Following on from defeat to Sevilla, Real Madrid need to bounce back immediately and will be looking to do so in an intimidating Madrid derby in La Liga. This tactical analysis will use statistics to preview how Julen Lopetegui‘s Real Madrid can look to get one over Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, despite his side coming into the tie as they lose form whilst their rivals are just beginning to pick up steam.
It will also give Los Blancos a chance to get revenge for UEFA Super Cup defeat in Lopetegui’s first competitive fixture in charge of the club. Having learnt from that encounter only a matter of weeks ago, here our tactical analysis identifies what could make the difference in this La Liga encounter.
Real Madrid can’t afford to lose their shape
The last time that these two sides met, Atletico Madrid’s ability to pull Real Madrid’s defence out of shape was fatal for Los Blancos. Even within the first minute in that tie, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, who was recently so critical of Antoine Griezmann, were dragged towards the ball and were unable to keep up as Diego Costa blasted past them and smashed a shot beyond Keylor Navas in goal.
Even later in the tie, the Real Madrid defence were guilty of ball watching and being caught out. Atletico’s movement in and around the box is at an elite level, even more so with the likes of Griezmann, Costa, Angel Correa, Thomas Lemar and Saul Niguez on the prowl. Real Madrid have to be cautious of that or could risk being exploited from a side who clearly know how to do just that.
Following defensive disasters in Seville on Wednesday night, maintaining discipline at the back is pivotal for Real Madrid, particularly in the early stages where an early goal could get the Bernabeu crowd on their back and provide a real dent to confidence.
Atletico Madrid must exploit the counter attack
It is no surprise that Atletico Madrid are clinical on the counter, despite their slow start to the season. In recent outings, there has been an element of this returning within Diego Simeone’s team’s game though, particularly against Monaco where Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa linked up expertly to create space and shock the Ligue Un club only moments after they were launching a dangerous attack.
The counter attack could be even more dangerous following Real Madrid’s defeat to Sevilla in midweek where two goals came from the counter attack to humiliate the Champions League winners in quick succession in the first half. With full-backs caught outfield and age beginning to show in Sergio Ramos, Lopetegui will have to consider a plan to prevent allowing Atletico the kind of space that they thrive on when on the counter.
Atletico have continued to diversify their attack in recent years, adding new dimensions with the physicality of Diego Costa alongside Antoine Griezmann dropping into a deeper position, but on this occasion, the counter will be the key if they are to find a way past Real Madrid.
The visitors will sit deep
One element of his game which Simeone has shown no intention of changing is with his defensive set-up. When defending, the Argentinian likes his teams to sit with two banks of four with a striker dropping deep to form a narrow and impenetrable block. This will stifle any creativity that Real Madrid look to create through Luka Modric or Toni Kroos in the middle.
Equally, it will blunt the likes of Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio who like to use their explosive pace to find space in the backline and create gaps. Atletico will, however, likely sit deep and prevent those spaces from ever opening up. That means that Lopetegui will have to look for alternate ways to break down a resilient Atletico defence.
Such a challenge is nothing new for Real Madrid, but they rarely come up against such quality defensive options. Creating the breakthrough by looking to the flanks will be crucial, yet Karim Benzema will have to rediscover his form from the opening weeks of the season in order to provide the finishing touch.
The hosts need their full-backs to turn up
As was the case against the likes of Getafe, Leganes, Athletic Club and Espanyol, with a defence sitting deep, Lopetegui will look to spread play wide in order to find a breakthrough. Real Madrid may boast the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio in attack, but such a pivotal tie could be the one where they need their full-backs to be at their best.
Unfortunately for Los Blancos, injuries will have an impact. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal are both expected to miss out whilst Alvaro Odriozola remains a major doubt. That leaves Nacho likely to fill in, whilst an alternative will be sought to fill the other flank, maybe even opening the door to 21-year-old left-back Sergio Reguilon for a shock La Liga debut.
With that likely to be the case, it will hugely limit Real Madrid’s attacking potential. If Odriozola is fit, it could be pivotal in order to provide such an attacking outlet down the right flank without fear of being caught out, whilst Nacho is a more defensive minded option and Reguilon is unlikely to have the confidence to bomb down the flank or look to get in at the far post like Marcelo and Carvajal usually do.