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La Liga 2015, Atlético de Madrid vs Real Madrid: Tactical preview

We explore some alternatives in Ancelotti's booklet to beat Atlético.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The Madrid derby is here again and, although Los Blancos have done their homework to open a four-point gap with respect to FC Barcelona in the league table, losing is not an option tomorrow. Our neighbors have already beaten us three times since August, and we drew the other two games, and they just don't deserve such an amazing record against us. Winning in the Calderón would be a fantastic boost for Real Madrid's players morale to face the decisive part of the season.

Most football pundits out there claim that the main reason behind Atlético's success (in general but, mostly, against Real Madrid) is the extraordinary coaching by Diego Pablo Simeone. His ability to prepare his players for a game is tremendous, as he always gets them to know exactly what they need to do in order to hide their flaws and maximize their profit. That being said, it seems clear that Real Madrid should try to surprise their rivals in order to conquer the Calderón.

We already know that Carlo Ancelotti is no fan of rotations or revolutionary lineups and, given that Ramos, Pepe, Modric, James and Marcelo (at least, at the moment of this writing) will not be able to play tomorrow, the starting eleven are, in fact, quite clear: Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Coentrao; Kroos, Illarra/Khedira/Silva, Isco; Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema. However, there's still something Ancelotti can do to catch the colchoneros off guard.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/G697PESFhUo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

If you've watched any if the last few games against Atlético, you must be very familiar with the first couple of actions shown in the video above. When defending, they sit in a 4-4-2 which is specially devised to divert their rivals' attacks to the wings. There, they can easily use two men to recover the ball (the midfield winger and the fullback) without compromising their superiority in the middle and, if those are not enough, even the centerback of that side can abandon his spot to help.

As I see it, this approach works because Ronaldo plays on the left and Bale on the right. As there are so many men on top of them coming from the center, they need to dribble towards the wing, and so their shooting power can't be used. The only reasonable solution is to cross the ball to the box, but they are in a disadvantageous situation to do that, as they need to do it using their weak foot.

That being said, if Simeone is going to make Real Madrid attack through the wings, the best solution seems to be to destroy the wings. Juanfran and Siqueira are, in my opinion, Atlético's weakest defenders. If Real Madrid attacks them with Bale and Ronaldo on their natural wings, plus the aid of Carvajal and Coentrao, they will have good odds to reach the baseline with advantage to put a precise cross onto the box, where the winger from the other side and a midfielder (Khedira?) can incorporate to help Benzema to match Atleti's centerbacks. Besides, adopting such an open scheme will make Atlético's defenders spread, so that Isco and Benzema, who are Real Madrid's most prolific players right now, will have more space in the middle to combine.

While I doubt that Ancelotti will try this approach during the full game, my guess is that Ronaldo and Bale will frequently switch wings (this is something they did in the second leg against Atlético in the Copa del Rey, a month ago) so that Atlético's defenders will need to continuously change their mentality. If we find a breach, we may be victorious.

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