Real Madrid overcame Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu recording a 2-0 win on Saturday to move into third place in the league. The reigning European Champions looked as sharp as they have under Solari — they relentlessly attacked Sevilla throughout the ninety minutes. Los Blancos came out aggressively and did not cease their assault until Casemiro’s golazo in the 78th minute to break the deadlock.
Sevilla, for their part, were content to maintain a low block and sporadically attempt to counter-attack or develop momentum but with very little success. The current injuries the hosts face led to Solari fielding a variety of midfields with the selection for this game being no different. Casemiro-Ceballos-Modric occupied the center of the pitch for the third time this season and only the second under the present manager.
In defense, Reguilon was again given the nod in left back to complete an unchanged back four from the match against Real Betis. The young Spaniard appears to have possibly unseated Marcelo and the competition between the two as well as the manager’s evolving preference will be interesting to monitor. Karim Benzema returned to the team after having to leave at half-time in Seville the weekend before. The striker was flanked, unsurprisingly, by Vazquez and Vinicius.
Inventive wing playmaking and schemes
Despite a successful showing against Real Betis with the implementation of the 3-5-2 formation, Solari reverted to his more standard 4-3-3. One of the areas where the latter formation has not been optimal has been attacking potency – especially on the wings. In the 0-2 loss to Real Sociedad, Real Madrid’s wingers were constantly isolated and received little support from the midfield and fullbacks to create space and utilize combinations. There was a stark contrast in the approach versus Sevilla where Modric seemed to fully rediscover his powers and operate in the role he had began to adapt to last season under Zidane. The Croatian was an important connection point for Vazquez on the right wing. Additionally, Benzema also intelligently gravitated into half spaces to support triangles and facilitate overloads.
Another Real Madrid scheme that was common was the winger or fullback moving inward attracting attention from the opposing defender. This left space on the wing for either Carvajal or Vazquez to make wide runs which could be found directly or after quick one-touch passing between midfielders.
Furthermore, a key feature of the successful wing play was the type of crossing the players favoured. Compared to the normal selection of delivery from the lateral attacking zones, the players seemed to predominantly attempt either far post crosses or low cut backs.
These seemed more targeted than what has sometimes appeared to be aimless/desperate crossing under Solari in previous games.
Vinicius Junior continues to grow into a pivotal component of Solari’s evolving team. The young Brazilian gets many touches on the ball and is afforded the freedom to make risky plays in order to destabilize the defense. While primarily working from the left wing, the forward shows great eagerness to move in between lines and slot into central positions when opportunities present themselves. This makes his threat two-fold as he can create shots individually by dribbling/cutting in while also latching onto through-balls or passes close to the top of the box.
Real Madrid 0-0 Sevilla HT— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 19, 2019
Goalless at the break at the Bernabeu, where Vinicius Junior has attempted more shots (3) and completed more dribbles (3) than any other player.
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One aspect of his growth as part of the process will be the notable profligacy that colors his performances. While he should be expected to be more precise and efficient with the chances he gets, it isn’t abnormal for players that have the volume/responsibility Vinicius is assuming to have a high number of dispossessions/misses.
Casemiro golazo and late Modric goal seal the win
Despite all of Madrid’s good attacking play, they found great difficulty penetrating Sevilla’s sturdy low block. In order to counter this, the home side also began incorporating long shots as part of their offensive strategy. Because Sevilla’s central midfielders dropped back to very deep positions, it opened up room from generally favourable positons for Real Madrid players to take speculative efforts from distance. The first real sign of this was Ceballos’ curler that came off the crossbar in the 67th minute.
Sevilla weren’t so lucky ten minutes later when Casemiro ruthlessly found the top corner from outside the box. Vaclík got a palm to it but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.
Real Madrid controlled the remainder of the half and managed to add one more goal at the end of the game thanks to a brilliant Modric play. The midfielder recovered the ball in Sevilla’s half, raced to goal and expertly finished from close range. The goal was symbolic of Real Madrid’s improvement in counter-pressing in recent games which was evident in several instances in this match.