This coming Sunday, October 16th at 4:45pm, the world will once again come to a standstill to watch Real Madrid and FC Barcelona battle it out at the Santiago Bernabeu, in what will be the first clásico of the season.
Ancelotti’s team arrive to the match in better form than Xavi’s side. Despite being tied on points at the top of the table, Los Blancos possess more stability than their opponents after their successful last season and equipped with a more settled game model.
On the other hand, the Azulgranas are still in the process of rebuilding. In addition, the Culés come into the game after the Champions League debacle against Inter Milan, with the need to redeem themselves by beating their eternal rivals.
Therefore, this week, at the MBP School of Coaches, we will highlight the 3 tactical key points that we anticipate determining Sunday’s huge contest.
The 3 Tactical Key Points
FC Barcelona’s play between the lines vs Real Madrid’s key centre backs
Focusing on the attacking phase of the Blaugrana, we can identify the tendency to occupy the intralinear intervals, meaning the distance between the defensive lines of the opposing team. These areas are filled in by their attacking midfielders in the final 3rd and finishing zone moments.
The main objective of this tactical behaviour is to reduce the defensive width of the opponent to generate situations of spatial advantage in wide areas for their wingers. Furthermore, they can make the opposition defenders jump up which leads to defensive imbalances in the opponent’s last line. These can be exploited by the striker or by the second line of attackers.
Faced with this attacking behaviour, Real Madrid’s central defenders will have to be cautious in their tendency to reduce the space to opposition attackers. Both Militão and Alaba tend to apply the individual centre back’s fundamental of ‘Reducing The Space From The Opponent Dismarking In Support To Feet’, looking to step in and win the ball.
However, these actions from both players have already caused havoc in the last meeting played last season, as well as in the Champions League quarterfinals, as both players do not take into consideration the space they leave behind them, which can be exploited by the opponent.
Therefore, the Real Madrid centre backs will have to be more cautious in the execution of this individual tactical behavior, since a bad execution can result in a clear scoring chance for the opponent.
The right sector of FC Barcelona vs Vinicius Jr.
The second tactical key point that we believe could make a difference in the match is how Xavi Hernandez will adjust the defence of his team’s right sector, and who will be in charge of defending Vinicius Junior.
Despite the fact that Barca does not usually vary its dynamic defensive organisation of GK-4-4-2, it would not be strange to see the Catalan coach prioritize a more defensive winger over Dembelé in the right sector of his team, or the inclusion of an inside player like Kessié, all with the aim of looking for defensive 2vs1 situations against the Brazilian.
Likewise, the choice of the right back will be crucial. The selection of the player to mark Vini Jr. will have to have specific characteristics that will allow them to solve the problems likely to be faced.
For example, a profile such as Sergi Roberto may struggle excessively, as Vinicius is a specialist in the application of the individual fundamental of the winger ‘Attacking The Defender In 1v1 Situations With Spatial Advantage’.
On the other hand, players like Balde or Koundé (possible return from injury) would not have such a problem, as both players have a high speed of movement. In contrast, they would not contribute as much as the Catalan in the offensive phase.
The adaptation to the different match contexts
The second key point to the match will be to see who is more adaptable to the different contexts that occur during the 90 minutes.
Both teams, because of their style of play, want to take the initiative through an associative style of play. However, during next Sunday’s match, it is most likely that Barca will have more time on the ball to the detriment of Madrid.
Given this foreseeable match scenario, if we compare the behaviour of both teams during their defensive phase, we can observe how the reigning La Liga champions feel more comfortable during their defensive phase than their archrivals.
Ancelotti’s team showed during last season that they felt comfortable when they were positioned in a low block, accumulating many players near the midfield of their area, looking to reduce the intralinear distances and directing the opponent towards wide areas.
However, Barcelona have not yet mastered the off-the-ball phase of the game. The Culé tendency is to position themselves in a high block, looking to steal the ball as close to the opponent’s goal as possible. Nevertheless, when the opponent manages to overcome this initial pressure, they tend to struggle in backwards pressing, often breaking away and generating defensive sub-blocks.
A clásico is a match different from all others. Despite the tactical complexity, the individual talent of each player and the collective quality of both teams, we cannot ignore the psychological/emotional load that the players must manage when facing the game.