It was considered, by those who keep a keen eye on La Liga, to be Real Madrid’s most important match of their Spanish campaign. It was to be a night where all their firepower and inconsistent yet winning brilliance came together for the game in hand they held over leaders Barcelona. A game where Celta Vigo were the protagonists for Barcelona fans everywhere, and a game that would see if Zinedine Zidane’s constant rotation and calculated ‘B-team’ starts would pay off. As it happened, it did. Zidane’s side won 4-1.
Then, four days later, Zidane’s outfit finished out a 2-0 win over Malaga at the Estadio La Rosaleda to lift their first league title in five years.
#RealMadrid are #LaLiga champs!Reasons:
2. Late goals
3. CR7 goals and Zidane's ability to make his side tactically versatile
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) May 21, 2017
They’re also on the brink of a domestic and European double for the first time in 59 years. So, if you’re unaware of Spanish football’s narratives, then you should know that one of the biggest themes of the season has been Los Blancos’ tremendous depth.
There have even been coaches, most notably Deportivo La Coruna’s Pepe Mel, that have spoken highly of ‘Real Madrid B,’ and he even claimed that he prefers it over ‘Real Madrid A.’ Nonetheless, Zidane’s constant rotation has allowed for his B-side, made up of Isco, Marco Asensio, Alvaro Morata, Raphael Varane, Nacho, and James Rodriguez just to name a few, to start matches and also prove reliable as substitutes.
While the outcome in results with Zidane’s rotation has proven well, the performances not dipping, it has obviously allowed for their go-to superstar XI to get needed rest to fight hard on all fronts throughout the season.
The rotations aside, in this particular match against Malaga, Cristiano Ronaldo scored and so did Karim Benzema. Isco once again proved to be Real Madrid’s most important player (he’s been that for the past six or so weeks), and Real Madrid’s backline worked to a very high standard; Luka Modric has even tracked back far enough to cover as wingback when Real go to a back five.
This was a match where Real Madrid scored early, something they’ve done quite often in the second half of the season, while Michel Gonzalez’s men high-pressed and contained the central axis well but came up short in scoring. Also, Malaga tested Keylor Navas a bit and on one occasion the Costa Rican had to come up big.
Amazing Atajada Keylor Navas – Malaga vs Real Madrid 0-2 2017 https://t.co/HXRMtQAHqk pic.twitter.com/1fn5S45bC5
— OFFICIAL MUSIC SITES (@IRATEDIS) May 21, 2017
Anyway, you came here for the tactics, so read on below as Eat Sleep Drink Football Analysis gives you the tactical breakdowns.
Ronaldo’s goal is caused by individual Malaga error
Michel Gonzalez’s men set out to stop Real Madrid’s excellent build up play by using a containment approach to their high and mid-press. They didn’t defend low and compact, but they used a zonal/man-marking mix to keep Real’s central threats at bay.
In the video below, you can see how it worked in this one instance but center back Luis Hernandez made a big error:
The defensive phases of Malaga’s 4-1-4-1
In the video below, we see further how Malaga’s 4-1-4-1 block worked:
How Real Madrid reacted when Malaga tried to overload their right flank
Real Madrid like to counter attack, they also love to do it after they’ve gained a lead as they know some teams will open up and try to equalize. When Malaga opted to overload their right flank and attack from that side, Zidane uses a 3-3 block formation with Ronaldo, Isco, and Marcelo in less active duties to be ready for the counter-attacking switch:
Malaga’s 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 passing lane marking and man-marking press
In addition to Malaga’s containment press, they’ll also use a passing lane orientated and man-marking hybrid. They’ll block the passing lanes to central areas while one player will work the Real ball player more intensely:
Real Madrid used a 5-3-2 to close out the match against Malaga
After Karim Benzema made it 2-0, Malaga committed more bodies forward and Los Blancos responded by using a 5-3-2 with Modric dropping deep as a right sided wingback:
Real Madrid, it can be said, used two teams to earn a title for one season. Their depth and tactical versatility combined with Ramos’ late goals, Ronaldo’s crucial scoring, and their incredible midfield carried them to a La Liga championship. At times, however, it looked as though this team never played at a cohesive level you’d expect, but they still got the job done. Never in any given match did they look completely lost. Someone is always ready to score.
Sergio Ramos season so far…
The guy just loves the spotlight. #SEVRMA #SergioRamos #LaLiga pic.twitter.com/xRPeU9HmQB
— Carlo Valladares (@C_V_News) January 15, 2017
Zidane, by the way, while being gifted a world-class XI, is no ‘lucky’ manager. He has tactics, he has ideas. He gets the best out of his club. He managed them quite well; rotated them properly.
The Champions League final in Cardiff is next. Juventus, I hope you’re ready!