Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid

Juventus and Real Madrid played to a 2-2 draw in Turin this evening in Champions League Group B action.

Both sides had phases of dominance- Juventus controlled the tempo in the first half, earning slightly more possession and creating the much more dangerous scoring opportunities. In the second half Madrid controlled the play.

Both sides opted for 4-3-3 formations (whoscored.com refers to Juve’s formation as a 4-1-4-1 in the graphic below- I’d call it 4-3-3). Xabi Alonso played in front of the back four for Carlo Ancelotti’s side having returned to the Real Madrid lineup Saturday after a lengthy groin injury. Khedira and Modric played the two shuttling roles. Sergio Ramos was given a rare start at right back ahead of Arbeloa with Pepe and Varane playing the center half spots. Iker Casillas was given the start in goal.

The only changes Antonio Conte made to the side that were beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid in match week three were to the left side of his defense. Bonucci replaced the red carded Chiellini at left center back while Asamoah was preferred to Ogbona at left back.

 First Half
 Juventus were dangerous down the left wing in the first half. Ronaldo started the game on the right flank but stayed high up the pitch with Benzema when Juventus were in possession. Xabi Alonso, Modric and Khedira kept a tight, narrow defensive shape in the middle and Bale dropped in to defend Juventus’s right flank. With Ronaldo keeping an advanced central position on defense, Juventus were left with space on the left touchline to drift into.

Tevez would drop into this space, forcing Ramos to move into a wide area to close him down and creating a gap between Ramos and his center back Varane. Pogba, who was excellent for Juventus in the first half, continually sprinted in behind Khedira and Real’s midfield line and into the gap between Ramos and Varane. Juventus’s opener came when Juve quickly switched the point of attack from right to left and took advantage of Pogba’s lung-bursting runs into that gap. Llorente received the ball in the middle and played it wide to Tevez. Ramos was forced to close him down towards the touchline. Pogba sprinted in behind the Real Madrid midfield and received a dangerous pass in the penalty area. In his effort to recover Varane dives in and commits a penalty. The screen shot below shows Llorente’s pass in flight to Tevez down the left channel. Notice Ramos being forced to close Tevez down in a wide position and Pogba bursting forward into the open space.

Pogba’s ability to find space behind Khedira to sprint into with the ball was dangerous throughout the half. On 28 minutes he was able to collect a crossfield pass from Vidal behind Khedira inside Juventus’s half. He drove forward toward Ramos who was left to defend Pogba and Tevez 1 v. 2 and slotted the ball wide to Tevez. With time and space, the Argentinian was able to stand up a beautiful ball to the back post for Marchisio who was denied by a world class save from Casillas.

Much of Juve’s dominance in the first half also had to do with the ease with which Pirlo was receiving the ball. Neither Khedira nor Modric stepped forward from their midfield line to press him and Benezema and Ronaldo didn’t drop in to deny passes into him. As a result, Pirlo was able to dictate the tempo and pick out dangerous penetrating passes forward. Pirlo completed 89 passes in the match- more than any other player.

Offensively in the first half, Real Madrid were at their most dangerous on the break. When they recovered possession, they looked to play quick outlet passes to Benzema checking back into midfield. Khedira did well on a number of occasions to quickly break forward and provide Benzema with an option to lay the ball off too. They would then look for Bale and Ronaldo breaking forward in behind the Juventus back four.

 Second Half
Whereas Ronaldo started the game on the right and move around freely in the opening 45 minutes, in the second half he maintained a position wide on the left. Presumably this was because Ancelotti wanted him to exploit the space behind Juventus’s right back Caceres. Throughout the game Caceres had been playing high up the pitch to provide width in attack and therefore leaving space in behind him. In the second half Real Madrid took advantage of that space. Ronaldo’s leveler was the result of a poor back pass from Caceres and not any tactical change. However, Real’s second was indeed a result of the tactical decision to have Ronaldo move into the space behind the right back. With Marcelo receiving the ball on the left wing, Ronaldo made a diagonal run into the left channel behind Caceres. He was spotted by Marcelo, collecting the ball on the flank and finding Bale making a run to the edge of the penalty area. Bale still had plenty to do and his finish was excellent but goal was the result of Real bypassing the Juve midfield by finding Ronaldo free in the left channel.

The big tactical weakness Ronaldo creates for Real Madrid when he’s employed on the left is his reluctance to track the opposition fullback. For Juventus’s equalizer, Caceres was able to receive the ball on the wing with Ronaldo nowhere near him. He had the time to have a look in the box and pick out a cross and found Llorente with a delicious outswinging cross. Varane probably deserves the bulk of the blame for the goal- his defending on Llorente was poor- but Cacares was given too much time and space and the wing to play the ball in. 

The 2-2 scoreline was probably a fair result though Iker Casillas was the busier of the two keepers. Real Madrid still don't look an entirely fluid side. In a 4-3-3 without a #10, their front three and midfield three at times looks disjointed. 

Juventus's drop off between the first half, when they were much the better side, and the early stages of the second half was surprising. They seemed shell shocked by Ronaldo's leveler and never really regained they form they showed in the first half. Copenhagen's win over Galatasaray in Group B's other game meant the draw wasn't a bad result in the end. Juve sit a point behind Copenhagen and Galatasaray in the battle for second and will play both of those sides in the final two fixtures. 

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