El Clasico: Tactical Teachings

If you’re a fan of football, you enjoyed the match.
— Zinedine Zidane

Well, that was quite the Clasico. I've heard some mixed reviews ranging from one of the worst Clasicos to Zidane's statement, "If you're a fan of football, you enjoyed the match." 

In my opinion, the match's tactical integrity was comprised when Sergi Roberto saw the red card. However, there were some good tactical takeaways from both teams.

Firstly, let’s focus on Real Madrid's organised attack and how they were able to utilise a crucial tactical component to keep Barça's backline under constant pressure; occupy space to create space and exploit that space.

Real Madrid took advantage of the Barça's flat 4-4-2 and found the half spaces between the back line and the midfield line. Most of the time, either Kroos and Modric found Busquet's and Rakitic's backs. Although, Bale, Ronaldo, and even Casemiro made use of the space. 

Read: The Principles of Play

Once having checked into the space, they forced Pique and Umtiti to come out and pressure thus creating gaps in the Catalan's back line. These were the spaces the Madrileños exploited. 

The accompanying video depicts examples of this tactical component and shows how Bale's equaliser was a direct consequence of occupation, creation, and exploitation space

Previously, we discussed how Real Madrid was able to exploit Barça's backline through the tactical concept of occupying to create space.

Now let’s focus on Barça's organised attack before Sergi Roberto was given a red card. Different to Real Madrid, the Catalans tried to exploit the space on the wings.

They attempted to create situations of isolation, especially with Sergi Roberto, by overloading one side of the pitch to create space for the Barcelona right back. These movements could be seen in their build out from the back, as well as through the midfield. 

Read: Crash Course to Positional Play - Organized Structure

When we talk about 'switching the point of attack', what we're dealing with is exactly this. We occupy one side of the field in order to create space on the other side. However, in order to successfully change the point of attack, the team must move the opponent by occupying a different area thus creating space.

In the following video, you'll see how Barça applied this tactical idea perfectly. As you watch the video, focus on Coutinho who pushes forward and away from Sergi Roberto in order to create space for him. Once Roberto has received the ball, he checks back into the space to hopefully have numerical superiority, or at least numerical equality.

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