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Tactical Review: Eibar 3 - 0 Real Madrid; 2018 La Liga

Real Madrid succumb to Eibar’s high energy and strategic pressing scheme while still showing signs of poor defensive solidity.

SD Eibar v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Real Madrid were set to resume action with a match against 13th place Eibar away at the Ipurua Municipal stadium. Los Blancos had enjoyed a ceremonious and record breaking start to life under the leadership of Solari which fans hoped would continue. Fortunately for the manager, several important players took advantage of the international break and were able to recover in time to be available for the fixture.

Soccerway website

Courtois, who now appears to be the undisputed starting keeper, was in net behind a defense comprised of Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, and Odriozola. The midfield had to deal with the absence of Casemiro with Ceballos stepping up to deputize for the Brazilian. Modric and Kroos were expectedly chosen on the sides. The attack was Bale, Benzema, and Asensio.

Eibar’s intense press suffocates Real Madrid’s build-up

Eibar employed a dynamic pressing scheme that was activated based on spacing and positional triggers. This significantly disrupted Real Madrid’s buildup phase as could be evidenced by the number of times Varane, Courtois, and Ramos were forced to clear the ball as opposed to utilizing their usual controlled short passes.

In this example, Eibar’s press is activated when Varane receives the ball facing his own net. The Eibar players quickly move to close off his immediate passing options forcing the French defender to clear the ball down the field.

Ramos was less affected by this due to his strong technical skills and ability on the ball. The right side, on the other hand, was essentially taken out of the game as Varane and Odriozola struggled to navigate Eibar’s first line of pressure.

Another casualty of Eibar’s pressure (which was systematically supported for a large portion of the first half by an advanced structure) was Ceballos. One of the benefits of deploying him in holding midfield is his relative comfort on the ball and ability to participate in possession. In the first half however, he struggled to be involved and wasn’t able to provide added numerical presence to facilitate ball progression.

Marcelo-Asensio link leads attack while Real continue to suffer in transition defense

Going forward, the chemistry between Marcelo and Asensio was the most critical component of the Real Madrid offense. The left back’s silky touch and vision enabled him to find Asensio on multiple occasions with functional flicks and targeted deliveries.

Most of Real Madrid’s activity in the offensive third occurred on the left side of attack. The above graphic depicts first half passes for fullbacks, lateral midfielders, and wingers.
WhoScored website

One of these led to Benzema’s chance around the 10 minute mark. Asensio, who was a reflection of the strength of the left side with Marcelo and Kroos’ composure and verticality, was also fed in space by the latter before brilliantly turning to put Bale through on goal towards the end of the half.

Overall, there wasn’t substantial quality chance creation from either side. Eibar opened the scoring by exposing a chronic issue that has plagued the team this season. Their set-up and transition defensive system has been poor at times and was brutally exploited by an efficient Eibar counter-attack.

Real Madrid have committed eight of ten outfield players for the corner and instead of crossing the ball played a ground pass to Ceballos (who was the last midfielder). His shot is blocked and Eibar score from the ensuing counter.

Their insistence on creative set piece plays which often leads to the last midfielder being required to pass or shoot puts them at greater risk if they lose it due to general over-commitment.

Eibar’s continued pressure and impact of Real Madrid’s substitutes

Eibar were unrelenting in the second half and continued to diligently press the visitors. This led to their second goal which began with a Real Madrid throw-in. The pressing trigger was activated once Marcelo took the throw-in and went into hyper drive when Kroos tried to switch the ball to Odriozola.

Eibar surrounded Marcelo’s nearest options while Cucurella monitored the far end of the pitch.

Cucurella quickly identified the situation as one that could place Odriozola under duress. The latter needed to control the ball (which was delivered via a cross) and decide what to do next all the while operating dangerously close to his own box. His touch was a little poor and Cucurella anticipated brilliantly to win the ball and play it to Enrich who finished from close range.

Solari reacted by bringing Carvajal off the bench and Isco later on – although Real Madrid were already 3-0 down by that point due to costly defensive mistakes. The two substitutes helped tremendously with chance creation opening space up for the forwards and showing more verve with their passing. Vinicius was also subsequently introduced increasing the dimension of dynamism on the field for Los Merengues. It was a little futile and despite creating good chances, they also gave up several key opportunities.


Eibar implemented a strategic press that was smartly coordinated by a number of spacing and positional cues that the home side observed expertly. Real Madrid were stifled and couldn’t construct play as they are accustomed to. The away team’s defensive issues also played a role in the shocking loss.

Understat website

Real Madrid were handily bested in terms of chance creation as the hosts registered fourteen shots to their nine. Furthermore, Eibar accrued an xG of 2.42 heavily outpacing their opponent’s 1.10. This was a humbling defeat that brings Solari’s men back down to earth after the Argentine’s surreal start to the manager post. The team will need to come up with solutions for their recurring defensive frailties and attacking struggles.

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