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Tactical Review: Eibar 1 - 2 Real Madrid; 2018 La Liga

Real Madrid’s diamond midfield shows the missing urgency and verticality from earlier in the season as Los Blancos earn an important win against Eibar.

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

Real Madrid travelled north to Eibar to take on the eighth place team. The visitors were hoping to build on the momentum of their triumph in Paris earlier during the week to achieve a positive result. They stood seven and fifteen points behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively and if there was any hope of significantly closing the gap then a win on the day was critical.

Soccerway website

Zidane rotated his line-up from the PSG encounter as Kroos and Modric made their league returns since injury. The team was structured in a 4-3-1-2 with a diamond midfield. Elsewhere across the team, Bale started in attack as Benzema sat on the bench while Isco also made the first eleven.

Eibar target wings in electric start

The home team showed great intensity at the onset and troubled the Real Madrid defense almost instantly after kick-off. They targeted the wings and created several chances through a combination of excellent deliveries, attacking overloads, and defensive mistakes.

WhoScored website

Real Madrid took some time to find their footing and tried to capitalize on Eibar’s advanced positioning by playing direct balls to forwards. Modric and Isco alternated in the central attacking position and were the key passing instigators in this regard. Los Blancos’ press allowed them to turn dispossessions into attacking opportunities

Turning dispossessions into attacks.

Although Eibar did not press the ball in the same way to destabilize initiation and buildup, they effectively counter-pressed whenever they lost possession and this created pressure on Real Madrid players forcing some of the elementary giveaways that led to good chances noted earlier.

Real Madrid create more chances despite Eibar ball dominance

Eibar continued to control possession (although Real Madrid started holding on to it more) and push forward in search of a goal. Despite their efforts however, they couldn’t muster good opportunities and had to rely on low probability crosses that were handled well by Varane and Ramos. Eibar did threaten on set pieces once the French man was substituted by Nacho.

Real Madrid on the other hand were content to counter-attack due to the effectiveness of their attacking on transition. Eibar conceded a lot of space at the back that Ronaldo and Bale’s speed could exploit. Marcelo in particular was quite deliberate in looking to play the forwards in behind the defense as soon as there were any openings.

Marcelo looking for forwards with long balls.

Los Blancos eventually broke the deadlock thanks to a superb Ronaldo goal. The scheme that involved a high press to turn dispossessions quickly into attacks was perfectly illustrated by the sequence.

Modric showed excellent anticipation to intercept an Eibar pass before playing a beautiful diagonal ball to meet Ronaldo’s run from the left side. The Portuguese controlled the ball in stride before slotting it past the keeper.

Eibar rapid equalizer disrupts Real Madrid gameplan

The intent in the second half for Zidane’s men appeared to be clear. They came out of the dressing rooms trying to slow down the tempo with steady possession in order to consolidate their score advantage. However, Eibar counteracted this by applying pressure that forced Los Blancos into clearances from the back. Eibar consequently built pressure from the resulting dispossessions that led to a corner.

Miscommunication and poor marking allowed Ramis to get his head to the ball and nod it into the net. Following the equalizer, Real Madrid’s dynamic changed as they sought a winner and adopted a number of attacking schemes. Long balls from deep to find Bale and Ronaldo were still employed and led to a fantastic chance in the 62nd minute. In addition, Los Blancos targeted the central offensive zone with Modric especially being quite active and driving the play forward with valuable vertical actions.

Modric central support and verticality.

Both of the above instances were two of the best chances in the match. Modric moving into the treasured central attacking space (i.e. zone 14) was important because it addressed the stagnancy and staleness that sometimes occurs in the diamond formation. His movement into this space allowed the team to have a useful hub and connection point in the final third.

Zidane rolls out the flat 4-4-2 to get the win

Becoming somewhat of Real Madrid’s secret weapon and trump card, Zidane always has the flat 4-4-2 formation in his sleeve for when the team finds itself needing a goal. The manager brought on Vazquez and Benzema for Isco and Kroos for the last 20 minutes of the game. The impact wasn’t immediately positive as Eibar manufactured a number of dangerous chances presumably taking advantage of Real Madrid transitioning to their new shape. The biggest risk appeared to be the space behind the fullbacks as Inui and Kike found themselves at the end of great chances.

Real Madrid’s attacking occurred through the channels as Bale and Vazquez delivered a variety of crosses (low, high, cutbacks) into the box. This fortunately led to the winner when Carvajal’s cross found Ronaldo who was open in front of net.

One thing to note is that this goal just like the first was created following an interception in Eibar’s half signaling the incremental danger that is posed when dispossessions are turned into attack.


A confident but not entirely comfortable win for Los Blancos. The diamond midfield was successful and didn’t experience some of the recurring issues it has had this season. Despite Eibar’s pressure and activity, they couldn’t create many quality chances and ultimately succumbed to the space they gave up in defense as they pushed up the field.

Understat website

The stats supported the eye test as Real Madrid edged out their opponents in shots, shots on target, and xG. Real Madrid will be thankful for the otherworldly form of the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo has been beyond sensational in 2018 (not to undermine his contributions before which were possibly just as excellent without the consistent goalscoring). Ronaldo’s brace against Eibar took him to 33 goals in all competitions for the season which is only behind Kane in Europe’s top five leagues.

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