Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis
In a crucial fixture in the La Liga this season with regards to the title chase, Atletico Madrid totally destroyed their local rivals at the Vicente Calderon. A 4-0 win for the hosts means that Barcelona will get to close in one the 4-point gap and are in control of their own destiny once again.
Both the teams fielded a lineup with 4 changes from their previous matches. The home team, Atletico Madrid made 2 changes in defence and 2 in midfield. Jesus Gamez and Jose Maria Gimenez were replaced by Joao Miranda and Juanfran in the back 4. In midfield, captain Gabi returned along with Arda Turan to replace Saul and Raul Garcia.
Real Madrid went into the game with Isco replacing the injured James Rodriguez in midfield. The defensive line saw 3 changes. With Ramos injured, Nacho came in to pair up with Varane. Both the fullbacks were replaced too, with Daniel Carvajal and Fabio Coentrao replacing Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo.
Atletico Madrid started the match in full vigour; closing down and pressing the Los Blancos to allow them close to no time and space on the ball. The defensive line was well organized and the attacking plays were incisive, to say the least. They reaped rewards of this bright start to the game with a Tiago shot from outside the box which went into the net after forcing a howler from Iker Casillas in the 14th minute.
They quickly extended their lead just 4 minutes later when Siqueira left Carvajal for dead to deliver a cross into the box. An unmarked Saul who had replaced the injured Koke after just 10 minutes met the ball with a beautiful bicycle kick to double the advantage.
No Breathing Space
After falling 2 goals down in quick succession, Real Madrid attempted to get back into the game but could not get anything going in their favour. Atletico became an even more organized outfit post the 2-goal advantage and breaking them down was as tough as glaring into the sun without UV protection glasses.
Godin and Miranda were absolute rocks in the centre, and the midfield battle was won by Gabi and Tiago who managed to oust the trio of Kroos, Khedira and Isco with ease. When even Cristiano Ronaldo can’t work his magic, you know that the opposition is doing their job with utmost perfection.
The last couple of minutes did see Real Madrid create a couple of half chances with Gareth Bale’s crosses, but it wasn’t to any avail.
The second half was very much the same. Khedira was replaced by Jese at the start of the 2nd half, but the increased firepower did not account for much.
Atletico Madrid showed the pathway to other teams on how they can effectively block out a rampant team like Real Madrid by keeping a strong foundation at the back.
Game, Set, Match
With Atletico dominating in every facet of the match, it was only a matter of time before the lead was extended to make it an even more humiliating victory. Tiago missed a chance to score his 2nd of the game when he headed a ball into the ground from point blank range. It should have been the 3rd goal of the game, but nevertheless, it came soon.
Griezmann topped off a good performance by slotting home a cross from Saul to take the lead to 3 goals in the 67th minute. Varane was slow to react, hence allowing the goal to go in.
The unassailable lead was extended even further when Mario Mandzukic scored a well-deserved goal with a diving header. Substitute, Fernando Torres was the creator with a brilliant whipped cross into the box from the right flank.
Atletico Madrid did win the game, but also recorded a phenomenal 3rd victory over their rivals in the span of just month. It also means that Barcelona is now just breathing behind their necks and Atletico cut down the gap to just 4 points. Talk about yet another tight title finish!
As already mentioned earlier in the article, Atletico Madrid adopted an approach which showed a brilliant combination of restraint and abstinence in terms of the way they attacked and defended. They have always been a well-organised side, and this match was no different.
They lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, which allowed them to take control of things. The 2 central midfielders largely held their positions and helped out in the transition phases of play; recycling the ball appropriately. The wide midfielders helped in making the pitch wider in attack by providing an outlet, and also managed to get back in time to keep the opposition away from their box when need be.
Up front, Mandzukic and Griezmann played close to each other to disturb the inexperienced centre back pairing while also sucking in the midfielders to disrupt Real Madrid’s setup. A brilliant ploy indeed.
The highlight of Atletico’s play was perhaps the way that Mandzukic dragged defenders away. He played slightly deeper to pull Varane and Carvajal out and pushed them back to restrict their movement when getting into advanced positions; hence effectively taking them out of the game. His strike partner, Griezmann used this to his advantage by making runs off Mandzukic and troubling the inexperienced Nacho and rusty Coentrao.
Real Madrid started with a shaky back 4 and it really showed on the pitch. They couldn’t cope well with the precise attacks and movements of the home players.
The midfielders Kroos and Khedira often got dragged away from their designated positions, and their defensive vulnerabilities came to the forefront which allowed the first 2 goals to go in. Isco, generally known for his creative flair found himself on the left wing far too often rather than playing through the centre from where he is the most impactful. By not getting to use his flair, a major part of his game was taken away.
The BBC trio of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano was as ineffective as the other players in the team. Ronaldo was clearly having his worst game of the season, and hardly managed to win dribbles, get in passes and crosses or even get into the box which he does so often. Benzema looked like a fish out of water with the lack of service and couldn’t contribute to creating any chances on his own either. Bale showed glimpses of making something happen, but then it all went down the drain eventually.
The major factor for their humiliating defeat was the fact that they couldn’t keep the ball long enough. They played with a direct approach which is perhaps useful when you are being man marked.
However, they were being closed down and not man marked, which meant that the opposition was waiting for them to come at them rather than assigning themselves solely to take out certain players. In such a situation, Real Madrid might have benefitted with a shorter passing approach to break down the defence in a more potent manner.
Mandzukic’s movement gave Griezmann more space
Diego Simeone got the better of Carlo Ancelotti yet again as his team were more tactically astute in what was expected to be a feisty affair.
The breathing space between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid is even tighter now, and with the El Classico yet to be played at the Camp Nou, the Los Blancos could see themselves slipping down with the Cules taking top spot in the table.
Ancelotti has made very few changes to his side over the course of the season, but now with a couple of key players out and a slight slump in form as compared to the first half of the season, expect a few changes in the coming matches.
Javier Hernandez might see a few more opportunities coming his way, and the defensive setup would need more tweaking.
All in all, this result has put things into an interesting balance and it makes the coming weeks all the more exciting to say the least.