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Tactical Analysis

Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Tactical Analysis

Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid

The tides are changing in Spanish football, or so it seems, with the ‘other’ club from the capital city progressing last campaign and impressing in this one. After an explosive start to the campaign, Atletico Madrid were looking to make it 7 wins out of 7, hours after Barcelona beat their own record to get maximum points after 7 games.

For Real Madrid it was a case of avenging the Copa del Rey defeat from last season. Going into the game, Real were already 5 points behind Barcelona and risked going behind Atletico by the same gap, a win however would take them over their now ‘noisy neighbours’.

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Real went for a fairly straightforward line up, the rumours were that Bale would start in his first home game but the Welshman started on the bench. Isco & Illarramendi made the starting XI again, Diego Lopez continued between the posts while Fabio Coentrao got a rare start. Atletico Madrid’s side was strong on paper as well. The in-form Diego Costa started alongside David Villa with the regular starting XI behind them.

Before we get into the analysis, there are two articles that might interest you, the first is an infographic leading up to this game and the second is a detailed Tactical Analysis of the Copa del Rey final from last season, which Atletico won 2-1.

Diego Costa’s positioning & the failed Offside Trap

Diego Simeone opted for an interesting approach with the hitman, Diego Costa. The usual approach is to position David Villa in a deeper role playing behind the frontman, but Simeone played Costa in a much more deeper role as well. It resulted in Atletico lacking any player to play off the shoulders of the last man, this naturally pulled Real Madrid’s back 4 out towards the centre circle. It also prevented Costa from being marked throughout the game, allowing him to play in a more free role with the option of running at the defence. Ancelotti didn’t expect Costa to play in such a deep role and refrained from deploying a midfielder to mark him as well. This proved to be a true master-stroke from the Atletico manager as it allowed the side to effectively take possession and counter.

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The high-line that Real were forced to play with proved to be a constant flaw in their approach. The defence was positioned higher up, forced out by Diego Costa; Atletico were thus able to play balls in behind Real defence throughout the game. Costa’s speed and strength allowed him through on goal a number of occasions and it also resulted in the only goal of the game. Koke played Costa through behind the Real defence and he finished for his 8th of the season, joint-top with Lionel Messi.

As seen here for the goal, Ramos played Costa on side (like he did on a number of occasions).

As seen here for the goal, Ramos played Costa on side (like he did on a number of occasions).

The Madrid defence eventually started attempting to catch the Atletico attackers offside but they were never on the same wavelength. They failed to move in tandem which further created opening for the opposition. The lack of organisation and discipline in Real’s defence was an embarrassment.

Real lacked a creative head in midfield

Ancelotti went in to the game to prevent it from becoming an intense affair, he realised the pace that Atletico like to play at and attempted to take control by calming down the pace of the game. Passes were constantly made back to the defence to assure Real were in control of the game. Sergio Ramos saw a lot of the ball as a result, 86 passes were attempted by him, the most on the pitch which suggests how much of the ball he actually saw. The Real captain came forward and collected the ball in an attempt to create something meaningful for the side as they lacked any such player in the side.

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Xabi Alonso’s loss to injury really seems to be taking a toll on the Galacticos. The importance of such a player can never be underestimated as Real have learnt. Players like Khedira and Illarramendi, although brilliant in their own right, still lack that creative edge which is provided by a Alonso type player. Real sale of Ozil is further bewildering in this regard as Real had absolutely nothing in terms of creativity. Ramos moved forward to compensate, leaving gaps at the back; Ronaldo dropped deep to attempt something, which reduced Real’s effectiveness in the final third. It just goes to show how despite having the best players, if you fail to maintain a balance in your side, you can’t succeed.

Ancelotti’s midfield was far too defensive minded and took Atletico’s solidity in midfield in account at the cost of their own creativity.

The Benzema tactic & Atleti’s defence

Many football experts don’t think highly of Karim Benzema and apparently neither did Diego Simeone. Just as the Argentine ensured his own player, Diego Costa, wasn’t marked in the attacking third, he prevented his defenders from marking Real’s No.9, Benzema, as well. Atletico left the Frenchman free in his central role. Instead, the Atletico players spent their time marking Benzema’s passing options. The likes of Ronaldo and Di Maria were closely monitored while Benzema himself was allowed a fair amount of time on the ball. As Simeone expected, the ex-Lyon man failed to deliver or maintain any form of link-up play with the rest of his team-mates.

MORE: Benzema, Bale and Real’s quest for an alternative 9

Any passes that Benzema did attempt were quickly intercepted and gathered up by the Atletico defence. Diego Simeone’s men played a desperate yet disciplined game in the defensive third, they constantly had numbers back and regularly worked hard to ensure Real didn’t see too much of the ball in their final third.

Illustration via Squawka.com

Illustration via Squawka.com

Ancelotti’s decision to substitute youngster, Alvaro Morata, in for the striker further illustrates this point. Morata, who impressed at the U-21 European Championship (and was one of our players to watch out for), seems to have a more telling contribution and effect on the side. He has a lot of Morientes and Raul about him and seems to be the better striking option.

Morata also offers the option of playing off the shoulder of the last defence while Benzema fails to do so. Merely having a man in the final third can create opportunities for the side. But given the lack of creativity from midfield, any striker would struggle to perform.

Over to you! That was our analysis of the derby, was there anything particular that you (tactically) noticed? Let us know by dropping a comment below.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.

 CLICK HERE TO READ OUR OTHER TACTICAL ANALYSES

Sami Faizullah

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