4-2-3-1, but the key in sitting off and dropping into shape is the ability to stay compact – an issue Madrid sustained in the first half.
The movement of Yilmaz and Sneijder caused Madrid a few issues due to the few gaps of space in midfield. Yilmaz drifted to the left flank aiming to free space for the midfield three to drive into, while Sneijder was attacking space between the lines, looking to get on the ball. Sneijder didn’t have a significant impact in the first half, and Yilmaz was struggled throughout the match, but their movement off the ball guided Terim’s men into key areas.
A key feat in the first half was Melo’s attacking threat from midfield and outstanding work from Iker Casillas and substitute goalkeeper Diego Lopez. Melo threatened Madrid on three occasions, but top-class goalkeeping prevented the Turkish side from taking a well-deserved lead.
- Melo drove into ample space in midfield to drive a venomous 30-yard shot that was wonderfully saved by Casillas.
- In the 16th minute, Melo attacked a well-driven cross into the box, and the Brazilian midfielder nodded the ball right at Lopez, from six-yards out.
- 13 minutes later, Melo rose high again to direct a corner kick into the net, but it was Lopez again that made a phenomenal stop, to keep the match leveled.
Melo was awarded three legitimate goal scoring opportunities – a rare feat against Madrid – but he was denied by two top-class keepers, who made fantastic saves to keep the match level.
While Madrid sat in two banks of four, the interesting feat in their play without the ball was how they pressed. Di Maria and Isco got close to Albert Riera and Emmanuel Eboue preventing the Galatasaray fullbacks from getting forward and providing the width the Turkish side required.
Now, this was a logical approach, but it was odd to see their lack of pressure in midfield. Selcuk and Engin were tracked when attempting to make runs forward, or looking for gaps of space, but Melo was allowed to play passes freely in deeper positions. Melo’s passes were often out to the flanks, opposed to penetrating, but it allowed Terim’s men to dictate the tempo of the match.
Galatasaray’s press was significant, preventing Madrid from creating numerous chances or settling into the match. Yilmaz and Drogba pressed the Madrid fullback’s forcing Pepe and Sergio Ramos to push forward and ignite the buildup. Modric and Khedira dropped deeper to receive the ball, but Sneijder and the midfield three pressed efficiently.
Isco dropped deeper into midfield to provide an extra passing option, helping Madrid push forward, but Galatasaray’s pressure contained Madrid for majority of the half. The downfall to Pepe and Ramos’ freedom pushing forward was their range of passing, which was surprisingly accurate. It was Madrid’s only outlet forward, besides Terim’s men conceding possession in their third, but this outlet led to Isco’s opener.
Di Maria received the ball from midfield and played a long diagonal ball to the Spaniard, who made a run from midfield. Isco’s first touch was immaculate, and with the help of poor defending, the Madrid maestro slotted the ball past Fernando Muslera, handing Madrid an undeserved lead.
Galatasaray’s pressing was superb, preventing Ancelotti’s men from starting plays and creating chances, but once their energy levels dipped, Madrid grew into the match. Madrid’s approach was questionable – although it was rational to close down Terim’s fullbacks, Melo was allowed to dictate the tempo of the match, and great goalkeeping prevented the Turkish side from taking the lead.
Galatasaray go 4-2-3-1
Drogba was unable to feature in the second 45 due to an injury sustained in the final minutes of the first half. This forced Terim to switch formations from a 4-3-1-2 to 4-2-3-1 with Nordin Amrabat moving to the left and Sneijder playing behind Yilmaz.
The tactical alteration presented a key change in Galatasaray’s attack – Sneijder was now able to locate gaps between the lines to receive the ball and play key passes in the final third.
Two minutes into the second half, Sneijder received the ball between the lines and played a pass out wide to Amrabat. The Galatasaray midfielder delivered a threatening ball into the box that Yilmaz nodded wide from six yards out. Terim’s men were presented with four legitimate chances to take the lead/equalize prior to Madrid’s onslaught, which began after this spurned opportunity.
Although Terim’s tactical chance allowed Sneijder to express himself in the final third, it also saw Galatasaray’s pressing become ineffective, thus allowing Modric to dictate the match from deep areas.
Frankly the change began 30 minutes into the match, as the Croatian midfielder was providing passes to his wingers in advanced positions. Drogba’s absence opened up a passing outlet for Madrid to play out of the back, and Ancelotti’s men began to stamp their authority on the match.
Terim was forced into making a tactical alteration that benefitted Sneijder, but it freed up space for Madrid to break through the Turkish side’s pressure, allowing Modric and Isco to dictate the match.
With Terim’s men chasing the match, Madrid found space to exploit on the counter, but also between the lines. While Benzema and Ronaldo scored goals based on defensive errors, both men added a second due to space available between the lines.
Benzema dropped into that space for Ronaldo’s opener – the Frenchman linked play with Khedira, who sprayed a pass out wide for Di Maria, and the Argentinian winger slid a ball across the six yard box for Ronaldo to tap in. This space was unavailable in the first half, and Ancelotti’s men exploited it for Benzema’s second of the night.
This time it was Bale who received the ball between the lines, spraying a pass to Ronaldo, who provided the assist for Benzema. Ronaldo did pickup a hat-trick with a piece of individual brilliance in the final minutes of the match, but it goes to show how effective Terim’s tactics were in the first half.
Madrid improved in the second half due to a drop in Galatasaray’s pressing, the Turkish side’s will to search for an equalizer, and Terim’s tactical change that freed up space in midfield for Ancelotti’s men to exploit.
Madrid won the match in convincing fashion, despite an impressive start by Galatasaray. Drogba’s departure played a significant factor in the second half, and it’s interesting to question whether his involvement would alter the score.
With Copenhagen earning a draw at home to Juventus, and the massive defeat Terim’s men faced, the Turkish club is put in a serious hole to start their Champions League campaign. The importance of getting a result in your home matches is massive, and with Terim’s men lacking the depth of Juventus or Madrid, chances of qualifying have decreased.
Madrid was poor in the first half, but it’s fair to state that it’s a relatively new squad with a new manager, that’s aiming to find its balance in attack. It was an impressive result away from home in a tough venue, as Ancelotti’s road to Lisbon begins in fine fashion.