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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus | How the Italians reached the final

Finally after 5 years, we will now see an Italian team on the final ‘’scene’’ of the Champions League. A pretty solid performance from both teams with Real more focused on attacking from the 1st minute, This did get the early goal by Ronaldo from a penalty. While on the other hand, Juventus tried to slow down the pace and try for counters. The man helping Juventus get a ticket to the finale, was none other than the ex-Real Madrid striker: Alvaro Morata, who was sold to Juventus this season.


Real Madrid - Juventus Tactics


Real Madrid: 1 Casillas, 15 Carvajal, 3 Pepe, 4 Ramos, 12 Marcelo, 10 James, 8 Kroos,
23 Isco, 11 Bale, 9 Benzema (Chicharito), 7 Ronaldo.
1 Buffon, 3 Chiellini, 19 Bonucci, 33 Evra, 26 Lichtensteiner, 6 Pogba (Pereyra),
21 Pirlo (Barzagli), 8 Marchisio, 23 Vidal, 10 Tevez, 9 Morata (Llorente)

 Ronaldo (penalty)  // Morata

Aggressive Madrid

Real started with the 4-4-2 formation with Bale either dropping deep forming a 4-man midfield line in defense and creating the 4-4-2 or penetrating in a more attacking position creating a 3-man attack.
Real were throughout the game very attack minded and also very aggressive in their approach, focusing much on the full-backs to keep the pitch as wide as possible, leaving Isco and James penetrating in a very deep zone. This was done to give them space and time to position themselves with the the opposition goal in their sights, with James more positioned on the left-centre-midfield area and with Isco the same, but on the opposite side.

When ever these two attacking/centre-midfielders dropped deep, we saw Carvajal and Marcelo penetrating the flanks creating almost 2-1-4-3 formation in the build-ups. The philosophy of Isco and James dropping deep can be understood by focusing on Juventus’ system of play.

So in this game Juventus played their 4-3-1-2 formation, with basically 4 center-midfielders forming the diamond shape. Now playing a system like this, you are focusing on out-playing the opposition in the middle of the pitch, whereas you don’t have the wingers-type of players. Real though, knew this, especially from the 1st clash were Juventus were often seen penetrating through the centre with Vidal and Tevez switching positions, finding the ball between the different lines of the Real Madrid defense, very often.
So what Real focused on was to break through the central-block of Juventus, by dropping deep with James and Isco, allowing Marcelo and Carvajal to position themselves more offensively  in the wide areas. This move caused Juventus to either let (for example) James drop deep and start to penetrate the space he has in front or leave the defending position to put pressure on James, which would then give the full-back (Marcelo for-example) more time and space to attack through the flanks.


James has positioned himself in a deep position in the build-up process of Real. Now in this situation Tevez, is helping Marchisio (but there were many occasions were Tevez/Morata did not help the winger out). You see that Marchisio has a space left behind him as he does not know if to press James or focus on Marcelo who has positioned himself wider and more offensively.


Now Marcelo is keeping the width and Ronaldo penetrates the half-space between the lines. If in a situation like this, the ball was to be played to Marcelo, then Lichtensteiner is the one to put pressure on Marcelo or else Marcelo has time to penetrate the flank and if he does not put pressure on Marcelo, then Cristiano has a far better opportunity to attack the flank-channel. This simple move, opened up spaces for Real Madrid as they moved the Juventus defensive-lines horizontally, switching sides trying to find spaces between the lines.


Real has all parts of the team positioned higher-up the pitch now, where they have players focusing on the width and depth horizontally and vertically. Now here is another situation of the importance of the full-backs/width and how it opened up, the center-block of Juventus.


Now Marchisio is 1vs1 against Marcelo on the flank, which has opened up spaces for James and Ronaldo to penetrate. Now by penetrating the half-space, James and Ronaldo have 2 defending players each occupied, James (Lichtensteiner & Bonucci ) and Ronaldo (Bonucci & Pirlo). Who should follow who?


Marcelo has played the ball to Ronaldo, and is, as you see, now free on the flank. If Ronaldo was to play the ball to Marcelo then Real has Bonucci and Lichtensteiner out of position but more importantly 2vs2 inside the box, with James penetrating the space that has opened up between Bonucci and Chiellini.
In this situation James is clever as he has noticed this and starts his run to penetrate the space between the 2 center-backs, and also gets the pass from Ronaldo which meant that Real has played through 5 Juventus players with 1 pass. James gets the ball and is eventually knocked down by a Juve player causing a penalty for Real.

Block the center

Real Madrid played with a 4-4-2 defense line-up. A 4-4-2 which was very well executed organizationally as Real used the opposite tactic of their attacking-style in defense.
A compact and centrally focused midfield/defense, to prevent Juve from playing through the lines, forcing them to play it out to the wide-areas of the pitch, where Real could out-number Juventus and win the ball back with an aggressive approach.


Tactical Analysis: Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid

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In Juventus’ build-up we know the style of how Pirlo comes deep in search of the ball (similar to Isco, Kroos & James) but with Pirlo positioned more centrally between the 2 center-backs of Juventus. We can say that the Real defense started with, Benzema who was the one to stop Pirlo from receiving the ball, by always maintaining tight-marking and following his movements.

What Juventus wants is to play through the central areas of the pitch to find Tevez who more than often was positioned between the midfield & defending lines of Real penetrating the half-space, and from there-on attack with a direct style, exploding with attacking-players towards the opposition goal.
So to prevent Juventus from playing this system, Real forced them to play it wide and also blocked the center area of the pitch.


Notice the diamond formation of Juventus and how Benzema has Pirlo marked, and every Real player has cut out the space/man in midfield of Juventus to receive the ball.
Bale is starting the aggressive pressure on the man in possession of the ball, to prevent him from getting time to play it long. Notice the 3 midfield battles in the center of the pitch, which shows you how close and central the midfielders of Juventus actually are, in relation the each other. Now what Madrid has done here, is to close down every player/space in the center.  Isco has Pogba, Kroos has Marchisio and James starting to move towards Vidal.

Now as I said before, Juventus wants to seek the ball through the middle and does exactly that as you see how Tevez has dropped down from his forward-position to penetrate the half-space between the 2 defensive lines of Madrid, as this is exactly where they want to find Tevez, running at full-speed towards the goal with the ball in possession.


To solve this ‘’False 9’’ situation of when Tevez moves deep to get the ball in half-spaces, Ramos is the one putting pressure on Tevez from behind, with a full-sprint to prevent him from getting space & time with the ball. Ramos leaves his position of the center-back to prevent Juventus from penetrating through the center as they wish to (the same type of defending was seen from Varane, as this depended on whether they were in their ‘’zone’’ of defense or not). Also notice how Marcelo has not decided to move wider to cut Lichtensteiner out, but how Marcelo and the Real Madrid defense still keeps a solid 3-man defending line, trying to stay compact to not open themselves to Juventus.

15 minutes of Vidal

Real Madrid started the 2nd half with the same approach as before, high aggressive pressing in a 4-4-2 formation with Bale sometimes creating a 4-3-3.
To counter the organized defense of Real Madrid, Juventus, during the build-up process, did try to find spaces and exploit Real, but with all team-parts of Real Madrid pressing high (defense, midfield and forward) and aggressively, Juventus searched for the long-ball to find an attacker in the space behind the midfield line (the space between defenders and midfield line).

Now for the 2nd half, Juventus made one tactical adjustment offensively and one defensively. I will start with the offensive tactical adjustment, and that was to once again give Vidal a more free-role as he penetrated higher up the pitch, now creating a 3-man-ish attack and a more compact deep-lying 3-man centre midfield of Juventus (in build-ups).
This made it harder for the 3-defending line of Real Madrid to defend as one of the full-backs was positioned higher up the pitch to help Real with the aggressive pressing approach vs Juventus, while the one who wasn’t pressing formed a 3-man defensive line.  Now whenever the ball was played long, the defenders had problems as they now were not able to leave their spot to put pressure on the attacker coming deep to get the ball as that would have left too much space for the attackers to penetrate.


Here we have a situation where Real has the massive pressure on Juventus, while Juventus trying to play through Real Madrid, keeping the ball in possession. Notice here that Marchisio, Pirlo and Pogba are the 3 midfielders that is joining the build-up and as Vidal is nowhere to be seen. Notice also the sprint of Marcelo towards Lichtsteiner on the flank, to put pressure on him. Bonucci here is trying to play the long-ball.


Here Morata has left his position to seek the ball in a deeper area. Varane is not secure enough to follow his movement, as Vidal and Tevez have positioned themselves close to the defenders. This creates more space for Morata to penetrate creating a 3vs3 situation.


Here you see how Juventus has now countered the high pressure of Real Madrid, and on this attack has attackers in full-sprint vs the 3 man defensive line of Real Madrid.

In the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, Juventus played a 4-3-3 formation in both defense and offense, but in the defense (when not in possession of the ball) putting high pressure on Real Madrid, not giving them enough time or space to find the deep-lying center-midfielders of Real Madrid (Isco, James & Kroos). This was meant to win the ball back as fast as possible but to also prevent Real from playing through the different parts of the team as they did and were able to do in the 1st half.


The high pressure from Juventus as you see how every one of the midfielders of Juventus has occupied one of the central midfielders of Real Madrid (with Pogba putting pressure on Carvajal) almost the same style of what Real Madrid did in the 1st half.

By having Vidal penetrating in a strikers role (wide and centrally) it gave Tevez more freedom to penetrate the half-spaces but also allowed the other attackers to stay more connected to each other, which did provide more balance and more dynamic for the two actual strikers of Juventus, who were seen out of position, trying to get the ball for most of the first half, which made it hard for Juventus to find them and provide any help for the attackers, to create any real threats.
With great movement combinations of Vidal and Tevez in the 2nd half, Juventus were now often seen playing the ball to Tevez who dropped deep as Vidal penetrated the striker-position/area.


This build-up situation of Juventus proves how they move in relation to each other to help the man in possession find Tevez between the midfield and defense line. We also see the ability of Pogba to understand situations and find solutions. Now notice the 3-man midfield formation of Juventus (with no Vidal). What Pogba plans to do, is to try to occupy Isco, by doing a dummy-run to search for the ball.


By coming deeper to seek the ball, he basically drags Isco out of position, which opens up a big space for Tevez to penetrate. Bonucci reads the situation and plays the ball into the zone/space that has now been opened up for Juventus. Notice also the movement of Vidal as he has positioned himself on the flank to occupy Carvajal, so that if the ball does get played to Tevez, Carvajal has to focus on Vidal instead which creates even more space for Tevez to attack.


This great tactical adjustment, to have Vidal acting as a striker and moving in relation to Tevez’ positioning on the pitch, helped Juventus to create and restore the missing link between the attackers and the midfielders as they now had Vidal occupying defenders if Tevez was dropping deep in the half-spaces, acting as the #10, and vice-versa if Vidal was the one dropping deep. This kind of combinational positional-play from Juve, depended on the situation. This attacking system of Juventus had most of its focus on finding Tevez in these dangerous areas, but did also on some occasions have Morata and Vidal penetrating these false-9 spaces/positions as well.

These tactical changes, did only last for 15 minutes as Juventus did exactly what they were striving for with this approach: to try and find the equalizing goal as fast as possible.
A master-class tactical change from Allegri for the 2nd half, proving how well this team is organized, switching styles, trying different combinations and formations to try and find the weak-links of the team and exploit them.


Right after Juventus scored their equalizer, they changed their 4-3-3 back to a 4-4-2, with Vidal dropping down as a central midfielder again.

Where does this leave them?

A big disappointment was the Ramos in center-midfield in the 1st clash as Juventus countered and out-played Real much better the first match. Juventus could easily play through Real Madrid’s center-defending approach, with great tactical assignments on: Tevez-Vidal-Pirlo.
Even though Real did get eliminated, they showed us and a great game and countered the Juventus system/tactics perfectly in the second leg, especially in the 1st half of the game.
What they have to do now is to focus, and most importantly hope for an eventual turn-around in the La-Liga table. Also, Ancelotti’s stay for another season, is yet to be decided.

Juventus on the other hand, has been organizationally and tactically compact through-out the season and with the arrival of the new coach and the new system: the 4-3-1-2 (4-4-2) diamond formation, they have brought the diamond shape back, to the spotlights of Europe.
With the likes of Pirlo (36) Vidal(30) Tevez(30) as the leaders of the pack, they have marched on and in some games they have totally out-run their opponents showing no mercy for any team at all. Though they had problems tonight, they still gave their all and never gave up which earned them a spot in the final of the Champions League.

At first, in pre-season, fans mocked manager Allegri, but he is now hailed worldwide for the way that he has transformed the Old Lady not only to a title-contender but most importantly to a non-stop working-engine(team).

Written by Albin Sheqiri

Albin Sheqiri

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