By Waleed Zaghloul
Real Madrid has performed very well in the latest Classico, but that was not enough to beat Barcelona. Real Madrid’s high pressure style caused Barcelona a lot of trouble as they struggled to play their trademark possession football. Depsite the good performance, Real Madrid could only muster a draw and had to come back from two goals down. Barcelona prove day after day that they are a phenomenal team and even though they did not play very well they still managed a draw and secured qualification into the Copa Del Rey semifinals. Evaluating the goals scored in this game will show you that Barcelona are lethal when give a small window of opportunity.
Barcelona’s First Goal – Can Anybody take the Ball off Messi?
Messi’s brilliant ability to dribble with a lot of pace, created this first goal. Having said that, the Real Madrid defense made it easier for Barcelona to score. Messi actually had the chance to pass the ball to the other side to Alexis Sanchez and he also would have had the goal at his mercy.
Real Madrid’s defense lacking width
This angle shows how much space Barcelona and Messi had at their disposal. The three Real Madrid defenders were all in a three yard area which left two Barcelona players (Pedro and Sanchez) wide open with an open path to goal. The main culprit here has to be Arbeloa who came all the way from the right back position to pressure Messi which was Pepe’s task. The situation was further complicated by Ramos when he did the same thing (although you could argue that he came from Messi’s blind side, so his mistake is not as grave as Arebeloa’s. Having three defenders covering a three yard area certainly will provide no balance for your defense and will be punished by a team of Barcelona’s caliber.
Barcelona’s Second Goal – Real Madrid’s unbalanced defense!
Messi brilliantly punished Real Madrid for being ultra-aggressive on the play and passed the ball to a wide open Pedro. The Real Madrid defense was penetrated so bad on that play, that Fabregas could also have taken the ball in and scored himself before the defenders would have recovered.
Despite Having the whole Team in the Frame, Dani Alves is Left wide open by Real Madrid
Lack of balance again!
The second goal is another example of how Real Madrid’s ultra-aggressive approach worked against them. The three Barcelona runners, who ran from right to left managed to drag six Real Madrid defenders with them leaving Pepe as the only defender in sight of Dani Alves (and he was about 14 yards away!) Yes, the ball did take a deflection on the way, but all top teams should keep their team shape in order to be able to handle any developing attack from the other team. Having said that, the finish by Alves would make any striker or attacking midfielder proud!
Real Madrid’s First Goal – Genius Through-Ball
Abidal not goal-side and then another mistake…
On this first goal for Real Madrid, Abidal seems to be very complacent. First he fails to get goal-side of Ronaldo.
Instead of recovering, Abidal gets himself further out of Position
Then, instead of following the runner (Ronaldo), Abidal opts to go for the interception and takes himself completely out of the play which left covering defender (Puyol) no chance against the much faster Ronaldo. This was a situation where the tactical discipline of Barcelona (as a team) was clear; they had 5 players back with two retreating quickly. Abidal’s lack of discipline on that play gave Ozil a window to penetrate Barcelona’s defense which he utilized brilliantly. Ronaldo also finished well to cap the great pass. With Abidal in position, goal-side of Ronaldo, it would have been a much more difficult scoring chance to create given the number of Barcelona defenders against only 4 Real Madrid players.
Ozil’s Brilliant Pass splits Puyol and Abidal and puts Ronaldo through on Goal.
Did Puyol need to step up here?
Abidal’s failure to close the space between him and Puyol forced Puyol to make a decision. He can either stay deeper (which he did) to try to catch up with the pacey Ronaldo or he could have opted instead to push up at the same line with Pique and Abidal. The later could have been the better choice since Pique had no time to get over to support and Abidal was out of position. This goal is a good example of how critical it is to be mentally tough and able to concentrate on tactical duties EVERY play.
Real Madrid’s Second Goal – Exemplary High Pressure
This is a fantastic picture. Show it to your Players! Who can guess that Barcelona is playing 4-3-3 and Real Madrid is utilizing a 4-2-3-1?
Here the fantastic team shape and discipline for Real Madrid creates a scoring opportunity out of what should have been a routine clearance by Pique. Here is one of the few times where the lack of discipline bites Barcelona. Pique should have easily cleared the ball to Alexis Sanchex, but his horrible clearance instead lands on the head of Gonzalo Higuain. With Pique under pressure, both Puyol and Abidal should both tuck in and support Pique instead he loses the ball. Failing to do so has caused Real Madrid to penetrate the Barcelona defense with one pass yet again.
On the other hand, this goal is a fantastic example of how a disciplined high pressure team can take away all the space and short passing options of their opponents. Pique intended to bypass all five Real Madrid players with a long pass, but his failed clearance was brilliantly turned into a goal by Higuain and Benzema.
All three Barcelona defenders are culprits in this goal. Abidal is nowhere close to the ball and failed to tuck in and pick up Ozil running through the middle (did not provide balance). Puyol did not support Pique who was under pressure, so when Pique lost the ball, Puyol was left scrambling to catch up with Ozil making a run behind him. Puyol was caught defending facing his own goal and ended up on the ground watching Benzema’s great finish.
Barcelona remains one of the toughest teams to beat. They produce some brilliant football and fantastic ball possession. If they had an Achilles heel it would be their defense. They are all prone to making mistakes and could be sometimes prone to quick counter attacks. Barcelona’s attacking style of football minimizes the chances that their defense will face too many tests during a game even against top opposition (ask Manchester United). Opposing teams have the best chance, in my opinion, of beating Barcelona by utilizing a very disciplined defensive approach and catching them on the counter attack or off set-pieces. Mourinho has attempted this approach with Real Madrid, but is yet to beat them even once.
On the other hand, Real Madrid put a valiant effort to try and stop Barcelona, but as they have found time and time again it is easier said than done. They have elevated their pressure on Barcelona when they had the ball, and the second goal is a testament that this will work sometimes. On the negative side, when Real Madrid players give all they have in a game against Barcelona and still find themselves unable to beat their bitter rivals, they lose all their discipline and commit some very hard fouls to try and stop Messi and company.
- I think Real Madrid might beat Barcelona to the La Liga title this year, but I doubt they will be able to beat them! Real Madrid have been very disciplined against all their other La Liga opponents and have dropped very few points in the league. Barcelona on the other hand have drawn 4 away games and have fallen behind their arch rivals.
- Dani Alves’ goal for goal of the season!
Waleed Zaghloul is an NSCAA Premier Diploma coach. He has been coaching on the youth soccer scene for about 15 years. He has coached a variety of youth club, High School and all-star teams in Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and now the Northern Virginia area.