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Tactical Review: Real Madrid 2 - 0 Espanyol; 2019 La Liga

Vinicius Junior (L) and Karim Benzema of Real Madrid... Photo by Legan P. Mace/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Real Madrid continued their great league form with their fourth win in a row as they defeated Espanyol (earning a clean sheet in the process) at the Santiago Bernabeu. Given the number of injuries the team is dealing with at the moment, Zidane rolled out a rotated side.

Soccerway website

Mendy was the selected left back while Vincius and Rodrygo started on the wings. The remainder of the team were the primary starters although one imagines several of these players may be rested against Valencia looking ahead to the highly anticipated clash against Barcelona on December 18th.

Vincius’ electricity sparks a stagnant Real Madrid attack

Real Madrid struggled offensively in the first half as they couldn’t manufacture clear cut chances in the face of Espanyol’s tightly guarded midfield. There was limited space to operate in the middle third leading to possession often being funneled to the wings but play construction from that zone wasn’t particularly constructive.

Real Madrid’s answer to this was their dynamic wingers who offered individual attacking utility through their dribbling and speed. Of special note was Vinicius’ excellent direct and skillful drives forward which resulted in some of the hosts’ best chances. The Brazilian brilliantly fashioned occasions (taking advantage of the benefits of an inverted wing role) time and again by showcasing a number of his elite attributes.

He was only slightly let down by subpar decision-making at times as well as rushed finishing but for the most part executed the plays quite effectively and was simply unfortunate to not have recorded a goal or assist during the game. Ultimately, his gameplay in this match suited overall player selection as the naturally conservative Mendy wasn’t required to offer substantial support going forward and could focus on his defensive responsibilities.

Espanoyl press well but suffer from some over-exposure

The visitors implemented a very organized pressing system that stifled Real Madrid’s buildup. Zidane’s men found difficulty circumventing Espanyol’s targeted and selectively employed press.

They would initiate pressing sequences in a coordinated fashion and based on certain triggers such as a defender receiving the ball in an awkward position or Real Madrid’s shape being limited spacing wise. These pressing actions (waning in the second half) led to Los Blancos somewhat frequently clearing the ball and losing possession.

Varane and Benzema’s goals key to Real Madrid’s ascendancy

Varane scored following great team play after Espanyol cleared a corner in the 37th minute. This goal was critical for Real Madrid from a tactical sense because it put the onus on Espanyol to attack more leading to the visitors starting to loosen their shape in pursuit of an equalizer. This opened up the field and allowed Real Madrid to generate better offensive sequences.

Benzema was the recipient of several excellent scoring opportunities which he didn’t capitalize on until the 79th minute. However, up until that point, Real Madrid dominated proceedings in terms of chance creation while managing to deal with very few worrying moments on the other end thanks to the defense and Casemiro/Valverde’s supreme performance.

The convincing 2-0 win at home ensured Real Madrid keep up the pace at the top of the table and was especially encouraging thanks to Vinicius’ positive display (with Bale and Hazard suffering from injuries) who looked like the version of the player many have in mind when they think of his incredible potential.

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