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Tactical Review - UEFA Super Cup: Real Madrid 3 - 2 Sevilla

Dani Maradona scores the winning goal.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Real Madrid's System

Real Madrid played the entire match in their regular 4-3-3, with dynamic midfielders Isco and Kovacic chosen to flank Casemiro and play behind a forward line of Asensio, Morata, and Lucas Vázquez. But this formation changed often, as Real Madrid chose to sit back in a narrow 4-5-1 and counter-attack until they had numerical superiority in extra time. They also employed a calculated press that was triggered when Morata rushed the center back with the ball.

Sevilla's System

Sevilla played in new manager Jorge Sampaoli's classic 3-4-3 diamond, which is designed to be a perfect pressing machine - something that wasn't evident today due to the fact that Sampaoli is still introducing his philosophy bit-by-bit. Nevertheless, pressing is in Sevilla's blood thanks to ex-manager Unai Emery, and they defended proactively for most of the game. They also managed to dominate possession up until one of their men was sent off, something that is rare against Real Madrid.

Press Versus Press

The most interesting part of this game was the way Zidane and Sampaoli's pressing systems went head to head. Zidane employed a more passive and less constant press than Sampaoli, as Madrid alternated with attacking Sevilla's backline and sitting deep in a 4-5-1.

After sitting deep, if Sevilla failed to probe Madrid and instead circulated the ball at the back, Morata would often trigger a press by rushing towards the ball playing defender. This is where Madrid experienced compactness issues, as Kovacic often reacted instantly to Morata's movement in contrast to his midfield partners. This was exacerbated by the fact that Kovacic often chased the ball deep into Sevilla's half when the press was dead; which means that Kovacic needed to reign himself in while his teammates needed to sharpen their awareness. This shouldn't be too big of a worry so early in the season, but it is clear that Zidane needs to work on pressing as a unit, rather than having several individual players press at slightly different times.

Fortunately, Sevilla only exploited Madrid's compactness issues in the opening minutes of the game, where they fired passes past the press and into players in the halfspaces. Afterwards, they seemed content to engage in slow build-up at the back before slinging long balls to the wings or their striker (Sevilla's goalkeeper and center backs completed a gigantic total of 85 long balls). It was clear that Sevilla put their chance creation hopes on their press, rather then with their play in slow possession.

Tackles Attempted

Tackles Attempted: Sevilla - blue; RM - orange

Despite the appearance of equality in pressing this chart gives you, it was Sevilla that saw greater pressing returns due to their greater organization and experience in proactive defending. They completed a total of 9/14 tackles in Real Madrid's half, with only one of those being in extra time, compared to Real Madrid's 8/16 tackles in the opposition half (3 were in extra time).

Possession Loss: (Sevilla - blue; RM - orange)

Possession Loss: (Sevilla - blue; RM - orange)

The story is the same when looking at the possession loss statistics, with Real Madrid losing possession in their half 10 times compared to Sevilla's loss of only 8. When separating the extra time figures from this, the ratio of possession loss (Real Madrid to Sevilla) inside one's own half becomes 9:5.

This dramatic increase in Real Madrid's pressing success in extra time in comparison to Sevilla, obviously has to do with the fact that Sevilla had a man sent off on 93 minutes, thus making it easier for Real Madrid to cover spaces on the pitch and impossible for Sevilla to press. When things were even however, it was Sevilla's pressing system that was superior.

Nevertheless, it is the irony of football that Real Madrid were the ones who saw the greatest tangible return due to their proactive defensive pressure - a goal.

With the game finely balanced in the 21st minute, Real Madrid refused to allow Sevilla the luxury of an easy throw-in and occupied Sevilla's passing options tightly and excellently. This forced a gamble of a long throw, which was won by Casemiro and passed onto Asensio.

Each of the three immediate passing outlets are covered, possibly forcing the throw to be taken backwards. But this is risky, as Morata is close to the immediate option and spaced so that he can also cover the center back in the box, with the aid of the two players covering the passing options should the throw succeed. An imperfect throw near Sevilla's box could result in a goal for Madrid. This forces a lottery long throw that Casemiro wins.

Sevilla for once in this match decided not to apply any pressure and paid for it, with Asensio scoring an absolute beauty from outside the box.


Real Madrid exploit a big space in between Sevilla's midfield and defensive line in transition, allowing Asensio to burst into space. In this moment Sevilla's center backs should've moved to close down the triangular space in front of them, but in real time it was a tough judgement call to abandon their positions. The fact that Asensio was able to see his superior tactical position and use it to score (in the space of only a few seconds), speaks to his intelligence.

Both teams' pressing continued for the rest of the match and Real Madrid scored another goal (Carvajal's) due to high pressure. This successful outing should convince Zidane to keep employing this strategy throughout the season. The ability to exploit a team in defensive transition is an increasingly valuable tool (especially on throw-ins) and should not be overlooked by Zidane .

Defensive Errors Nearly Cost Real Madrid

Raphael Varane

Despite Real Madrid's fairly impressive pressing, they still showed some rust with their general defensive compactness, which when combined with a poor Raphael Varane mistake, cost them a goal.

In this instance Sevilla engaged in their classic (for this match) switch of play, this time arrowing a rather poor ball from the center of the pitch to the wing. This situation looks fairly simple to defend. Both Marcelo and Isco are doing their job, double-teaming the man on the ball in an effort to win back possession. Ramos has smartly moved into the space vacated by Marcelo to ensure no gaps appear in the back line. Varane has also shifted over as well and Carvajal is beginning to react appropriately to the situation. The problem here, arises with the midfield, as the switch of play catches Kovacic out of position, who is slow to react and close down the space behind him. Kovacic's positional indiscipline is exacerbated by the fact that Casemiro gets drawn to the ball, instead of assessing the position of the Sevilla attackers.

As can be seen, this leaves a Sevilla attacker completely free in front of the box for the cutback that is eventually delivered. A central defensive midfielder is supposed to cover the front of the box, and Casemiro made the mistake of losing his man and getting drawn to the ball. Kovacic should've been there to cover his teammate, but because of his poor positional play in the seconds before, he was forced to watch on helplessly.

Still, Madrid were not completely finished because of this, as Varane reacted quickly to close down the danger. However, he completely fluffed a clearance that allowed for the ball to be passed to Franco Vázquez and half-volleyed into the net.

While Zidane can do nothing about mistakes like that, he has to make sure that he acknowledges these compactness problems and fixes them in time for La Liga.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos' mistake requires no tactical analysis. His tackle was simply foolish and unnecessary, and it gifted Konoplyanka and Sevilla the lead. Nothing Zidane could've done.

Select Player Performances

Alvaro Morata

Many will feel negatively about Morata's first official showing of the 2016/17 season, but he actually did a decent job. With few true chances being created in the 1st half for Real Madrid (not a surprise with BBC, Kroos, and Modric not on the pitch), Morata avoided being isolated up top and instead dropped deep to aid his team in possession and hold up the ball. He did this quite nicely in the first half, managing to turn his man and split the defense open with a nice through ball on one occasion, but his ability to break the defensive line was less impressive. He was caught offside too much and it's clear that we didn't see the best of him today.



Marco Asensio

What more can be said about this young starlet that hasn't been said already? His ability to interpret offensive situations and execute tough technical tasks is simply magnificent and should make him the 12th man for Real Madrid. His goal against Sevilla was superb, along with his dribbling and magnificent set-piece ability. However, Zidane does need to pay attention to his inability to impact the game consistently. He faded after the first half and had dry spells with Espanyol last season, so it's important that Zidane manages him properly.

Mateo Kovacic

Mateo Kovacic had a mostly excellent match, displaying all of his qualities from start to finish. His dynamic and tireless movement off-the-ball gave Madrid endless options in possession, and his ability to carry the ball made him a one-man counter-attacking weapon.


Kovacic covered every blade of grass against Sevilla

He also showed off his passing intelligence, with a deft chip in the 4th minute and his outside of the boot pass to release Lucas Vázquez on a counter in the 54th minute. He still needs to work on his defensive positional play and his overzealous pressing, but otherwise Zidane has a superb all-round midfielder to employ come the new season.

Lucas Vázquez

Despite the constant undeserved criticism Lucas receives from a particular section of fans, he continues to show why he is a superb impact-option for Zinedine Zidane. His all-round work-rate was brilliant as usual (5 tackles - the most on the team - and 2 interceptions), but he also provided plenty on the offensive end. His 5 key passes and 3 dribbles were more than anyone else, and his brilliant assist to Sergio Ramos was the moment of magic that sparked Real Madrid's epic comeback. He was clearly the man of the match.

Bits & Pieces

Sergio Ramos is possibly the most clutch player in Real Madrid's history. He has scored in our last two Champions League finals, our Club World Cup final, and this UEFA Super Cup final.

James looked bright when coming on and created a lot for Real Madrid: 4 key passes and 3/3 shots on target.

Carvajal is better than Diego Maradona+Lionel Messi+Cristiano Ronaldo. Just look at this goal:

Not only does he beat the entire Sevilla defense, but he also wins the ball back first in a tough one-on-one with Konoplyanka. Carvajal is the best right back in the world bar none.

(All statistics & charts taken from

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