The Madrileño derbi ended in a 0-0 draw, as both sides huffed and puffed without providing enough of a consistent offensive threat to win the game. Here are some thoughts on what transpired.
- Atlético’s defensive organization was largely on point. Simeone unsurprisingly chose to counterpress intensively in the game, especially in the first 20 minutes. That, along with Atléti’s normal high press, manifested itself in a 4-1-4-1 structure. Partey kept the vertical compactness while Koke and Gabi pushed up to press. Correa and Saúl would spread wide to cover Real’s fullbacks, allowing Atléti to space themselves neatly across the width of the pitch. Unlike on previous occasions, this pressing caused Real a serious deal of trouble. Marcelo uncharacteristically lost the ball 6 times and Real were often forced to observe spells of Los Colchoneros possession. When Real had possession in Atléti’s half, Simeone’s warriors took on a hyper-compact shape with four of their midfielders, denying access to the center. The far-side winger stayed wide in order to protect against the switch, allowing the home side to cover all angles of attack.
- Real Madrid failed to take advantage of their counter-attacking opportunities. Despite the effective press of their opponents, the magical feet of Isco and cool heads of Casemiro, Modric, and Kroos allowed Real to break sporadically. Unfortunately for Madrid, Zidane’s men continually failed to weight their passes correctly or often made sub-optimal passing decisions. Considering how difficult it was to breakdown Atlético in slow possession, that proved to be costly.
- Real Madrid deserved a penalty and Atlético probably deserved a couple of red cards.
Seriously, how is this not a pen and a red?
- Real Madrid’s more organized offensive structure helped prevent Atlético from scoring. Unlike what most would have thought going into the match, Los Merengues played in more of a 4-3-3 than a 4-4-2 diamond. Isco was especially disciplined in comparison to recent games, as he stuck mostly to the left flank to act as an outlet and as Madrid’s main point of attack. Ronaldo, for his part, was often positioned on the right side of the pitch. To be clear, Isco and CR7 still roamed, but they did it in a manner that still maintained a 4-3-3 shape. This allowed Real to counterpress with players in appropriate zones and enabled them to transition into a 4-1-4-1/4-4-2 defensive shape quicker than usual.
- Casemiro and Varane were magnificent. A shot cleared off the line, crunching tackles, neat interceptions, and cool passes up the pitch. What more could you want from them today?
- Zidane’s continuing decision to not use Ceballos off the bench is astounding. When you are struggling and need someone to provide some magical penetration out of nowhere, Ceballos is your guy (especially with Kovacic out). He’s powerful, explosive, good off the dribble, and lives off splitting defenses with needle passes.
- With FC Barcelona 10 points ahead of Real Madrid in the league table, it’s starting to look like Real Madrid’s title defense is over.