Real Madrid were looking to further build on the momentum of positive results they had achieved in their last three games. Solari was able to rally the squad to move past the shocking defeat to Eibar and obtain victories in La Liga, Champions League, and Copa del Rey. The next test awaiting the team was recently promoted Huesca – participating for the first time in Spain’s highest division.
Solari made just one change from the last league game. Reguilon – sidelined due to injury – was replaced by Odriozola (shifting to RB and Carvajal moving into LB). LLorente, starting his fourth game in a row, appears to have cemented his role as the default deputy for Casemiro.
Offense flows through right wing as defensive intensity continues
Odriozola was a major outlet for the team going forward and his runs down the right wing were a consitent threat throughout the first half. The right back provided constant overlaps to support Vazquez. This often created a numerical advantage and led to freed space for the defender to attack. It paid dividends early in the game when he worked with Vazquez to suck in Huesca’s left back while sneaking in behind the opposing team’s tracking runner. This led to Bale’s opener and the solitary goal throughout the whole game.
This tactic was very effective due to Huesca’s lack of discipline in pressuring the sides. Once Odriozola had the ball, the closest man moved to quickly close him down. The right back would then systematically play the ball forward to Vazquez who attracted the opposing fullback. Odriozola subsequently had the opportunity to use his speed to burst down the wing often being too fast to catch for his man (who was already trailing him from behind). In the above scene, Odriozola receives the ball again and makes a delightful targeted cross to the far post which Bale clinically meets on the volley.
Defensively, Real Madrid adopted a 4-1-4-1 shape off the ball with LLorente sitting behind a band of Bale, Modric, Ceballos, and Vazquez.
Real Madrid’s workrate and discipline continued to impress. Benzema and Modric would often be in charge of leading the press to disrupt Huesca’s buildup before retreating into a more stable recovery shape. That being said, there were a few hairy moments when losing 50/50 balls that fractured midfield positioning allowing Huesca to get a good shot on target.
Solari’s substitutions help counteract Huesca’s strong start to second half
After successfully containing the hosts for the first half, Huesca gave Real Madrid several problems in the second half. The home side came out from the tunnels with more energy and a sharper offensive strategy. The biggest change was increasing the commitment of players going forward. As opposed to limiting their vertical progression to transition based instances, they expanded their attacking situations to include standard possession. This was accomplished by implementing a more advanced structure as evidenced by the Huesca players flooding the box to receive crosses.
Solari, in an attempt to settle tempo and enhance defensive stability, brought on Valverde for Ceballos. The latter was likely fatigued from his effort-intensive display in the first half and couldn’t keep up as well. Valverde helped steady possession and improve defensive coverage. Furthermore, the team was able to take advantage of Huesca’s eagerness and overexposure by winning the ball in dangerous zones and quickly converting defense into offense.
Isco and Asensio were later introduced for Modric and Bale respectively further dampening the end-to-end nature of the game. Isco’s ability to hold the ball provided much needed relief to his team while Asensio’s patient style also contributed to more control.
Real Madrid utilized strategic combinations on the right wing to create space by disorienting Huesca’s defensive shape which led to Bale’s opener and winner. Huesca committed significant numbers forward in the second half seriously threatening the visitors but Solari made impactful substitutions that helped stifle the hosts’ ascendancy.
Huesca’s second half surge almost dismantled Real Madrid’s advantage as the former registered more than double the latter’s xG. Part of this was the early header chance in the second half which had a very high value but nonetheless, it was reflective of the chaotic and disorganized nature of the second half that nearly gave the game away. However, it should be acknowledged that first half tactics and second half substitutions made the difference despite Real Madrid still struggling to create quality shots.