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Tactical Review: Real Madrid 3 - 0 AS Roma, 2018 Champions Leage

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Real Madrid open their Champions League campaign with a dominant victory against Roma.

Real Madrid v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Group G Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid hosted Roma as the former began its journey in search of an incomprehensible fourth Champions League trophy in as many years. The undisputed kings of Europe were hoping to rebound from the draw against Athletic Bilbao which saw them fall behind Barcelona in the domestic race. Lopetegui again didn’t experiment too much going with a very strong line-up. Navas, Casemiro, and Isco were named in the starting XI and comprised the only changes from the previous match.

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Roma had only registered one win in four games in the season to date. The Italian team were in poor form and seen as heavy underdogs in the match. Their key players to watch included new midfield signing Nzoni, their attacking maintstay in the form of Dzeko, and the drifty El Shaarawy.

Flat and passive Roma succumb to Real Madrid’s intricate play

One thing that is clear about Lopetegui’s Real Madrid and more generally Los Blancos over recent years is that they sometimes struggle to deal with intensity. Roma failed to display any in the Santiago Bernabeu’s first Champions League night of the season. Instead, their tepid and flat shape was easily overcome by the intricate combinations and possession schemes the home side utilized amid other tactics. Casemiro for example, who sometimes is most affected by congestion and tight defensive pressure, was afforded space and became a significant proponent in possession and wasn’t placed under any sort of duress.

Roma conceding too much space in dangerous positions due to lack of pressure.

In addition to the intricate combination play, Real Madrid also capitalized on Bale’s speed as the winger deliberately and repeatedly made runs down the flank and in behind the defense due to the mismatch with Kolarov. The Welshman was seconds away from giving Real the lead early in the game when he nicely gathered an arrowed delivery from Ramos before firing a low drive towards net. Similarly, diagonals to Carvajal continued to be a major feature of Los Merengues’ attacking plan as Kroos and Ramos sought the right back on the by line whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Real Madrid’s opener however resulted from the previously noted offensive combinations. Isco would drift centrally when Real had possession spells in the final third creating passing lanes and providing numerical support. The above example and the sequence leading to the call for the freekick – which Isco scored – demonstrated how effective this tactic was.

Real Madrid consolidate their advantage

The second half saw a more adventurous Roma side which despite causing a few issues for Real Madrid was ultimately more detrimental to the Italian team. Real Madrid were happy to absorb pressure and hit their opponents on the break which they did expertly. They looked to further exploit Bale’s pace against a stretched defense and it finally all clicked together in the 58th minute when they made Roma pay with a ruthless counter.

Many plaudits are due to Modric for his remarkable vision and pass but the goal had been coming. Roma’s unimpressive shape had been further weakened due to their need to push in attack leaving them more vulnerable. Real continued to display flowing football after the goal and would go on to add a third courtesy of a Mariano Diaz golazo.

Conclusion

Real Madrid completely dominated a frail Roma team that could never really threaten the hosts. The defending European Champions asserted their authority utilizing amazing combination play, attacking speed, and cross field diagonals to record an important victory.

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The shots statistics heavily favour Real Madrid as they more than tripled Roma’s xG value. The trophy holders will be hoping to carry the momentum and swagger of the win into the rest of the competition.