Real Madrid have been the most successful club in the history of the UEFA Champions League with a total of 13 titles. Last decade, they were the best performing side in the tournament again winning four times and three of them in a row.
They say attack wins you games but defence wins you titles. However, no one mentions anything about a good midfield partnership in the proverb, whereas it is the midfield which does the most work, covers the largest amounts of ground helping both in attack and defence. If you dominate the midfield battle in a game you will probably win your games 90% of the time.
One of the biggest reasons behind Real’ success in Spain and Europe, is that they have kept hold of the same solid midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric for the longest period of time.
It has been one of the best midfield trios in the world and serving the Los Blancos even now, after the departure of a few big names from the team recently. With their creativity and experience, the trio has pulled Madrid through many tough games all by themselves, along with a chemistry which is outrageously good.
This season in the UCL, Real Madrid have struggled to get going right from the start with a shock win to Sheriff at home. But like every team they have bounced back strongly with a 0-5 battering of Shaktar Donetsk away from home.
With two wins and one loss, they sit on top of their group table, scoring seven times and conceding just twice. In the domestic campaign, Los Blancos have been a formidable side with one of the best attack, midfield and defence in the league.
No matter how much they struggle to find the back of the net at times, Madrid is rarely vulnerable in defence and a huge credit for that goes to Casemiro. Sitting at the base of the midfield three, the 29-year-old Brazilian has kept Madrid safe as a house
We look at a few stats from this UCL campaign.
Casemiro has played in all three of the matches, as the defensive mid in the 4-3-3 system implemented. The Brazilian has covered an extensive amount of area, precisely from his box to the opposition box regularly boasting a very high work rate. He has spent most of his time in the defensive third of the pitch, acting as a shield to the Madrid back four – the red and orange areas in the above image show that. While Real Madrid are on the attack, Casemiro has carried the ball higher up the pitch and taken up places the majority of the time near the centre circle and on the right side of the attacking third in the other half. He has been very mobile, always positioning himself in the right place at the right time, justifying his nickname given by the fans – The Tank.
The Brazilian is very comfortable on the ball and extremely hard to dispossess. He is one of the best distributors in the team with a very wide passing range. Averaging nearly 79 touches per 90 and 63 passes, Casemiro has completed a total of 172 passes so far, registering an alarmingly high accuracy of 91%, one of the best in the squad and the tournament. He attempted passes can be divided into three distinct divisions, trying to analyze what he has done. The first stage of passing has been in the defensive third, where he has tried to play the ball out from the danger area, either forward to the other mids or towards the flanks to the full-backs pushing up. In the second stage, he has received the ball near the centre from where he has progressed the ball forward in the attacking third. In the final stage, near the attacking third, he has linked up with the other teammates to create chances. Most of his passes have been in this area from where he has even tried to deliver dangerous crosses into the box as well with xT of 0.1310 at times.
Being a defensive mid, his biggest job is to stop other teams attacks. For that he has engaged in 28 duels so far, winning 43% of it. The Brazilian has been pretty strong in the air as well winning 50% of his aerial duels. However, he has won most of his duels higher up the pitch in order to keep the ball so the attacks can continue. He has been a solid interceptor of the ball, efficiently taking off balls of other players as well as stopping passes from the opponents to mitigate any chance of attacks. The majority of these interceptions have been just outside the penalty box where he has disrupted the opposition attacks. Casemiro has never been afraid to do the dirty work, winning 67% of his attempted tackles while conceding six fouls as of yet. Casemiro uses his experience really well to his benefit and very well knows his job. He ranks 90th percentile in interceptions attempted per 90 while ranking 86th percentile for recoveries in the opposition half per 90 minutes. Due to Real dominating the ball most of the time, he has not engaged in a lot of duels but his success rate has been better than the league median every single time.
He has established himself as one of the best destroyers of the generation and is turning into a very good creator as well with time, operating as a box-to-box mid often. With Real Madrid certainly eyeing to win trophies both domestically and globally, Casemiro is going to be extremely important in turning them into a strong contender again.