Real Madrid made a game out of it, but Celta played tremendous. They pressed, were physical, and took advantage of Real Madrid’ wonky gung-ho scheme to score two goals. Real Madrid’s comeback was too late, and Lucas Vazquez’s goal in stoppage time only teased Madridistas and nothing more. Here are some notes:
When Real Madrid announced their line-up, around an hour or so pre-match, everyone was trying to decipher it. Only one wing-back (Danilo) was listed -- along with two central defenders in Nacho and Ramos. How could it be a 3-5-2 without a third central defender, and who was going to defend the flanks? Classic Zidane move.
After kickoff — and a few minutes to study — we essentially observed a 3-5-2 with Ramos, Nacho, and Casemiro as central defenders, with Asensio and Danilo on the flanks. You know what? A 3-5-2 is always sound, assuming your tactics accommodate it. Obviously, with the team needing goals, it was never going to be a watertight scheme. Ramos and Casemiro, although both serving as two of the three defenders, were often high up the pitch. It was Kroos who would cover -- with the entire planet on his shoulders. Kovacic too, was box-to-box in every sense. He was, after Kiko Casilla, the best player on the pitch — closing down passing lanes, bombing forward, and doing his due diligence in tracking runs and intercepting passes.
Again, this 3-5-2 was not a traditional 3-5-2. It was a makeshift gung-ho blueprint, and the lack of bodies acting as a stopgap on Celta’s goal — along with the space Guidetti was finding in-behind the midfield leading up to it — was apparent.
In fairness, Real Madrid never looked efficient or fluid enough to take this game. The team dominated possession but looked unimaginative. Celta pressed in a medium-high block, and though they looked vulnerable in between the lines, Real Madrid never could properly take advantage of the space left behind — the passing out of the back wasn’t good enough, mostly because the movement down the central channels didn’t allow it to be. A few times Real Madrid broke through, but they couldn’t do it often enough.
Look, there are obvious talking points tonight, namely Danilo and Ronaldo; but I’m not going to delve into it right now. I’m about to record a post-game podcast, so just feel free to send your questions there.
About to record a podcast. Send questions, please.— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) January 25, 2017