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Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid

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Courtesy of Flickr/Ver en vivo En Directo

Despite an ineffective first half display, Real Madrid came from behind to claim their 10th European title.

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Pattern

With this being the fifth meeting between the two sides this season, there was a good chance that the pattern of the match would be the same. Both sides prefer to play on the counter, but the manner in which they attack on the break is slightly different.

As displayed against Bayern Munich and Barcelona this season, Real prefer to sit deeper and utilize the pace of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to punish opponents. Atletico, on the other hand, press the opposition in midfield and look to facilitate the ball to their forwards, as they’re positioned to receive the ball while running due to their deep positioning.

Simeone’s side, though, won La Liga averaging less than 50% of possession, and similar to previous encounters, Real dominated possession and was forced to unlock an organized Atletico defence.

Madrid’s issue

The main issue Madrid encountered during three of the four meaningful matches with their cross-town rivals this season was the ability to create goal-scoring opportunities. Even their 3-0 victory in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal was flattering, as two of the three goals took heavy deflections.

Ancelotti opted to play Khedira –– who featured in 117 minutes of action since his return from a six-month layoff –– ahead of Illarramendi who’s been exploited in high-profile matches on a few occasions this season. Experience was a factor in Ancelotti’s decision, along with the German’s mobility, tenacity, and strength. Khedira, however, was fielded as the single-pivot in midfield.

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Similar to the first Madrid derby at the Bernabeu, Khedira’s presence was futile as he constantly decreased Real’s passing tempo, and his distribution was conservative. Atletico dropped into their traditional two banks of four to limit productivity in their third and central areas.

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Likewise, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria were forced to receive the ball near the halfway line to avoid Atletico’s press, thus impeding their impact on the match. Simeone’s side also pressed Madrid higher up the pitch –– more often in the earlier stages and when Costa was on the pitch –– as they aimed to quickly break into Real’s box. Villa and substitute Adrian Lopez harried Khedira when he received the ball, and the former also applied pressure on Modric in these areas.

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In the first half, Real failed to test goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Real’s best chance was created through Tiago’s misplaced pass at the half-hour mark. The pass fell to Bale, but as the Welshman ran into the box, desperate lunges from Tiago and Miranda forced the 24-year-old to steer his shot wide of the net.

Equally, Atletico’s shape without the ball must be lauded. Simeone’s men have impressively contained Bale and Ronaldo’s threat this season, and that continued in Lisbon. Both wide players prefer to drift into central areas to score goals, and while the Atletico wide players closed down passing lanes, Gabi and Tiago protected their back four admirably.

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Bale occasionally dropped deeper to retain the ball, but in the opening half neither Karim Benzema nor Ronaldo touched the ball in Atletico’s box.

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1-0

Adrian replaced Costa in the ninth minute, and suddenly Simeone was left with the XI many expected the Argentine to initially field. Ultimately this left Atletico’s attack limited in open play. It’s likely that Simeone would play Garcia behind Costa –– for his defensive pressure and offensive aerial threat –– with Turan on the flank, but with his best offensive options unavailable, set pieces appeared to be their best hope.

Prior to the goal, Atletico continuously aimed to overload the left flank, and deliver crosses to Garcia at the far post, as he attempted to isolate Fabio Coentrao. David Villa no longer offers the goal-threat he once did a few years ago, whereas apart from Adrian’s pace –– which forced Varane into conceding the corner that led to Diego Godin’s opener –– the 26-year-old’s threat upfront was scarce.

Subsequently, Varane half-heartedly cleared Gabi’s corner, and Juanfran instantly nodded the ball back into the box, but with Iker Casillas yards off his line, Godin out jumped Khedira and nodded the ball into the net. It was Godin’s eighth goal of the season –– all headers –– and without Costa it was the likely source for an Atletico goal.

Di Maria

Nevertheless, Real’s success always lied in the hands of Di Maria and Modric. Heading into the match they were two players that were required to perform if Real intended on claiming La Decima. The duo was outstanding in Real’s first leg Copa del Rey triumph, and in their draw at the Calderon, Turan and Koke nullified their strengths.

Here, however, Di Maria was the best player on the pitch. Often referred to as underrated, and rarely considered a big game player, the Argentine has developed into one of Madrid’s most important players since Ancelotti implemented the 4-3-3 system at the turn of the year.

Initially, Di Maria was instructed to play crosses from deep positions into the box. Although Atletico’s back four is dominant in aerial duels, the Argentine’s deliveries from deep have tormented Simeone’s men in every encounter this season. In the first half, though, a mixture of poor crossing, and lack of movement in the box meant Di Maria’s deliveries were ineffective.

Real required the Argentine’s dynamism in midfield, and his sharp runs from deeper positions tormented Atletico’s back four. In the early stages, referee Björn Kuipers, wrongly awarded advantage following Di Maria’s sensational run –– where Gabi fouled him –– which led to Coentrao breaking free into the box from the left channel.

That was a warning to Simeone’s men, as Di Maria forced Garcia and Miranda into bookings with his powerful runs from midfield. Meanwhile, in the second half, Juanfran feared that the Argentine would once again cause havoc in the final third, thus resulting in a cynical challenge subsequent to Di Maria’s first touch.

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Di Maria’s dynamism in midfield made him Real’s most proactive player on the field, as he produced another breathtaking performance.

Atletico go 4-2-3-1 

Simeone wasn’t getting the best out of Adrian as the highest attacker in Atletico’s 4-4-2, so the Argentine adopted a 4-2-3-1 in the second half. The alteration was beneficial to Atletico as they began to exploit key areas in Real’s third, whereas Adrian and Koke enjoyed a fine 10 minute spell on the left flank.

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Now Koke and Adrian were on the flanks –– with Koke drifting into central areas to become a third passer in midfield  –– and Garcia sat behind Villa as the main target man. Garcia played this role to perfection in the 2-2 draw at the Calderon this season, but the two wide players thrived in the early stages of the second half.

In the 49th minute, Filipe Luis dispossessed Dani Carvajal in Real’s third, and then played a pass to Koke who drifted over to the left flank to create the overload. Koke then delivered a cross towards the far post for Garcia, but the Spaniard side-volleyed his effort over the bar. Afterwards, the 22-year-old delivered another promising cross into Real’s box, and Coentrao’s header cleared the ball into Adrian’s feet, but his shot deflected off Khedira for a corner.

Equally, Adrian’s pace and ability to evade challenges in tight spaces enabled him to get the better of Carvajal –– along with Isco and Modric –– on a few occasions, but the 26-year-old lacked an incisive final ball. In terms of attacks created from open play, this was Atletico’s best spell, but their habit of not finishing their chances in big games led to their downfall.

Swapped formations

Ancelotti quickly reacted to Simeone’s changes by introducing Marcelo and Isco for Coentrao and the underwhelming Khedira. Madrid effectively transitioned into a 4-4-2 with Isco and Modric sitting in midfield, while Di Maria was positioned on the left flank.

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Seven minutes later, Simeone replaced the fatigued Garcia for Jose Sosa, thus leaving Villa upfront on his own. Atletico were now shaped in a 4-3-3, but due to Real’s superiority in possession, Simeone’s men were pegged into their half and they were more of a 4-5-1. 

Atletico’s limited options on the bench may have forced Simeone to preserve his lead, and unlike previous meetings he reacted to Real’s offensive changes.

Real dominate

However, Ancelotti’s changes were identical to the ones made in the league showdown at the Calderon. There he started the match with two defensive-minded fullbacks before introducing Marcelo and Carvajal. Marcelo’s passing, dribbling and goal presence is superior to Coentrao’s, which explains the logic in the substitution.

Real also lacked a link between midfield and attack without Alonso, so Isco was introduced to exploit pockets of space as Atletico’s press decreased. Atletico’s players tired –– which is understandable due to their dynamic style of play and it being the final game of the season –– and with Simeone lacking match-changing options on the bench, or a threat on the counter, his men were forced to hang on.

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Modric was now the deepest midfielder and the Croatian dictated the tempo of the match. Isco also served as a reliable passer, as well as comfortably retaining possession in the final third. Modric’s run towards the box led to Ronaldo and Benzema exchanging passes, before Isco fired a shot wide of the net. Isco also received a glorious chance to win the match courtesy of Carvajal’s chipped pass and his wonderful first touch, and turn, but Godin made a remarkable last-ditch tackle to maintain their slender lead.

Real camped in Atletico’s half for the remaining 25 minutes, and their were two variations to their attack. The first being quick combination plays around the box. Modric’s pass into Ronaldo saw the Portuguese forward play in Bale, but the 24-year-old fired his shot wide of the net. Subsequently, Bale and Ronaldo combined and the 24-year-old winger received a pass from the current Ballon d’Or winner behind the Atletico defence, but Godin’s pressure forced the Welshman to guide his shot into the side netting.

Secondly, Di Maria continued to play crosses into the box from the left flank, but last-ditch clearances from every member of Simeone’s defence preserved Atletico’s lead. Considering Atletico’s successful set-piece defending, it was surprising to see Simeone’s men concede a goal in this manner. However, Real’s inability to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities against Atletico, and Ramos’ imperious form decreases the shock value; it was one of the few ways for Ancelotti’s men to equalize.

Ramos’ well-timed run towards the centre of the box allowed the Spaniard to get ahead of Tiago and nod Modric’s corner past Courtois with seconds to spare. Ancelotti’s offensive changes altered the tempo and pattern of the match, and Real were rewarded with a stoppage-time equalizer.

Extra-time

Simeone’s final change occurred minutes prior to Ramos’ equalizer as Toby Alderweireld replaced an injured Filipe Luis. Likewise, an injured Juanfran was forced to continue the match hobbling, as Atletico utilized their three available subs.

Nevertheless, the pattern of the match didn’t change. Villa did well to hold up the ball at times, but he doesn’t offer the physical presence Costa possesses, and he couldn’t outpace Varane and Ramos. When Atletico lost the ball it was immediately cleared back to Real, and with Simeone’s men wary of being exposed on the counter, they opted to soak up the pressure and play for penalties.

But in the second half of extra-time Real were rewarded for their persistent attacking. Di Maria evaded Juanfran and Miranda’s challenges following his run from the left flank, and while Courtois saved his initial effort, Bale nodded the rebound into the open net. Marcelo and Ronaldo added two more goals as the final 10 minutes was drab.

Conclusion

This match was similar to their league encounter at the Calderon. Atletico controlled the opening hour, but Ancelotti utilized his bench effectively in the second half to exploit Simeone’s side.

Costa’s ability to work the channels, break on the counter, and disturb Real’s centre backs were missed, and Atletico didn’t possess an attacking threat in open play.

“It was my responsibility to have [Diego Costa] play and obviously I made a mistake because I had to switch him as early as I did; obviously he wasn’t as good as he had been the day before. That was my decision to make. We looked at each other, we caught each other’s eye, and we didn’t want to waste part of the game with one less player,” Simeone said.

“What was most difficult was to get the equalizer. We didn’t have any space, Atlético defended very well, but we tried every way possible, right to the end – we managed to do it and then the game changed completely. The goal we scored gave us a lot of strength and after that perhaps we wanted the victory more,” Ancelotti said.

Frankly, the score-line doesn’t do Atletico justice; this was a remarkable season –– winning La Liga and reaching the Champions League final ––  in which the likes of Porto, Milan, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real failed to beat them in normal time.

Still, this was a straightforward tactical showdown. In ways Simeone is similar to Mourinho –– from the petulance to the methodical approach –– but here, defensive organization and tactical discipline couldn’t overshadow a meager bench and minimal transitional attacks.

That enabled Ancelotti’s side to dominate the latter stages of the match, and with the help of Di Maria’s dynamism and key changes, Real emerged victorious.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Real Madrid – Atletico Madrid: Champions League final preview

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Courtesy of Flickr/avalaisure

A year ago, Diego Simeone’s side defeated Real Madrid for the first time in 14 years at the Santiago Bernabeu to claim the Copa del Rey. After winning their first La Liga crown in 18 years with a draw at the Camp Nou last weekend, Atletico Madrid travel to Lisbon to participate in the first-ever local derby Champions League final against Real.

Although Real are in search of La Decima, an Atletico victory would complete an unprecedented double, and be classified as one of the greatest triumphs in football history. But Carlo Ancelotti’s men will arrive in Lisbon as favourites with Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo aiming to claim his second Champions League crown, and increase his record-breaking 16-goal tally.

This is expected to be a high-octane, scrappy affair, between two sides that thrive on the counter-attack. Stylistically, Atletico’s ability to maintain a high level of play and compete with Europe’s richest clubs is remarkable, and it’s fair to say that they’re not underdogs.

Atletico possesses one of the best defensive records in Europe, and they prove to be a difficult outfit to beat when their back four is fit. Equally, they shift and press as a unit, and quickly transition into attack with quick intricate combination passes.

Simeone’s men drop into two banks of four without the ball and the two strikers stick goal-side to the opposition’s deepest midfielder’s to close down passing lanes. The wide men –– Koke and Arda Turan –– adopt narrow positions to limit space between the lines and central areas. Full-backs, Juanfran and Filipe Luis, also decrease space between themselves and the centre-backs, and encourage the opposition to play through the flanks, as Miranda and Diego Godin consistently dominate aerial duels.

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Atletico’s shape when Madrid maintain possession. The wingers tuck in centrally, and the two forwards allow the Madrid centre-backs to circulate possession.

Atletico are capable of winning the ball higher up the pitch, or sticking to the aforementioned tactic, but under both circumstances their ability to quickly break into attack is pivotal. Both wide players are technically astute, hardworking players, with Koke drifting infield to express his creativity, while Turan evades challenges and motors forward. The positioning of the two forwards usually enables them to receive the ball while running towards goal, or dropping off to receive the ball and pull defenders out of position.

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Atletico maintain the same shape, but Turan is ready to press Arbeloa when he receives the ball. Diego Ribas and Diego Costa have closed down Xabi Alonso’s passing lanes and Juanfran has also adopted a narrow shape closer to Miranda.

Diego Costa and Turan, however, are both injury doubts ahead of Saturday’s final following their early first half departures against Barcelona. While the latter is likely to feature against Madrid, Atletico are working hard to ensure the former is also fit. In both league fixtures this season, Costa worked the channels admirably and consistently tormented Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Likewise, Costa’s physicality, and eye for goal –– scoring 36 goals in all competitions –– is unmatched.

Adrian Lopez or Raul Garcia will be the likely replacement for the 25-year-old striker, and both men offer different threats. Similar to Costa, the former relies on pace, but in terms of strength and finishing he’s not quite at the Spaniard’s level. Still, when called upon Lopez has delivered, scoring goals against Barcelona and Chelsea en route to the final. The latter, on the other hand, could field on the right flank or upfront, and his physical presence would see Atletico play direct. In previous rounds he targeted Jordi Alba and Ashley Cole to utilize his aerial superiority, and the Spaniard’s 17 goals in all competitions is only bettered by Costa.

Atletico, though, isn’t the only side heading into Saturday’s final with personnel concerns. Gareth Bale and Ronaldo passed fitness tests earlier this week, but Pepe and Karim Benzema are both unlikely to feature, meaning Raphael Varane and Alvaro Morata will be included in the starting XI. Carlo Ancelotti will also be forced to decide between Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi to complete a midfield trio for the suspended Xabi Alonso.

Khedira has featured in Madrid’s final two games of the season –– 117 minutes –– after tearing a cruciate ligament in his knee six months ago. Khedira was in the midfield that lost to Atletico in at the Bernabeu in October, but he failed to trouble Simeone’s midfield. Illarramendi, 20, has struggled against physical sides that intentionally target the Spaniard, and it’s likely that Ancelotti may go for Khedira’s dynamism and tenacity, despite the German’s scarce match fitness.

Madrid have been at their utmost best in this tournament when given the opportunity to play on the counter –– most recently displayed against Bayern Munich –– but Ancelotti’s men will likely dominate possession, and the pattern of the match will be identical to previous encounters this season.

In three matches of significant value this season –– the tie was over in the second leg of the Copa del Rey –– Madrid struggled to break down and create legitimate goal scoring opportunities against Simeone’s men. The one match that Madrid won two goals stemmed from major deflections, and a well-worked move from Angel Di Maria and Jese Rodriguez. Atletico, on the other hand, pose a legitimate threat through set pieces, and if Costa is unavailable, Simeone’s men will aim to exploit Madrid in these situations.

Considering the circumstances, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria will be the key men for Madrid. Both men provide the dynamism and creativity in midfield that steered Madrid to the Copa del Rey final, but were equally nullified in their second league encounter at the Vicente Calderon. With Ronaldo and Bale keen on drifting into central areas, Atletico’s narrow defending nullifies space for the wide players to cut into. Both men have failed to produce quality performances against the newly-crowned Spanish champion, with Bale struggling in 1v2 situations, and Ronaldo lacking service and space to create shooting angles. With that being said, Modric’s ability to dictate the tempo of the match, and Di Maria’s willingness to spring forward and provide a goal-scoring threat will be key.

In eight of the last nine fixtures between the two sides, a goal has been scored within the opening 15 minutes. And while an early goal is expected, it won’t necessarily alter the predicted pattern of the match. Atletico’s system solely focuses on limiting space in their third, defensive solidity, and quick transitions, and Simeone is reluctant to stray away from his philosophy.

With Madrid’s recent issues in open play against Simeone’s side, and their tendency to switch off during matches, one goal may be the difference between success and failure. In 12 months, Atletico have snapped various droughts against their cross-town rivals, and on the biggest stage in world football, they’ll be seeking to avenge their loss to Bayern Munich –– in which the late Luis Aragones scored –– 40 years ago.

With Atletico’s limited financial resources and diminutive squad, Simeone’s ability to get his side to sustain maximum levels and challenge on both fronts –– domestic and European –– serves as a triumph for modern football. Meanwhile, Madrid’s return to the final for the first time in 12 years will be considered a failure if they don’t claim La Decima.

The sky is the limit for Atletico, whereas Real have everything to lose.

 
 

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Valencia 2-3 Real Madrid

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Jese’s second half goal keeps Real Madrid within five points of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

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Carlo Ancelotti made three changes to the side that drew Osasuna last weekend. Angel Di Maria, Nacho, and Alvaro Arbeloa were in the starting lineup, as Gareth Bale and Pepe were unavailable.

Caretaker manager Nico Estevez made several changes to Valencia’s 4-2-3-1. Jonas led the line ahead of Fede, Pablo Piatti and Sofiane Feghouli, while Oriol Romeu and Daniel Parejo were in the double-pivot.

This was a disappointing match that surprisingly produced several goals – Madrid dominated possession, and although Valencia’s shape nullified their threat, attacking quality prevailed.

Valencia shape

One of the key components towards Valencia’s impressive display was their shape without the ball. Estevez’s side dropped into two compact banks of four and minimized space between the lines.

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Madrid struggled to find space in central areas around the final third, and this led to their front four constantly interchanging positions. As per usual, Ronaldo roamed around the final third looking for openings, but Isco and Benzema dropped deep into midfield to receive the ball. Isco desperately drifted from flank to flank aiming to create overloads and link play with the wide players, but the Spaniard’s impact was minimal.

Another key feat in Valencia’s shape was Feghouli’s role – the Algerian midfielder admirably tracked Marcelo’s runs and nullified his attacking threat down the left flank. Valencia’s narrow shape was impressive – it limited Madrid’s threat from open play and Ancelotti’s men struggled to created legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

1-0

Although Madrid dictated the tempo of the match, the away side rarely penetrated in the final third nor did they test Vicente Guaita. At this point it wasn’t a matter of how they would score, many were questioning whether they would find the back of the net.

It took a moment of brilliance from Angel Di Maria to give the away side the lead. Di Maria received Marcelo’s cross-field pass, and drifted between Piatti and Juan Bernat, before striking a venomous shot into the far corner.

Prior to the goal, Madrid lacked direction, invention and creativity in the final third, and unfortunately for the away side, their lead was short lived.

Alonso/Modric

While Cristiano Ronaldo found it difficult to express himself in the final third, Madrid’s midfield duo flourished. In fairness, Valencia’s shape contributed to their dominance as they half-heartedly attempted to close down the duo.

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Alonso often dropped deep between the two centre backs to receive the ball and launch Madrid’s attacks, but Valencia’s midfield rarely pressed the Spaniard in central areas. On the other hand, Modric was marked tightly, but the Croatian evaded defenders and played positive passes into advanced positions – there was no surprise that the Madrid duo were the most reliable passers on the field.

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Likewise, they replicated their brilliance without the ball – Alonso made key tackles in his third, while Modric intercepted the most passes. On both ends they were magnificent – they controlled the tempo of the match, and facilitated passes into key areas, as they were Madrid’s main attacking outlets.

Valencia down the left

Although Estevez’s side spent large portions of the match defending in their own zone, they still managed to pose a threat on the left flank. On numerous occasions, Valencia’s left sided players isolated Arbeloa, and both goals were created down this flank.

The first goal highlighted Piatti and Bernat’s tactical understanding – Piatti drifted infield between the two centre backs and Bernat pushed forward, got half a yard of space ahead of Di Maria, and delivered a well-weighed ball into the box that Piatti nodded past Diego Lopez. As the match continued, Di Maria’s diligence to track Bernat’s runs decreased, and the Valencia fullback casually pushed forward.

But, the main issue Madrid encountered was the lack of protection provided for Arbeloa, as Piatti constantly attacked the Spaniard. And it was Piatti’s powerful run down the left flank that earned Valencia a corner, which subsequently led to Mathieu’s equalizer.

Majority of Valencia’s attack prior to Sergio Canales’ arrival was down the left flank. Arbeloa was left vulnerable on several occasions and it was peculiar to see Ancelotti overlook this feat.

Canales

Estevez made the first alteration of the match with 30 minutes remaining, opting to introduce Canales for the uninspiring Fede. Coincidentally, Valencia equalized seconds after his introduction, which gave the home side the incentive to push for a winner.

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Unlike Fede, Canales became a threat in the final third. He drifted into space between the lines to receive the ball, and he successfully mounted Valencia’s attacks on the break. On separate occasions Canales was involved in the two legitimate goal-scoring opportunities that the home side created. Lopez comfortably saved his tame effort in the 73rd minute, and two minutes later his back heel to Piatti led to a cross towards Jonas, who fired his shot inches wide of the goal.

Canales’ introduction instilled an element of creativity the home side lacked in the first half, and they progressively created better chances.

Madrid 4-4-2

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Ancelotti switched to a 4-4-2.

The match was slipping away from Madrid, and Ancelotti gambled by introducing Jese and Daniel Carvajal – the double-change pushed Ronaldo upfront, and Di Maria to the left, as Madrid became a 4-4-2. The away side still lacked a competent link between midfield and attack, but these two men were involved in the build up to Jese’s winner.

Unlike Arbeloa – who didn’t venture forward – Carvajal’s first involvement in the match was an overlapping run down the right, which led to a dangerous cross in the six-yard box. However, Valencia failed to clear their lines and Modric recovered the ball, played a pass out wide to Jese and his weak shot at the near post beat Guaita, to hand the away side the lead.

Ancelotti summoned Asier Illarramendi in the latter stages of the match, as Madrid sat deeper and launched quick counter-attacks. Ancelotti’s change didn’t increase Madrid’s attacking impetus in the final third, but it did create one opportunity, which Jese pounced on.

Conclusion

Valencia contained Madrid for large portions of the match, but was unable to trouble the away side when they pushed into the final third. Their dominance down the left flank was logical – although Di Maria is usually a tactically disciplined player – however they took advantage of Madrid’s poor set piece defending, but only threatened from open play when Canales was introduced.

Madrid displayed an unappealing performance, but they found a way to secure maximum points.

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Ronaldo in an offside position seconds before Madrid’s second goal.

Their front four failed to penetrate in the final third, but an officiating error and poor goalkeeping handed Ancelotti’s men the lead twice. The away side keeps pace with the league leaders heading into 2014, but they’ll need to improve their all-around game if they intend on staying the course.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid

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Courtesy of Football.ua

Real Madrid secured a berth in the Champions League knockout round as they earned a valuable draw in Turin.

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Antonio Conte introduced Leonardo Bonucci  to his starting eleven for the suspended Giorgio Chiellini, while Kwadwo Asamoah slotted in at left back for Angelo Ogbonna.

Carlo Ancelotti made a few changes to the side that defeated Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu a few weeks ago. Gareth Bale and Xabi Alonso made their first starts in the Champions League this season, while Raphael Varane’s inclusion in the back four, pushed Sergio Ramos to right back.

This match showcased a recurring theme that’s been displayed by both sides this season – Juventus dominated the opening 45 minutes, but Real Madrid’s energetic pressing led to a vast improvement in their second half performance.

Juventus Shape

Conte’s men mirrored the approach utilized at the Bernabeu, by dropping into a 4-5-1 without the ball. Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez were instructed to prevent Sergio Ramos and Marcelo from pushing forward, but they sat narrow alongside the midfield three to minimize gaps. They had a fairly easy time coping with Madrid due to the lack of cohesion in Ancelotti’s attack. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo were higher up the pitch, while Modric and Khedira sat close to Alonso in a deeper position.

With Madrid’s full backs monitored, and their midfield unable to find gaps in central areas, Conte’s men didn’t face many issues on the defensive end. Khedira didn’t offer any attacking threat going forward, and Vidal admirably tracked Modric, when he attempted to dribble forward. In particular, Vidal was superb in midfield, breaking up play with his combative tackles, intercepting passes and quickly leading the transition from defence to attack.

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Similar to the fixture two weeks ago, Madrid was stifled in midfield, and this was down to Ancelotti’s approach and Juventus’ shape.

Pirlo vs. Alonso

Ancelotti was pleased to welcome back Alonso to the side, seeing as they missed a player of his stature in midfield. Like Pirlo, Alonso sits deeper in midfield, but he tends to play diagonal cross-field balls to build the attack. It’s a key element in Madrid’s game that they’ve lacked during his absence, as no other midfielder in Ancelotti’s squad possesses his passing range.

The key feat in both approaches was the ability to nullify the prolific deep-lying playmakers. At the Bernabeu we witnessed Karim Benzema press Pirlo for a small portion of the match to some effect, but allowed the Italian to dictate the match in the latter stages, prior to Giorgio Chiellini’s sending off. And once again Benzema was handed the duty to track Pirlo when Juventus had possession of the ball.

Nonetheless, one of the main components that led to Juventus’ superiority in midfield was Pirlo’s freedom and Conte’s intent on nullifying Alonso. Benzema’s defensive work on Pirlo didn’t improve, and once again the Italian maestro was free to facilitate passes into the channels and wide areas.

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However, Conte was weary of Alonso’s threat, and instructed Llorente to close him down whenever he received the ball.

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The contrast in forward passes is evident between the two deep-lying playmakers, and it was down to the work ethic of both strikers.

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It was strange seeing Bonucci given time on the ball considering his proficient range of passing, and for the most part Juventus had two exceptional passing outlets available going forward. Ancelotti’s defensive tactics were once again naïve, and it led to Juventus’ first half superiority. Alonso’s impact on the match was limited, and this is an approach most sides will take if they encounter Madrid in the latter stages of this competition.

Space in wide areas

Although Juve’s attacking approach was logical, they enjoyed space in wide areas due to Madrid’s shape. The initial aim was to drop into two banks of four without the ball, which explains why it was odd to see Ancelotti’s men defend with seven men – leaving the three attackers higher up the pitch.

With Madrid already outnumbered in midfield, Ancelotti’s men couldn’t afford to leave their fullbacks without sufficient protection. Initially Asamoah was cautious about surging into advanced position – which was logical based on Madrid’s threat on the counter – thus handing the onus to Caceres to get forward. The Uruguayan took advantage of the space behind Ronaldo, and was one of Pirlo’s favored passing option aft. In the second half, it was Caceres’ cross that found Llorente in the box, which saw Conte’s men equalize.

Juve’s superiority in midfield was clear in the first fixture, and the spare man was often Paul Pogba, as Khedira failed to track his runs. Pogba produced another decent outing on the left side, specifically on the break as he freely attacked space. Specifically, there were two separate occasions – besides his outside foot cross that deflected off of Pepe – that led to legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

  1. Vidal did well to sustain possession and played a scintillating ball to Pogba, who drove forward and played a pass to the oncoming Tevez. Tevez looked up and delivered a quality cross to the back post towards Marchisio, but Iker Casillas denied the Italian midfielder.
  1. Llorente received a flick-on from Vidal, and dropped deep with the ball to play a pass to Tevez on the flank. Tevez drove at the defence, and played an incisive ball into the box for the advancing Pogba. Pogba received the ball, forcing Varane to come across and make a last-ditch tackle on the French midfielder, thus resulting in a penalty.

Juventus were exceptional in the first half, and a few top-class Casillas saves prevented Conte’s men from increasing their lead. Nevertheless, Madrid’s shape without the ball was bizarre, yet beneficial to Juventus, who penetrated space in wide areas.

Madrid press

Ancelotti’s men enjoyed a great start to the second half, and that was down to their work rate without the ball. Opposed to the first half, where Juventus was allowed to freely play out of the back, Ancelotti instructed his men to press higher up the pitch. Madrid’s front six squeezed Juventus in their own half and forced them to either play long balls or concede possession in their own half.

Conte’s men were unable to sustain possession and break past Madrid’s press, which ultimately led to Ronaldo’s equalizer. Luka Modric pressed Caceres, Ronaldo cut off the passing lane to Andrea Barzagli, Karim Benzema was near Bonucci and Alonso closed down Pirlo. Caceres played a poor pass into Benzema, and the Frenchman ran towards the Juventus defence, before playing in Ronaldo, who solemnly chipped Gianluigi Buffon.

Ancelotti’s men posed a sufficient attacking threat when they pressed high, as they won the ball in key areas in the final third, and began to dictate the match.

Second half

There’s been a recurring theme in the way both sides perform in the final 45 minutes of matches, and it was displayed in the second half. Madrid have produced more adventurous displays in the second half, while Juventus endure massive energy dip in their performance levels.

There was an overall improvement in Madrid’s second half performance, and the success of their high press proved to be beneficial. Juventus began to drop deeper into their third when Madrid had possession of the ball, and Modric was more inventive with his passing.

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The Croatian midfielder began to push forward into attacking positions, as he picked out positive passes between the lines and in wide areas.

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Also, Ramos began to push forward in the latter stages of the second half, as Tevez failed to track his runs. There were two separate occasions that saw Ramos fouled by Bonucci at the edge of the box, and his shot being blocked in the 18-yard box, after beating Asamoah in a 1v1. Madrid posed a larger threat on the break – Ronaldo and Benzema were receiving balls between the lines and Ancelotti urged his men to play Ronaldo into 1v1 situations. Juventus did have their chances in the second half, but a lack of penetration in the final third and quality in their passes, prevented them from nicking a winner.

Conclusion

Casillas’ brilliance in the opening 45 minutes, along with Madrid’s improved second half display secured first place in Group B. Both sides looked threatening on the counter, but all four goals were down to defensive miscues, highlighting how vulnerable both sides were without the ball.

Ancelotti’s initial tactics were questionable, but once again Madrid produced a positive second half performance to earn a point. Their defensive shape, and their overall build up play between midfield and attack still needs grooming, but Madrid continue to find ways to win during this significant transitional period.

“I’m leaving here feeling satisfied with my team’s second-half performance,” Ancelotti said. 

“The reaction was very good on our part. After the break we were much better in terms of courage and aggression,” he added. 

On the other hand, Juventus are in a favourable predicament ahead of their final two matches. Conte will be disappointed with their second half dip, but progression is still attainable. Two wins and they’re in. It sounds straightforward, but Conte’s men will need to improve on both ends if they want to achieve maximum points.

“We deserve more points than we have, but when you face a team like Real Madrid, who have players that can turn the match around in a few minutes, there’s not much you can do,” Conte said. 

“My team played a great game tonight – we played very well especially in the first half, just like we had planned to. It’s the sixth game in 18 days for us and it’s normal to be a little tired,” he added.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Gareth Bale’s Galactico expectations require time

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Gareth Bale is encountering an arduous situation at the Santiago Bernabeu. It’s been two months since Bale made the move to Real Madrid, and the Welshman has been vilified and harshly scrutinized by the Spanish media. The rapid influx in fans, owners and the media demanding immediate success has somewhat tarnished modern day football, as players and manager’s are continuously under severe pressure. Despite all the negativity surrounding Bale, it’s shocking to know that he was a household favourite a few months ago.

Tottenham Hotspur supporters were on the edge of their seats when Bale received the ball on the right flank in their final game of the season against Sunderland. Had it been a few years ago, he may have opted to pass the ball or attempt a pacy dash towards the byline to provide a cross – but not this time. His confidence was oozing off his sweaty skin and fear was expressed in the Adam Mitchell’s eyes, as there was only one logical outcome.

The 24-year-old Welshman cut infield with his fancied left foot and curled the ball with precision and pace, humbling Simon Mignolet as could do nothing but watch the ball fly into the top corner, despite his efforts to make a save. White Hart Lane erupted. Spurs faithful adapted to Bale’s brilliance throughout the season, and this was just another piece of magic to add to the highlight reel.

Bale ran towards the Spurs supporters jubilant, knowing that this would be the last time he’d share a moment of this magnitude at White Hart Lane. The celebration was more of a ‘come get me NOW’ opposed to a sign of hope that relied on their London rivals dropping points on the final day of the season to solidify fourth place.

Daniel Levy’s most prized asset was ready to make the big jump abroad, despite the North London side earning a club-high 72 points. Truthfully, it was foreseeable. Bale’s vast growth into a world-class player couldn’t be ignored. He thrived in a no.10 position under Andre Villas-Boas that handed the Welshman a free role to roam around the final third searching for gaps and openings in the opposition’s backline. However, he maintained defensive responsibility by quickly closing down centre backs to complement Spurs’ high-pressing game.

The pressure of living up to the ‘galactico’ billing is insurmountable. However, Bale – the 11th galactico – had bigger shoes to fill as his summer transfer to Real Madrid made him the world’s most expensive player. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to know that on two separate occasions, Bale’s career hung by a thread.

Bale’s athleticism was evident at a young age. The Welshman excelled in rugby, hockey and track-field throughout school, but football was Bale’s top priority.  The Welshman’s PE teacher Gwyn Morris was aware of the Welshman’s talent and challenged him to improve other aspects of his game by forcing Bale to play one-touch football and predominantly use his weaker right foot, as he was superior to the rest of his schoolmates.

Southampton youth scout Rod Ruddick spotted the Welshman when he played for Cardiff Civil Service in a U-9 five-a-side tournament in Newport, Wales. “Even at the age of eight Gareth had fantastic ability. When you sign a player at that age it is because they have great potential and he has just kept getting better,” Ruddick said.

“You could see his pace and quality on the training pitch but I think his left foot helped him stand out. What we saw then we knew he was going to be something special,” he added.

Bale worked his way through Southampton’s satellite academy, but his recurring back injuries sustained from a growth spurt, nearly prevented him from receiving a full-time scholarship.

The Welshman signed with Spurs for £10m in 2007 – a year after breaking into the Southampton first team – and he endured 24 consecutive losses when he featured for the North London club. Bale’s frail build was his downfall, as he struggled to stay fit, which saw Alex McLeish attempt to pursue to the Welshman to join Birmingham in 2009. “Gareth wasn’t in the Spurs side at the time and Harry Redknapp wasn’t able to get him a game for whatever reason,” McCleish said.

“What if he had come to Birmingham and enjoyed it? We were in the Championship at the time but eventually got promoted to the Premier League. That would have changed the picture for us financially. You just don’t know. Unfortunately, this time, for us it didn’t, he said.”

Bale worked hard over the next few years to become stronger physically and mentally – with help from former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp’s tough love approach in training – and the football world witnessed glimpses of his brilliance. He took the world by storm through his two performances against Inter Milan in 2010, where he singlehandedly terrorized Brazilian fullback Maicon. Bale’s ability was never questioned – it was whether he could replicate his performances on a consistent basis.

Under Andre Villas-Boas, the 24-year-old winger flourished, and took the first chance to move abroad to challenge for trophies, opposed to spending another year at White Hart Lane, fighting to secure a Champions League spot. It was his childhood dream to play for Madrid, but scrutiny and ridicule followed him like a shadow.

More so, Bale’s transfer fee has been the focal point during his sluggish start at the Santiago Bernabeu. Had Bale set the valuation, or publicly stated he was worth £85m, then it would be understandable – however he didn’t. The inflated transfer market has been beneficial to teams with lesser financial power, as they now possess the power to hold out until they receive their required price tag.

Is Bale a £85m player? No.

At the time, was Bale worth £85m? Possibly.

Considering his remarkable performances throughout 2012/2013, the three years remaining on his contract, and the fact that Spurs initially weren’t willing to sell the Welshman, the valuation isn’t far-fetched.

Consequently, the Bale saga, and a few niggling injuries, prevented the Welshman from participating in pre-season activities. Given the circumstances, it’s absurd to label the Welshman a ‘flop’ based on the first two months of the season. Adapting to a new league, culture, country and style of football is never easy. While some players settle quickly into a new environment, others need time and patience – and based on the abundance of turnover that transpired at Madrid this summer, it’s rational.

Carlo Ancelotti, known for his possession-based philosophy has struggled to find his best starting eleven, and has been adamant on fitting Bale into the equation. But the rise of Angel Di Maria – arguably Madrid’s best player this season – has highlighted the need of natural balance in Ancelotti’s attack, specifically in their 7-3 victory against Sevilla.

“The team lacks little offensively, but lost concentration when at 3-0, but then continued to play well. We need more balance because you cannot open up a game when you are winning 3-0,” Ancelotti said.

“We played faster and more vertical. We need more offensive balance, but the game was fantastic,” he said.

Bale displayed glimpses of old, grabbing two goals and two assists. Sevilla’s shape without the ball was diabolical for large portions of the match, which benefitted a Madrid side that prefers to attack on the break. The Welshman was allowed space to isolate defenders, use his blistering space to stretch the match by running towards the byline, make darting runs into the box and combine with his teammates in wide areas.

Likewise, Bale has struggled to impose his authority on matches against sides that prefer to sit deeper, and defend with nine men behind the ball. Opposed to England, La Liga sides are precise with their overall shape without the ball, as they aim to be organized and compact. With Cristiano Ronaldo playing a free role, Bale has less space to work with, is more likely to drift out of games via isolation, and is a conventional winger, which will explain his inevitable statistical decline.

Coincidentally, Bale and Madrid, are going through a transitional period. Ancelotti is searching for balance, a preferred formation and a cohesive unit – whereas, Bale is settling into life abroad, which will expect him to thrive with less space, in a natural wide role.

An £85m transfer fee guarantees high expectations, but if Madrid supporters and owners are patient, then Bale can prove to be an intelligent investment in the near future.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in FIFA, Published Work

 

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Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus

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Real Madrid remains undefeated in the Champions League, as they fortuitously snuck past Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Antonio Conte introduced Martin Caceres, Angelo Ogbonna and Arturo Vidal to his starting eleven, following Sunday’s defeat to Fiorentina.

Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to his starting eleven that defeat Malaga this weekend, introducing Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.

Conte got his tactics right, but an error from referee Manuel Grafe, allowed Real Madrid to sustain control of the match, despite a late scare.

Juventus’ Shape

It was always going to be interesting to see how Conte approached this match without the ball considering they haven’t played with four defenders in over year. Yet, Juventus’ shape proved to be pivotal, as they prevented Ancelotti’s men from creating multiple clear-cut opportunities in the first half.

Juventus dropped into a 4-5-1 with Llorente isolated up top alongside Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Tevez kept his eye on Arbeloa, while Marchisio played closer to Caceres to prevent overloads. Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal had little to do from a marking perspective – as Madrid’s midfield trio sat near the halfway-line – so they focused on maintaining a compact shape to limit Madrid’s activity in the final third.

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Many questioned Conte’s tactics heading into the match, but Juventus’ shape without the ball was excellent. Their midfield trio stifled space in midfield – in particular, Vidal made several tackles in his own third, preventing Madrid from penetrating.

Juventus’ work-rate and organization without the ball was superb – frankly, they went into half time down a goal, due to two mental lapses and Ronaldo’s composure in front of goal.

Madrid press

While Madrid often dropped into a defensive shape when Juventus had possession of the ball, Ancelotti encouraged his men to press the Bianconeri on goal-kicks, hoping it would prevent them from playing out of the back freely.

This was a logical approach from Madrid, but the quality of the press was poor, and Juventus broke past it with ease. Madrid’s front three pressed Juventus’ back four, so there was always a spare man available, and long-balls were often distributed to Llorente, who admirably controlled the ball and laid it off to his teammates. Bluntly, Madrid dropping into their shape was more effective than their high-press, as it often got Juventus into dangerous areas on the pitch.

Another feat in Madrid’s press was Benzema’s tracking of Pirlo. In the early moments of the match, Benzema dropped deeper into midfield to press Pirlo – which led to a few fouls – but it was shocking to see the French striker abandon this feat. Madrid’s aim to press Conte’s men higher up the pitch failed, but it was shocking to see them allow Pirlo to play freely, considering they had two men free men upfront when Juventus had possession.

4v3

Despite Madrid’s great start to the match – based on Ronaldo’s goal – Juventus were the better side for larger portions of the first half. Conte fielded four ball-passing midfielders in his side, while Tevez impressively roamed around the final third and worked the channels.

This ultimately left a 4v3 battle in midfield – with Benzema’s press on Pirlo a forgone conclusion, the 34-year-old was allowed to spray passes out wide and over the top of the Madrid defence. More importantly, Juventus always had a passing option available, which allowed Conte’s men to play quick incisive passes through midfield, guiding them into advanced positions.

However, it was Pogba who thrived in midfield, as Madrid failed to track his runs down the left side.

  • In the 12th minute, Pogba ran down the left side of the field unmarked – behind Khedira – and received a long ball from Marchisio. Pogba waited for Ogbonna to make a decoy run to drag Khedira out of position, and he played a lovely ball towards Llorente, but Casillas punched it away.
  • In the 16th minute, Pogba made another direct run from midfield, while Tevez and Llorente linked play to break free from Madrid’s defenders. Once again, Pogba’s run wasn’t tracked due to Juventus’ numerical advantage in midfield and he played a lovely ball into Llorente, who nodded down the ball for Tevez, but it trickled into Casillas’ hands.
  • Five minutes later, Pirlo played a pass to the advancing Caceres on the right flank, and the Uruguayan defender distributed a lovely ball into the advancing Pogba, who nodded the ball on goal. Casillas did well to make the initial save, but Llorente quickly got his foot to the rebound, to deservedly level the score line. Once again Pogba made a run down the left side unmarked, but it’s key to note that Ronaldo failed to track Caceres’ run – a flaw in Ronaldo’s game – and the initial ball came from Pirlo, who would’ve been pressed in that zone by Benzema 10 minutes prior.
  • A minute into the second half, an unmarked Pirlo played a clever ball – from a deeper position – over the top of the Madrid defenders to an unmarked Pogba, but Casillas was quick off his line to punch the ball away.

Juventus’ numerical advantage in midfield allowed them to settle into the match, and Pogba was often the spare man who guided the Bianconeri forward. Unfortunately the match didn’t end 11v11, but Pogba was the key cog in Juventus’ midfield prior to Giorgio Chiellini’s sending off.

Madrid struggle

Besides Ronaldo’s brace, Madrid was extremely disappointing for majority of the first half.  The main issue was the distance between midfield and attack, as Madrid’s midfield trio often sat alongside each other in deep positions. In fairness, Juve’s shape without the ball was compact, and they maintained an organized shape while shifting from side-to-side.

Benzema had limited involvement from an attacking sense, while Ronaldo looked bright when he received the ball on the flank and drifted centrally – avoiding several Juventus challenges.

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Di Maria was Madrid’s most lively player in the first half, who relished taking on the inexperienced Ogbonna, as majority of Madrid’s attacks came from that side. Ronaldo and Di Maria rarely dropped deep into midfield to receive the ball, so Madrid’s midfield trio had issues moving forward as a unit, along with facilitating their front three.

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As you can see, forward passes from Madrid’s midfield was a rarity, and Ancelotti’s men to lacked penetration in attack, as they didn’t possess a genuine link between the lines. Juventus made the most of their possession, where as Madrid were unable to move forward in unison.

Madrid’s midfield was poor in the first half – their deep positions often left Madrid’s attack disjointed, and their three attackers were deprived of quality service.

11v10

Chiellini’s second half dismissal hindered Juventus’ chances of mounting a comeback, as Conte was forced to replace Llorente with Leonardo Bonucci. Llorente started the match slow, but he slowly began to link with Tevez, and his ability to hold up the ball to allow midfielder runners forward was beneficial. However, Conte was confident that his side could still find openings in Madrid’s defence, so he opted to maintain a back four.

Madrid began to push forward as a unit, and Modric began to shine. Juventus became a 4-4-1 without the ball, but as time wore on, energy levels dipped, and Modric was able to slyly tiptoe past challenges and drive forward.

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Madrid was patient in possession and their best opening came in the 60th minute when Arbeloa’s overlapping run led to a cross in the box, which Benzema scuffed from six-yards out. Khedira also missed a golden chance to the put the match to bed, but his audacious attempt at a chip, fell into Buffon’s hands.

Kwadwo Asamoah replaced Pirlo and played on the left flank, while Pogba joined Vidal in midfield. Tevez stayed upfront, and although he was outnumbered 2v1, his runs into the channels were pivotal as they allowed Conte’s midfield to get higher up the pitch. Juventus competed despite Chiellini’s dismissal, but there was a vast improvement in Madrid’s attacking impetus – yet, they struggled to get behind Juventus’ backline and created minimal chances.

Final 25 minutes

Ancelotti made three attacking chances in the final 25 minutes, introducing Isco, Gareth Bale and Alvaro Morata. It was evident that Madrid was looking for a third goal, but Ancelotti’s chances affected the balance in Madrid’s shape.

The introduction of Sebastian Giovinco also benefitted Conte’s men. His mobility and pace troubled Madrid’s backline – Pepe and Modric were forced to foul the Italian, while his penetrating run from half forced Casillas to make a fingertip save. With Isco and Modric pushed forward, Madrid lacked a competent shield in front of their backline. Tevez and Giovinco’s movement off the ball began to drag a few defenders out of position, and Madrid looked vulnerable on the break.

Frankly, better decision-making and confidence from Giovinco could’ve resulted in a Juventus equalizer, but Ancelotti’s men hung on once again. Madrid made three attacking changes in the final 25 minutes aiming to score another goal, yet Ancelotti’s alterations disrupted their overall balance, and Juventus looked the more threatening side in the final third.

Conclusion

This was a match of two halves – Juventus dominated the midfield, while containing Madrid’s main threats, but Chiellini’s dismissal resulted in an improved Madrid second half performance.

Madrid was far from impressive on the night, but Ronaldo’s goals bailed them out once again. They’re still a work in progress, and will head into this weekend’s Clasico full of confidence. The lack of a natural link between midfield and attack, along with their inability to penetrate is worrying, as a referee’s error and two mental lapses guided them to three points.

“Tonight we only lost due to a couple of small details, a couple of things that did not go our way,” Conte said.

“We played at the same level as Madrid and we could even have won. Now everything is certainly more difficult but we proved we can be competitive against any opponent. Last year we were outclassed by Bayern while this season we played a great game against a team who are more or less at the same level as the European champions. So I don’t think we are in crisis as many said on the eve of the game – quite the opposite actually,” Conte added.

Unlike last season’s Champions League exit, Juventus were not outclassed – coincidentally, they were the better side prior to Chiellini’s dismissal.  The Bianconeri have earned two points in three matches, meaning they’ll need close to maximum points if they intend on progressing to the knockout round. However, Conte’s tactical alterations looked promising, and he may have found a solution to his formation dilemma in Europe.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Galatasaray 1 – 6 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid cruised past Turkish champions Galatasaray in a rematch of last year’s Champions League quarterfinals.

Galatasaray vs Real Madrid - Football tactics and formations

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.

Madrid’s shape

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.

Felipe Melo

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.

  1. Melo drove into ample space in midfield to drive a venomous 30-yard shot that was wonderfully saved by Casillas.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Pressing

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.

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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.

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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

Galatasaray vs Real Madrid - Football tactics and formations

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.

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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.

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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.

Second half

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.

Conclusion

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.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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