Real Madrid face an uphill battle when they take on Celta Vigo tomorrow at Balaídos. Not only does the home side possess an uncanny ability to raise their collective level on the biggest of occasions (they are the only team to have beaten both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid this season), but they also have a solid one goal lead from their 2-1 victory in the 1st leg at the Bernabeu.
What to Expect Tactically From Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo have been on a fairly good run of form in the last six games, having only fallen to Real Sociedad after resting pretty much their entire starting eleven in preparation for the game against Madrid.
As a result, Zidane must expect Celta to fly out of the starting blocks with a level of energy and intensity that could very well last the full game.
This potential level of fitness could also mean that manager Eduardo Berizzo could choose to employ a pressing scheme, something that was not present in their last encounter with Madrid but was utilized in the most recent league match between the two this season.
If he asks his team to press high up the pitch, then it is highly probable that Celta shape up in a compact 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1, with emphasis on clogging the center of the pitch and disabling penetration through the center.
Regardless if they choose to press, Celta are sure to employ a relatively high defensive line, in order to maintain midfield compactness and contest for possession in the middle-third of the pitch.
On offense, Celta will look to win the ball back and quickly counter-attack down the wings to exploit the spaces left behind by Madrid’s gallivanting wing-backs.
Celta Vigo’s Key Players
Spanish striker Iago Aspas has undoubtedly been Celta’s shining star this season. With the loss of Nolito to City and the whole Orellana scandal, Aspas has single-handedly carried Celta’s goal scoring load, netting an excellent 15 goals in only 24 games. The next best goal scorer is John Guidetti, with 5 strikes to his name in 20 appearances, meaning that Real Madrid really have to focus on only neutralizing one threat.
While Aspas is undoubtedly Celta’s best attacking player, Daniel Wass is Celta’s second biggest creative threat behind the aforementioned striker, with 1.7 key passes p90 in the league and a total of 4 assists in 29 games. He’s fairly versatile and is the hub of Celta’s play in the final third, as he is often the central link that guides possession to the wing Celta chooses to attack. He’s also extremely comfortable drifting to either wing to overload the opposition and launch supremely accurate crosses into the final third.
Pione Sisto, Jonny, Facundo Roncaglia, and Gustavo Cabral
How Should Zidane Approach This Game?
Selecting His Tactics and Midfield Personnel
In both of Madrid’s encounters with Celta Vigo this season, Zidane has chosen to play a triangle midfield in possession, with Casemiro given license to push out of the first possession phase in order to possibly avoid opposition pressure.
While Zidane’s concerns with Casemiro’s press resistance is understandable, his midfield structuring led to a severe lack of penetration through the center, resulting in isolated wing-play and predictable crossing actions from out wide.
With Madrid down a goal and desperately in need of a fine attacking performance, Zidane needs to structure his team so that they can create dynamic offensive movements in the final third. This means freeing his two interiors to flood into the half spaces while instructing his attackers to occupy Celta Vigo’s centrally-oriented defenders with positioning in-between the lines.
One way to achieve this is to play Kroos as a DM and play Isco and Kovacic in midfield. Kroos’ comfort with spraying passes from deep and holding position will be excellently complimented by the naturally dynamic and offensive movement of the two interiors.
On the flip side, Kroos’ lack of speed and his weakness in fifty-fifty challenges could make it difficult for him to defend the flanks against Celta’s counter-attacks. Thus, if Kroos is to be the DM, Zidane needs to instruct his fullbacks to be conservative in their movements instead of acting like auxiliary wingers as they are used to.
In the highly likely event that Casemiro plays, Zidane will need to resist the urge to push Casemiro ahead of Isco/Kovacic and Kroos. While the Brazilian might struggle under a possible press and while Kroos and Isco/Kovacic will still have to drop pretty deep to receive the ball, the latter duo will still push up into the final third with greater regularity than if Casemiro was acting as some weird attacking midfielder.
Keeping Casemiro deeper also benefits Madrid’s fullbacks, as it allows them to fly high up the pitch, something that would be decidedly more risky if Casemiro was sitting ahead of Kovacic/Isco and Kroos.
Keep It Simple
Zidane has been tinkering a lot of late and it hasn’t been all that successful. His attempts at structuring a diamond midfield have shown defensive weaknesses that are not easily fixed, his 3-5-2 lacked an offensive punch, and his mid-match adjustments have simply led to a loss of cohesion and an increased level of tactical confusion.
With so many players out injured, Zizou could be tempted to try something wacky (like Casemiro as a center back in a back three), but he must resist the urge to chop and change. Madrid are in a state of flux right now and what they need most is some form of continuity and rhythm to cling onto.
Sticking to a familiar 4-3-3, 4-4-2, or even 4-2-3-1, would create a good platform for his side to ride out their slump and regain their confidence.
Sorting Out the Fullback Situation
Aside from his midfield, Zidane also needs to figure out how we wants to line up his defense. With Pepe, Carvajal, and Marcelo all out injured and Varane left out of the squad (an absolutely bone-headed decision), he has no choice but to play Ramos and Nacho as his center backs, with Coentrao, Danilo, and Achraf left to fight for two fullback spots.
While it is tempting to dump Danilo on the bench due to his recent run of poor form, I would heavily caution against starting Coentrao. The Portuguese international has played a grand total of 118 minutes this season and is as fragile as a new born baby.
While Danilo has been extremely shaky at right back, he has mostly excelled at left back, meaning he should start ahead of Coentrao while the talented kid from Castilla - Achraf - should start on the right.
There is also the possibility that Lucas could start at right back, but given his natural winger tendencies and with his issues in positioning that he showed against Málaga, Achraf would probably be the better option.
Kiko Casilla; Achraf, Nacho, Ramos, Danilo; Casemiro, Kovacic, Kroos; Ronaldo, Benzema, Lucas Vázquez
Celta de Vigo
Sergio Alvarez; Hugo Mallo, Cabral, Roncaglia, Jonny; Pablo Hernández, Nemanja Radoja, Pione Sisto, Bongonda; Wass; Aspas
|Result (1)||Score (2)||Goal Scorers (3)||Total Score|
|Result (1)||Score (2)||Goal Scorers (3)||Total Score|
|Om||RM Win||2-1||CR7, Ramos; Higuaín||42|
|Kiyan||RM Win||3-1||Benz, CR7, Asensio; Pjanic||45|
|Timm||RM Win||2-1 (RM win extra time)||CR7, Ramos; Dybala||41|
|Lucas||RM Loss||1-2||CR7; Higuaín, Dybala||26|
|Nate||RM Win||4-2||-CR7x2, Bale, Morata; Higuain, Dybala||47|
|Tommy||RM Loss||1-2||Benz; Higuaín, Mandzukic||19|
|Naguib||RM Win||2-0||CR7, Bale||29|
|Ondra||RM Win||2-0||CR7, Ramos||18|
|Jack||RM Win||2-2 (RM win on pk's 4-3)||CR7, Ramos; Dybala x2||6|
|José||RM Win||3-1||CR7 x2, Morata; Mandzukic||3|
(All statistics & charts taken from whoscored.com & transfermarkt)