This game was a tight contest between two top sides although this wasn’t the most tactical intriguing El Classico it still was interesting to see were both teams match up especially concerning Real Madrid. Real Madrid played a 4-3-3 and looked to sit in a medium block allowing Barcelona to play out from the back and play their normal game.
Real madrids man orientations
Real Madrids shape was a 4-3-3 which at times when the wingers Cristiano and Bale dropped back became a 4-5-1:
When Real Madrid were without the ball the midfield especially was man orientated throughout the game Kroos against Messi and Modric tracking Iniesta with Casemiro covering the space or pressing up on Busquets when he rotated up field.
In this scenario Messi drops deep and Kroos presses up to stop the pass into Messi while Casimero and Modric stop the passes into Iniesta and Busquets. In this screenshot you can see Rakitic free in between the lines in the half space if a pass goes into this area it will obviously be dangerous as Rakitic can turn and as he’s in the half space can open up space in other areas. Casimero glances over his shoulder and realizes the danger and leaves his man (Busquets) in order to deal with the potential pass into Rakitic.
Mascherano plays a long ball out wide to Alves but the pass to Rakitic in between four players in still on but because Casimero anticipated it earlier he manages to get back and challenge Rakitic limiting the danger.
In this example Real Madrid are deep but use their man orientations as a way of pushing up. Iniesta drops deep to receive the ball from pique and is tracked by Modric, Kroos tracks Messi deep and Casimero pushes on Busquets who intelligently rotates inside for Iniesta to receive the ball. All Rakitic has to do is sneak into the space behind him untracked and unmarked.
This is an easy pass in between the lines for Iniesta to make but instead he checks back and passes sidewards into Busquets who drops deep.You can see Casimero( the deepest of the 3 madrid midfielders) realize Rakitic is free and as you can see by his body language leaves his man to cut out the pass to Rakitic fortunately for his it went sidewards. In my opinion Barcelona didn’t get the ball into these areas often enough. In this game there are plenty of examples of the space the man orientations of Real Madrid left and how careless they were in leaving space in between the lines it left Casimero with decisions to make as to whether to press? Who to track? And how to position himself and I felt he did pretty well in this respect.
Barcelona playing through the half space
Barcelona has some of the best combination players when they play into the half spaces in between the lines it spell danger. Because of real Madrid’s man orientated style im surprised Barcelona didn’t use these areas more often as on plenty of occasions Messi and Rakitic where free in between 3 or 4 players which helps create space. On the occasions where they did play through these spaces they created the space they wanted.
As Kroos shifts over Messi spots a passing lane opening up in between three players.
As Messi drops he attracts Casimero and has close support of Busquets who can play a quick pass forward in to Suarez. In this situation Barcelona were unlucky and Suarez was caught just offside as the Madrid line pushed up.
In my opinion Barcelona did not get the ball into Messi in these spaces often enough or when they did they were often wasteful and had poor structure around the ball. Passes into these areas are useful as they can open up spaces for Neymar on the outside or Suarez centrally if the CB presses.
Real Madrid space creation for counter attacks Barcelona poor structure
As the game went on Real Madrid started to have more chances on goal through counter attacking due to Barcelona carelessness on the ball and lack of structure when pressing but Real Madrid did create come nice movements to open up the space. Here is an example of that:
As Real Madrid are building from the back all Barcelona players react accordingly and orientate themselves man for man to ensure Real Madrid don’t have easy access. As the its moves on you start to see Kroos free as no Barca player is near him.
The ball carrier now has a free passing lane open as if Kroos receives he can turn as switch which will take 5 Barca players out of the game or delay to create more space which is what he did.
Arda turan reacts too late Kroos keeps the momentum sucks him in as Casimero rotates inside into the free space created.
HUGE amount of space opens up for Casimero to exploit this resulted in a counter attack in which Cristiano nearly scored.
This is just a basic look at some problems that occurred during El classico. In what was a very tight game this was Barcelona’s to lose they had the better chances to win the game and I believe if they were only slightly better structured both from an attacking point of view and a defensive point of view no doubt they would have won not taking anything away from Real Madrid though they defended well on the whole but were extremely lucky due to the space they left in midfield.